Monday, January 21, 2013

Muclecar Monday: Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt


The Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt was a limited production, factory experimental, drag race only automobile built by the Ford Motor Company in 1964. A total of 120 units were produced.

Adapted from wikipedia:
Ford shoehorned a 427 cubic inch (7.0 L) V8 engine with dual quads intended for use in the much larger Galaxie. As installed in the Thunderbolt, the engine was (like all US cars, due to insurance regulations) conservatively rated at 425 horsepower; estimates placed the actual output at over 600 horsepower.

Being basically a factory-built race car, no weight saving measure was spared. Fiberglass doors, hood, front fenders and even the front bumper along with Plexiglas side and rear windows aided in weight reduction; the hood with its distinctive raised "teardrop" scoop to draw hot air from the engine. Later cars had aluminum front bumpers in place of the fiberglass unit due to racing regulations.

Other weight-saving measures included the elimination of such street items as the sunvisors, radio, heater, wheel covers, passenger side windshield wiper, arm rests, rear window cranks, mirrors, sound deadening material, carpeting, trunk mat, lug wrench, jack and spare tire. Front seats were either lightweight units from Ford's police package vehicles or rudimentary bucket seats from the Econoline van; the carpeting was replaced by a black rubber mat. The rear seat was a standard Fairlane unit. The high-beam headlights were eliminated as well and in their place were mesh-covered air intakes which ran directly to a special air cleaner atop the 427.

Though it was technically a street legal automobile, these modifications made the Thunderbolt impractical for street use. However, these modifications resulted in a car which ran 11.61 seconds at 124.8 MPH.

The Thunderbolt was not built on a regular Ford assembly line, but rather in conjunction with Andy Holten of Dearborn Steel Tubing. It was there that partially built Fairlane bodies in top-of-the-line "500" exterior trim were combined with the 427 and either a heavy-duty Lincoln automatic transmission or a Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission.

To give you an idea how rough thise things were: Ford riveted a metal plate to the inside of the glovebox door of the Thunderbolt and other race-only models with a disclaimer relating to fit and finish. The plate read:

THIS VEHICLE HAS BEEN BUILT SPECIALLY AS A LIGHTWEIGHT COMPETITIVE CAR AND INCLUDES CERTAIN FIBERGLASS AND ALUMINUM COMPONENTS. BECAUSE OF THE SPECIALIZED PURPOSE FOR WHICH THIS CAR HAS BEEN BUILT AND IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE MAXIMUM WEIGHT REDUCTION, NORMAL QUALITY STANDARDS OF THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY IN TERMS OF EXTERIOR PANEL FIT AND SURFACE APPEARANCE ARE NOT MET ON THIS VEHICLE.

THIS INFORMATION IS INCLUDED ON THIS VEHICLE TO ASSURE THAT ALL CUSTOMERS WHO PURCHASE THIS CAR ARE AWARE OF THE DEVIATION FROM THE REGULAR HIGH APPEARANCE QUALITY STANDARDS OF THE FORD MOTOR COMPANY.


above: Spartan Interior


Detail of the air intake setup and painted fiberglass bumper