September 21, 2006

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There was a day when we would never have dreamed of shoehorning a 4.6 SOHC modular motor into a classic Ford. When this engine debuted in 1991, it represented a whole new generation of Ford V-8 engines-a huge investment for the Blue Oval of more than $1 billion in development costs.

Upon first sight in the '91 Lincoln Town Car at a Ford long-lead press event 17 years ago, the mod motor was massive and mysterious. It had overhead camshafts beneath plastic cam covers, and it was big. It even had a plastic intake manifold and a crank-driven oil pump. It was wider than a Boss 429. Did we mention it was big?

It has taken most of us classic Ford guys a decade to understand and accept Ford's all-new overhead cam modular V-8. Some of us still don't like it, no matter how many people massage and stuff them into classic iron. Others, like Corey Beach, have found ways to fit it into engine compartments once occupied by Ford small-blocks and FE big-blocks.

Corey bought his '67 Fairlane 500 XL two-door hardtop 18 years ago. It was parked beside someone's house waiting to be chopped up and used as a race car. At the time, it was clad in the original factory enamel and had a white vinyl top that looked like it had been through a paper shredder. When Corey brought it home, he started with fresh paint and a new vinyl top, and a 5.0 SEFI High Output V-8 with an AOD transmission. He had a ball with it for many years, before the creative wheels of time began to turn.

In 2000, Corey decided it was time for a fresh approach to an old Fairlane hardtop. It seemed everyone with a Ford compact or intermediate was doing the same 5.0 fuelie V-8 bit, which, though novel at one time, had quickly become routine and uninteresting to Corey. He wanted a challenge he could sink his teeth into, something that would leave a lasting impression. He started with a Rod & Custom Motorsports front-end swap and shaved shock towers. Both ideas presented ample space underhood for just about anything short of a Detroit diesel.

Corey shopped for modular engines all over the place, finding this one-along with its Tremec T45 five-speed transmission-in a late-model Mustang GT, ready for installation. When you listen to Corey's 4.6 V-8, it has a mild demeanor, smooth idle, and crisp, low- to midrange torque. The 4.6 used twin coil-pack distributorless ignitions up to the late '90s and then went to coil-on-plug. Corey upgraded to Live Wires plug wires and Screamin' Demon coil packs from Performance Distributors on his. Aeromotive fuel rails and custom braided fuel hoses really set this thing off nicely, and gives a 40-year-old Fairlane a renewed look.

Corey made constructive modifications that don't detract from the Fairlane's original persona. We like the 4.6 badging, coupled with the Fairlane's original die-cast markings, which make most Ford guys do a double take as they cruise past. At first glance, this appears to be a pretty sedate Fairlane-Frost Turquoise, white vinyl top, seemingly vanilla. Thing is, in normal driving conditions, it is pretty sedate. The 4.6 SOHC V-8 is mild mannered with a smooth idle and soft exhaust tone. When Corey mashes the gas, Ford's high-tech modular V-8 comes alive with a throaty roar and a broad torque curve as revs increase. Corey's message is clear-you can have it all.

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Powerful engines need equal measures of braking power. Corey opted for Baer disc brakes all around, with 13-inch binders in front and 12-inchers out back. Baer brakes are solid and dependable. Designed for heavy-duty use, they are always there for Corey regardless of driving conditions. Rod & Custom Motorsports' front suspension system is derived from the '74-'78 Mustang II because it's popular with street rodders. It's easy to service and maintain, with parts available all over the country if you get into trouble. What's more, it handles extraordinarily well thanks to a more conventional approach to a suspension system. It eliminates the coilover upper arm Falcon/Fairlane suspension design. Those are 17-inch Vintec wheels from Billet Specialties. Around them are BFGoodrich G-Force sticky rollers.

Inside, Corey stayed with the Fairlane's original theme, with two-tone blue vinyl, matching Billet Specialties Vintec steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges, and little else. He restored the interior himself, with exceptional results. It looks crisp and new, inviting and ready. The billet shifter gives a hint to what's underhood. And when Corey spins the Denso reduction gear starter, the soft burble of Ford's 4.6 SOHC through throaty mufflers tells us this isn't old-tech anymore.

Reach down and move those sliding climate controls. It's a Vintage Air system designed for street rods, ready and willing for your classic Ford. Vintage Air replaces the Ford heating and air conditioning systems-with greater efficiency-thanks to a rotary compressor and improved air management. Do you see the Vintage Air outlets in the dashboard? No? That's because Corey went with the Fairlane's original outlets, making Vintage Air's system quite stealthy-again, to not take away from the Fairlane's persona. Another invisible modification is the Flaming River tilt steering column color-keyed to the blue interior. Do you see it? We don't either.

It isn't the most obvious that makes Corey's work unique; it's the unobvious. He was determined to keep his Fairlane's original lines while thrusting an old Ford intermediate into the 21st century, and did just that with the help of his father and Tom Perchinski at Pro-Trucks in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Nice work, gentlemen.

Where Did The Name "Fairlane" Come From?
The Fairlane name dates back to Henry and Clara Ford's 1,300-acre estate in Dearborn, Michigan, on the Rouge River, not far from the Henry Ford II World Center (World Headquarters) at Michigan Avenue and Southfield Road. The Ford's estate, named "Fair Lane" for Henry's Irish roots, was erected in 1914. Fair Lane was conceived to allow Henry and Clara to pursue their love of nature and the great outdoors.

Their dream home began with a call to Frank Lloyd Wright. Because Wright was on his honeymoon in Europe at the time they were looking to design their house, the Fords contacted Marion Mahony Griffin, a student of Wright at the Chicago architectural firm of VanHolst & Frye. Griffin's work would closely resemble Wright's Prairie School approach to architecture.

After a trip to Europe in 1912, the Fords decided to make significant changes to their Fair Lane plan. They fired VanHolst & Frye and hired William H. Van Tine from Pittsburgh to pencil out their home. Ultimately, the Fords would wind up with a combination of English castle and Midwestern Prairie School architecture.

The huge 56-room mansion isn't grand by the standards of its era. Henry Ford considered himself a simple man who wanted nothing more from his and Clara's home. Fair Lane is a self-contained estate with its own powerhouse and water supply. It was a well thought out project that would serve the Fords well until Henry's death in 1947.

The cost to build Fair Lane was $1.8 million. Ford didn't want to spend more than $250,000. The Fair Lane estate includes a separate summerhouse, a lake, staff cottages, a guardhouse, a skating rink, a farm, and more. Today, Fair Lane is a tourist attraction and national landmark. A century ago, it was but a dream.