Wayne Cook
February 5, 2010
Photos By: Mustang & Fords Archives

Alternative Project Possibilities
Alternative Classic Ford Projects

When we look at the average age of our readership we realize that many of you have been around almost as long as we have. During our long period of Ford ownership when we look back over the years we've had plenty of classic Mustangs. There have been four or five fastbacks, several convertibles, and a few coupes as well. Although we love all Mustangs, there comes a time when we yearn for something a little different. Fortunately for us, the classic Ford universe is filled with many cool alternative project possibilities. The range of choices is considerable and Falcons, Fairlanes, and Galaxies all count as very worthy subjects. Some of these cars have interesting racing pedigrees and the range of possibilities for replicas or clones is huge. Both the Galaxie and Fairlane have colorful NASCAR histories and replicas of these racers would be very interesting subjects. The same is true of Mercury with the Comet, Cougar, and Cyclones all being great project possibilities and all having a colorful and extensive racing heritage. Even classic Ford vehicles that are usually considered outside of the Total Performance framework make interesting possibilities. Certainly the Thunderbird is one choice that is not considered a muscle car, per se, but nonetheless they are great-looking cars that came from the factory with plenty of power. Also consider the likes of the Maverick, Pinto, and Mustang II; even fullsize trucks make great projects.

Another vehicle that belongs in this category is the Ranchero. Although the pickup hybrid vehicle was originally based on the tiny Falcon platform, the later versions of the Ranchero were based on the larger Fairlane starting in 1966. Hence, by this time it was possible to get a big-block in a Ranchero and a little later 428 Cobra Jet versions were created. Clearly, almost any Ranchero would be a worthy and interesting project vehicle.

A personal favorite of ours are the '66 -'67 Fairlanes. Many consider this body style to be Ford's finest muscle car design triumph and second only to the Mustang in sublime dimension. From a standpoint of versatility Ford was determined to be second to none and it offered this model of the Fairlane in no less than five body styles. Besides the timeless two-door hardtop, the car was also offered in a two-door sedan or "post" version. This car had a formal roofline and was popular with drag racers because of the rigid body structure. Third was a four-door sedan, a station wagon, and lastly the Fairlane Ranchero. In our long and varied classic Ford travels we have seen interesting incarnations of each body style, and even the four-door cars have their place in the classic Ford world. Let's begin our classic Ford alternative overview with a focus on Fairlanes and then we'll also examine many of the other interesting project possibilities out there.

Focus On Fairlanes

Here's an example of a '67 Fairlane hardtop we picked up for about $5,000. Although the car had a few parking lot dents, it was relatively rust-free and complete right down to the stock wheel covers. Talk about a great project car. Adding nothing more than a set of Vintage Wheel Works five-spokes transforms the car on the outside, as you can see here. We were going to go to town on this car with all sorts of interesting modifications and upgrades but somebody we met saw it with the wheels, fell in love, and made us an offer so good we couldn't refuse. Never underestimate the value of a good set of wheels and tires no matter what type of classic Ford car you're working with.

Here's another approach to a cool '66 Fairlane. This car started life as a plain jane Fairlane 500, but this fellow chose to go with a custom color, emblems and molding delete, and larger late-model Bullitt Mustang wheels and tires. Here, understatement is elegance and this fellow has got things spot on.

If you've got a post-style two-door sedan then you have the body style many racers prefer. The solid door post in the middle of the roof line adds considerable rigidity to the car. Actually, the formal roof line also gives the car an additional "sleeper" dimension that some people love. This Wimbledon White example has only a set of American Racing wheels and a factory style R-code 427 hood to tip off an unsuspecting opponent.

You don't have to have a big-block hiding underhood to have a killer engine bay. This owner went the whole dress up route using the original 289 engine. This is not high-dollar stuff here, just a high level of attention to paint work and detail. The shock tower braces and Monte Carlo bar surely add to the car's handling prowess.

As we go back into the into the Fairlane line up we come to the '64 model. This hardtop version of the '64 is called a Sport Coupe and it's extremely nice. This owner decided to go with the Thunderbolt-style power, even though his car is not a sedan or a replica. The 427 FE the owner installed certainly replicates the Thunderbolt power source accurately-and this car gets with the program in an authoritative way when the throttle hits the floor. We'll look at the possibility of a Thunderbolt clone a little later on.

If we go back to the reintroduction of the Fairlane in 1962 we find this model. The car's styling is clearly at the transitional period from the busy embellishment popular in the early '60s to the later, more elegant designs. This car was very popular with young families of the time, and most people chose the inline six. The big news powerplant for this car was the brand-new-for-'62 260 cubic inch Fairlane V-8. This engine would shortly become the famous 289, which in factory modified form, would go on to win twice at Le Mans in the GT40 later in the 1960's. If you came across the little old lady from Pasadena in this car you'd definitely have your hands full with her "brand-new shiny red Super Stock Dodge." However, we'll have the Blue Oval sleeper solution to her a little later on for you. (It's a Jan & Dean song reference; you younger folk will have to Google it-Ed.)

Falcon Favorites

This painfully stock Falcon sedan is another example of a perfect alternative project car starting point. This example is unmolested, rust-free, and has perfect factory two-tone paint. If this were our car it would look the same as it does here but have an EFI 347 with an AOD and 3.55 gears. The only thing we'd be worried about is traction problems.

Starting in 1964 the Falcon got a complete redesign and an all-new squared-off look. This body style makes a fantastic alternative project rig. One of the nicest square Falcons we've ever seen is this red two-door hardtop. Here again the owner makes use of the factory Bullitt Mustang wheels to great effect. The overall statement here is understated muscle. As alternative project car possibilities go remember that with the Falcon platform you get lightweight, compact size, and the potential to easily fit a very powerful midsized engine.

At the other end of the range for early Falcon possibilities is this beautiful '63 Falcon Sprint custom job. From the shaved door handles to the lowered stance nothing escapes the attention of this enthusiast.

A peek inside on this radically customized Falcon shows great taste and attention to detail everywhere. No expense was spared in making this one of the finest Falcon customs possible.

Out Of This World Galaxies

This Galaxie is a '63 version and shows that the convertible Galaxies are cars with class to spare. This car looks like a showroom-new example right down to the factory wire wheel covers. For original equipment under the hood this convertible was equipped with the killer 406 FE 4V engine. Why mess with perfection when this 10.9:1 compression mill pumps out 385 hp at 5,800 rpm in stock form? Engine options were the order of the day and the 406 could also be had in a factory three-deuce set up. That engine made 405 hp at the same rpm using the additional induction and 12.1:1 compression to produce the extra power. Imagine all this goodness without even getting into the available 427s.

Galaxies make excellent alternative project cars and they have a very colorful factory racing history. From NASCAR warfare to the factory lightweights for drag racing the Galaxie was in the middle of it all. This '63 example is a factory 427 version and borrows the fiberglass "teardrop" hood from the factory lightweight racers offered at the time in very limited numbers. On a car as rare and valuable as this one, this fellow has the right idea; stopping his modifications at the hood and period-correct Cragar SS five-spoke mags.

Here's another great Galaxie idea. This '64 two-door post design was offered as the Ford Custom and was the most spartan Galaxie offering. This fabulous car has an EFI modular engine and an overdrive transmission. Like the '63 Falcon we saw earlier, this car has the shaved door handles and emblem delete treatment for a more streamlined look. Like that particular Falcon the orange and cream color scheme works well on this car, too.

Fantastic Thunderbirds

Does your taste run to something in the larger category that is not a Galaxie? Many Ford folks we know go for the Thunderbird. This beautiful '64-'66 square Bird customization is one of the nicest T-bird jobs we've ever seen. The two-tone paint is awesome and the late-model Mustang wheels are a perfect fit. The 390 FE engine that came as standard equipment in this car makes them interstate express vehicles and we'd love to have this car with an FE and AOD trans combination for the drivetrain.

Going back one generation this bullet or dolphin style T-Bird has the streamlined tonneau to cover the rear seats, a rare optional item. This body style was made for three years, from '61-'63. Convertible Thunderbirds of this vintage are now so valuable that usually owners let them stand in their original glory. However, don't imagine for a moment that getting a Thunderbird convertible to look like this one isn't a major project.

Going back to the original '55-'57 Thunderbird then you're talking about a much smaller car. These cars are extremely valuable too, and it's rare to find one done as a customized project. However, this fellow found a basket case two-seat Thunderbird and created the fantastic custom job you see here. The owner tossed the Y-block engine and now the car has supercharged 5.0 EFI power and overdrive. If cutting up an original bothers you, check out Regal Roadsters for a fiberglass kit alternative.

Mercury's Finest Moments

Enter text here.There is certainly no shortage of glory in the Mercury camp, and like the parent company, Mercury has a very colorful racing heritage. One Mercury fan we know loves Cougars and just picked up this rough '69 convertible. The reason our buddy is starting with this car is because it is a '69 XR-7 R-code 428 CJ convertible. It was one of 96 built with a C6 transmission. Although this project car had a high initial cost, the result is certain to be very valuable.

Mercury variations on Ford offerings often make extremely interesting project cars. If you're not interested in a Fairlane then this Mercury Cyclone might be a good suggestion for you. You get the elegance of the Fairlane/Torino fastback styling along with Mercury-only highlights such as special interiors and subtle exterior design differences.

This factory 427 Comet 404 is one of our all time favorite cars. The pedestrian post body style, Wimbledon White exterior, and dog dish hubcaps scream grocery getter.

One look under the hood and you'll understand that this is no grocery getter. You'd have to hear this solid lifter 427 at idle to believe the potential of this little sedan, and that little old lady from Pasadena would have had her had hands full with this car.

Clones/Tributes/Replica Vehicles

Clones and replicas are an area of particular interest for enthusiasts starting out on a limited budget. With a clone you can get the flavor of a favorite for a fraction of the real thing's entry fee. And who said an alternative project absolutely can't be a Mustang. If you're after an alternative slant for your garden-variety fastback how about a colorful replica of one of the original 50 factory prepared '68 Cobra Jet Mustang racers? The Rye Ford Cobra Jet graphics on this car certainly add visual excitement and would garner plenty of attention at the traffic light.

Speaking of outrageously cool graphics it's hard to top an original Thunderbolt graphics package as a suggestion for eye appeal. With the 427 eagle on the doors and Thunderbolt lightning bolt logo on the rear quarter, this car screams of Ford's Total Performance. Using a teardrop hood, high beam air inlets, and these graphics, any '64 Fairlane can have Thunderbolt appeal.

Another school of thought for an alternative look for your classic Mustang is the Trans-Am dress code. This '70 Mustang looks super cool, although it's not a replica of any specific Trans-Am racer. The blacked out upper surfaces, sponsorship decals and mini-lite-style wheels speak the Trans-Am performance message loud and clear.

NASCAR fanatics can choose from a whole array of historic choices such as this Holman and Moody '65 Galaxie straight from the days when the cars you could buy off the showroom floor also ruled the roost at Daytona. Beside the Galaxie, the Fairlane was also outfitted in NASCAR trim and there are many examples of Mercury NASCAR possibilities to choose from as well.

If a Mercury clone is more to your liking interesting examples from the racing world abound. Beside Mercury's extensive history in drag racing and NASCAR it also campaigned in almost every other field of racing as well. Here is a perfect Mercury clone project subject in the form of a Dan Gurney Cougar coming straight from the original Trans-Am days.

Station Wagons/Pickups & Other Ford Madness

This '64 Galaxie station wagon certainly shows that we aren't restricted by two doors when it comes to coolness. This canary yellow wagon has a subtle flame job and a 390 FE engine for power. It's one of many ultra-nice Ford station wagon models we've seen given the restomod treatment.

If you've got to have a "truck" but you don't want a truck, the Rancheros were a great alternative. Here you have the styling of the Fairlane car (being a '66 Ranchero) with an optional big-block engine if you wanted it, plus the huge bed. Indeed we've seen countless Ranchero's of all stripes that make fantastic alternative classic Ford projects.

When the Maverick body style was introduced it was extremely popular. Here's an example that's been outfitted with a turbocharged SVO four-cylinder engine. You'll read more about this alternative project and engine swap in a future issue.