When car guys get together, trash talking directed at rival brands often breaks out, even amongst friends. Let's face it; being loyal to a specific car brand always stirs up a bunch of emotions, and there is usually never an admission of liking another brand. Surprisingly, the most solid friendships are often made in mutual adversity. John Jones will point out that, "I've been a Chevy guy all my life, that's all I've ever owned." That might seem like a fairly straightforward statement if you were reading a Chevy magazine, however, the Telford, Pennsylvania, resident spent six years building the '64 Ford Fairlane that you see here. For John, building this car didn't stem from any kind of brand loyalty, or rivalry. It was instead the continuation of what his close friend, Jake Vargo, had started, but was unable to finish.
John had known Jake for many years. As youngsters, they spent many weekends flogging their Chevys and Fords at Vargo Dragway, which was owned by Jake's family. At some point, the two also ended up working together, so they saw each other regularly. When Jake started working on the Fairlane, his idea was to build a Thunderbolt clone and he wanted John to do some of the structural fabrication on the car. Unfortunately, cancer cut Jake's life short, and his Thunderbolt project didn't go very far. Before passing away, he made it clear to John that he wanted him to take the car. As a result, John acquired the barely nascent project in 2002. He recalls, "When I bought the car, it had the roof, quarters, the cowl section, half the floor, and it was hit on the driver side." There wasn't much there to work with and very little had been done, however, it did come with numerous N.O.S. Ford lightweight fiberglass factory pieces that Jake had acquired over the years.
While Jake wanted a Thunderbolt clone, John envisioned building the car to retain the Thunderbolt look, but also incorporate his tastes and fabrication skills. He wasn't shy when he pointed out that, " I wanted to make 1,000 horsepower to the rear wheels on pump gas, and be able to drive it from New York to California if I wanted to." It was with that goal in mind that he embarked on his "Thunderbolt My Way" six-year project.
Having defined goals, and being able to accomplish those goals, are usually two different things. For some, that means cutting a check, sending out a basket case, and getting back a completed car. In John's case, it meant rolling up his sleeves, breaking out the tools, and getting help from a few friends when needed. He was fully capable of doing much of the fabrication work himself, so the Fairlane shell was rolled into his garage, where it would slowly come back to life.
Part of that resurrection meant assembling a worthy mill that could crank out the ponies on his wish list. The original plan was to install an injected, dual-overhead-cam engine. Issues with locating the right combination of parts squashed that idea. In a twist of luck, a good friend of his, Greg Maialetti, hooked him up with Kinsler Engineering and as a result, the twin turbo project was born.
John's new turbo recipe needed some stout hardware, so he started with a Dart Iron Eagle 351 Windsor block stroked to 437 inches, and adorned with Yates aluminum heads. He had Kinsler design and cast the custom injectors, while Maialetti fabricated the plenum, all the tubing for the twin turbo setup, the stainless steel headers, and the exhaust system. As all these components came together, Doug Meyers Automotive Machining Services in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, performed the final assembly of this potent Windsor. However, this particular combination, once assembled, wasn't without its problems.