We recently discovered a local installer, Woody Fowler at Pecker Head Racing, had a customer's '66 Fairlane scheduled for an installation of one of Fatman Fabrications' strut IFS systems. Car owner Charlie Brazzeal already has a nicely restored '67 Fairlane GT with a 427 FE and four-speed with a Detroit Locker equipped 9-inch, but a recently acquired 427 FE Tunnel Port engine gave Charlie the itch to go hunting GM muscle at the local dragstrip. Being a Fairlane fan, Charlie scored this '66 Fairlane project "mid-build" with a lot of chassis and interior tin-work already completed. The strut IFS install will free up some room for exhaust headers while allowing quick suspension tuning at the track for ride height, spring rate, and compression/rebound via externally adjustable drag-spec McPherson struts. The Fairlane is currently in mock-up mode, so what you'll see in the following photos will soon be coming back off to finish the chassis work. Charlie's plans call for an R-code look in Wimbledon White with a solid roller cam in the FE, a high-stall C4 in the tunnel, and single 4V induction under the R-code style hood. We can't wait to see this Tunnel Port FE-powered 'Lane hit the track and make some noise!
16. The Fatman IFS requires minor trimming to the late-model Mustang spindles. The stock steering arm is cut off to save a bit of weight and the ball joint boss is ground down some for dust boot clearance at full suspension droop. These mods only take a few minutes with a grinder. A modified spindle is shown here to the left of a stock spindle.
17. The spindles are assembled to the new tubular arms with nylon lock nuts. These lock nuts are 24mm and require 100 ft-lbs to secure properly. An impact gun is the best tool for the job.
18. The Mustang struts used can be from ’79-’93 or from ’94-’04. Generally the earlier strut is used to provide more travel—Woody chose Strange adjustable drag struts for the Fairlane. After trimming the upper strut bump stops as shown in the instructions, the threaded adjusters and coilover springs are installed along with the upper spring seats and the 1¼-inch stepped bushings, which will engage the strut bearings in the upper mounts already installed.
19. The assembled struts are installed by lining up the strut shafts with the upper strut mount bearing openings and inserting the shafts. You will need to compress the coilover springs to some extent (depending upon spring length ordered) and a floor jack will help with this. Once through the bearings, the upper bushings are installed along with the nylon lock nut for each side. Tighten the nuts with an impact gun or hold the struts with an adjustable wrench as shown here. Cap the strut tops with the included protective rubber caps.
20. The Strange struts that Woody chose, even though they were listed for ’79-’93 Mustang, utilized the smaller spindle mounting spacing of the ’94-’04 style. As such, the included shims/camber adjuster from Fatman wouldn’t work as designed. Woody had to add a wider bridge to the shims so that they would sit on the outside of the spindle versus the inside. The bolt presses against the strut body and offers an easy way to adjust camber.
21. To attach the spindles to the struts, Fatman Fabrications provides new mounting hardware with nylon lock nuts. To be able to clear the soon-to-be-installed brake calipers, the bolts must be installed from the rear with the nylon lock nuts to the front as seen here.
22. The finished strut/spindle installation is shown here. Note the ample room to quickly reach the strut adjustment knob at the base of the strut, as well as the coilover spring collar for ride height adjustments. Some brands of struts adjust their compression from the top, under the hood (Tokico, Koni, and more).
23. Depending upon the spring diameter, ride height, and other factors, the stock bump stop may need to be removed from the coil spring cover, or even minor notching of the spring cover for clearance to prevent the coilover spring from making contact.
24. The owner of the Fairlane chose the ’99-’04 Mustang aluminum two-piston brake calipers for their lighter weight and better stopping power. However, the current design steering arm only has clearance built in for the ’94-’98 iron single-piston caliper, as you can see here, when the steering arm is placed against the two-piston caliper. Fatman Fabrications is aware of the ’99-’04 caliper difference and tells us a revised steering arm will be available by the time this story hits your mailbox.
25. The standard single-piston iron calipers used on the ’94-’98 Mustang were sourced locally and used on the Fairlane in the short term until the updated steering arms can be sent to the shop. Remember, this is all being mocked up and has to come back off for the Fairlane’s bodywork, so please no comments on the rusty old caliper!
26. The rack-and-pinion unit requires shortening of the inner tie-rod ends to meet the proper track width of the new strut IFS. Fatman Fabrications provides the measurements in the instructions, along with a threading die and handle to rethread the tie-rod ends. The outer tie-rod ends are then threaded on and installed into the steering arms.
27. Alignment specs aren’t critical to get the car rolling and can simply be set to 0 toe for now. That’ll get you to an alignment shop for full alignment duty. Adjust the tie-rod ends equally to ensure the steering rack stays centered.
28. While most people will opt for an aftermarket tilt-column assembly to make the installation (and your entry/exit) easier, the owner of this Fairlane drag car opted to stick with a vintage floor-shift column (the Fairlane was originally a column shift car). Woody dug a floor-shift column out of his stash of spare parts and trimmed the column to length, added a support bushing, and machined the steering shaft as shown. These steps are all outlined in the included instructions.
29. Fatman Fabrications includes a length of double-D steering shaft bar stock and the correct U-joints to connect the steering rack to the steering column. Use a piece of wooden dowel to simulate the steering shaft for easy measuring.
30. The finished installation looks nice and tidy, and compact to boot. This Fairlane will be ready to hit the track with a fully adjustable strut front suspension that weighs less and reacts faster than the original double-arm suspension with coil spring and separate shock absorber. On the ground, the Fairlane is riding a little low, but this is with the coilover adjusters at their lowest point. While the engine bay has been stuffed with an FE for general clearance/fit checks, ride height won’t be a concern until the actual race engine is in place.