What do Leonardo Da Vinci, Ludwig Van Beethoven and hot rod builder Bobby Alloway have in common? They were—and are—artists with patrons.
If you were sketching cars or Van Halen logos in your notebook rather than paying attention in History class, we'll remind you that art patronage involved connoisseurs who supported the best artists of the day with continual commissions for new works.
Few in the automotive world argue against calling Alloway an artist. His distinctive style is instantly recognizable, his attention to detail is impeccable, and the demand for his creations keeps his shop humming—just like the masters of the Renaissance. In fact, the signature elements of an Alloway creation, including a ground-hugging stance with an exaggerated wheel-and-tire combination—usually 17-inch wheels in front and 20s in the rear—and mile-deep black paint with an essentially factory-appearing body, are as recognizable to the hot rod cognoscenti as the brush strokes of a genuine Rembrandt are to the Art History major who took your order at Starbuck's this morning.
As patrons go, Alloway's largest is George Lange. The Missouri-based enthusiast is a true automotive renaissance man, with a large and diverse collection of all things mechanical, including everything from elemental, traditional-style hot rods to European supercars. But it was his first encounter with an Alloway-built street rod nearly 15 years ago that established a unique relationship, resulting in some of the most influential hot rods of the past decade.
"The moment I first saw an Alloway car at a Goodguys event in Indianapolis, I knew I had to meet the builder," says Lange. "The car represented everything I wanted in a hot rod—a blend of classic styling with contemporary cues. I sought out Bobby and we hit it off right away and the rest is history."
Lange has had eleven cars built by Alloway over the years, with this white, Boss-429-powered '67 Fairlane, dubbed Great White, the latest. And yes, going with white instead of Alloway's signature black was a departure almost as radical as suggesting the car retain a set of 14-inch steel wheels.
"Not every car Bobby has done has been black—he did a silver Thunderbird for my wife—but white was a real stretch for him and he almost changed it to black when it was rolling into the paint booth," says Lange. "The guys in his shop mounted a mini-mutiny over that, insisting the car should indeed be white, as intended. Bobby relented and admits white was the right way to go for the car."
White was definitely Lange's idea, supported by the original renderings drawn up by Alloway's longtime designer, Eric Brockmeyer.
"I always liked the look of the original Fairlane GTA in white, with a red rocker stripe, and thought this car would look the best like that, especially with Bobby's penchant for retaining the basic appearance of the original body," says Lange. "That's one of the traits of his cars that I really appreciate. He doesn't really alter the basic design of the body itself and retains the trim and chrome that gave it character when it was new. He bolsters it with that trademark stance and wheel/tire combination, along with other attributes that make it more contemporary."
Like most of their collaborations, the Fairlane project started with a simple conversation about ideas, which lead to a visit to a Tennessee collector (the collection of Fords was featured on an episode of American Pickers), where Lange and Alloway had purchased the Thunderbird project and other cars. They made a deal for the Fairlane, officially starting the project's build clock.
That unmistakable stance is what makes his cars so recognizable, and while functionality is undeniable important to Bobby Alloway, function definitely follows form, meaning the car is essentially built around the stance. That involves cutting out virtually every scrap sheetmetal in the floor and altering the frame accordingly. So, at a glance, the mostly unaltered exterior appears as the original designers intended, the entire chassis has been completely re-engineered and rebuilt. Everything from the inner fenders and firewall to the floor pans has been re-made with smooth, seemingly seamless sheetmetal.
For the record, the Fairlane rolls on custom Billet Specialties wheels (like just about every Alloway car), measuring 17x7 inches in the front and 20x10 inches in the rear.
A "wow" engine is another Alloway signature trait. It's a feature that many builders "phone in" with a simple, chrome-capped crate engine, but not Bobby Alloway, who understands that a lavishly re-engineered design statement requires an equally compelling source of motivation. For the Fairlane, it takes the form of a 500-plus-cubic-inch big-block engine capped with authentic Boss 429 NASCAR heads and a NASCAR intake manifold drawing through a pair of four-barrel carburetors.
Alloway turned to his longtime engine builder, Mylon Keasler, to assemble the unique powerplant. Keasler started with a Ford Racing block, filled with the appropriate collection of forged rotating parts that included a stroker crankshaft that took the engine to 503 cubic inches. The cylinder heads, while genuine NASCAR parts, were also genuinely in need of serious rehab.
"Oh, they definitely needed some work," recalls Keasler. "I think there are a few pounds of weld in them, but we got them fixed up and they work well, especially with the greater displacement of the engine."