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.