In late 1971 and early 1972,...
In late 1971 and early 1972, Downing & Ryan thought a Pro Stock Pinto would be fun to drive at the U.S. Nationals. Well, its short wheelbase puckered fearless John's shorts so much it was soon retired from competition. Around this time, Jim changed employers and joined Mullane Ford in Bergenfield, New Jersey, as parts and service director. He retired from drag racing in 1973.
John was especially sharp on Cleveland Ford pro-stock engines in '70s-era Mustangs as well as highly modified (A/FX) Fox-platform Ponies. Interestingly, he and Healy built a pro-stock Mustang for a client (with Healy at the controls). Its first race (U.S. Nationals, Indianapolis Raceway Park) saw it qualify in the top five. They continued to run pro stock-with success. They later built an '80s Mustang pro car for Competition Eliminator and qualified in the top five at all the national meets entered. This was all done on a "crew chief" basis for customers from 1974 to 1981.
Interesting Post-Racing Data
John Downing's destiny later called for him to move to Venice, Florida, circa 1976. He founded John's Auto Body & Restoration and John's Little Kars. He recently stated that he has all of his old machine tools and is going to take on private-party FE 427 Fairlane and Cobra Jet Mustang restorations. John Healy lives nearby. Both are hands-on noted authorities and together have decided to get back into the nostalgia circuit and construct FE-type Fairlanes and Mustangs. Potential clients may reach John at (941) 484-9299 or (941) 416-2402.
Here are three of Jim's five...
Here are three of Jim's five Fords today. The white '66 Fairlane 427 originally went to Canada new. Don Antilla found the body and chassis and kept it under wraps for 16 years, then sold it to Jim. He's currently restifying it to race and enjoy. The red Fairlane is a '67 390 four-speed Jim has owned for many years. His wife, Toni, drives the superb '29 Model A pickup. Finishing things off are a late-model F-150 pickup and a '53 50th Anniversary Ford tractor.
In 1973, he resumed his higher education at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering and later an MBA. In 1975, he joined BMW of North America as the National Technical Director and went on to hold many executive positions during his 30 years in the industry, recently retiring as BMW's senior vice president. He was soon re-hired by BMW/Germany to be its Clean Energy Project Director/USA. BMW currently has 20 dual-energy gasoline/hydrogen-powered luxury sedans on tour to demonstrate the feasibility of hydrogen as an alternate fuel. He's also currently restifying one of the other 57 white '66 427 Fairlanes. It was one of two that originally went to Canada. He purchased the body from Don Antilla-a Ford man in Connecticut who owns Jim's original '66 427 Fairlane. That car has been totally restored to showroom condition. When completed, Jim's Canadian gem (when not competing at nearby Irwindale Raceway) will sit next to his pristine '67 390, four-speed red Fairlane and a '29 Model A pickup. Counting his late-model Ford F-150 workhorse pickup and a '53 Ford tractor, the Ryans are currently a five-Ford family. Jim Ryan can be reached at email@example.com.
From Dix, Illinois, Earl Hays has lived and breathed Downing & Ryan Ford race cars for decades. With John and Jim's help, he replicated the famous D&R "Respect" Fairlane to run in NHRA nostalgia events-all on his own. John supplied him with all the specifications, pictures, and information. Lore has it that he dreamed of building John's feared Fairlane for 10 years. The construction of this car and a whole lot more, including more Downing & Ryan drag racing history, can be seen online at www.thegoingthing.com. Check it out!