It's hard to believe that we started work on this big blue Ford over two years now. When we managed to score the '70 Fairlane 500 off eBay for $8,000 we knew we were already ahead of the game. It's one of the big advantages to buying an offbeat nameplate. While mechanically challenged, the Fairlane had great paint, a laser-straight body, new chrome, a cherry interior, and best of all, zero rust-even under the white vinyl top. For something "popular" like a Mustang or a Camaro, we could have paid twice as much.
Still, even though the Ford looked super clean, it sure didn't scream performance. It was more likely to be seen heading to the bingo parlor rather than the dragstrip, but we had a plan. Since we didn't need to worry about the one big-ticket item (paint and body), we could dive right into the performance. Of course, we took a short aesthetic detour to give the car a more aggressive look. A Torino hood from the swap meet, some retro-cool 17-inch Vintage Wheel Works rollers shod in Nitto rubber, a few tricks with a rattle can, a coil cut from the front, and it went from boring to bruiser, at least in the looks department. Perhaps the biggest visual change was when we swapped the geriatric white vinyl top for a black version. To say all this changed the car's vibe would be an understatement.
Even with the cosmetic changes, the car still sucked in terms of performance. The handling was nearly scary, and the acceleration was anemic. To get a baseline, we tested the car. The Fairlane maneuvered through our 420-foot line of cones at an unimpressive 42.7 mph, and the skidpad came in at .77g. Even worse was the braking, with a 60-to-0 distance of 194 feet. Well, nearly 40-year-old drum brakes are like that. By freshening up the suspension with a kit from Just Suspension, which included a larger sway bar and Alston adjustable shocks, the slalom shot up to 45.8 mph, and the skidpad improved to a best average of .81g. Not what we would call a corner carver, but it sure made the Ford nicer to drive on the highway. After all, our goal wasn't to build a g machine, but more of a street/strip ride that one could afford without selling a kidney. The brakes, which bordered on dangerous, were upgraded with a wallet-friendly disc brake kit from SSBC. They were still manual, but the 60-to-0 stopping distance was cut down to 162 feet.
With these items out of the way, it was time to tackle the big-ticket items that make up the drivetrain. There's no real way to build a high-quality engine that makes great power without spending some serious change. Nevertheless, we came up with a solid formula for a stroker that would give a great bang for the buck. The mix turned out to be a Windsor stroked to 408 inches. Forged SRP pistons with forged Eagle rods gave us durability, while a cast Eagle crank helped keep the cost down. Serious power can be found in a good set of heads, so we splurged a bit on a set of AFR 205s. Topping off the mill was an Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake and a Holley 950 cfm carb. With a little tuning at Westech, the combo threw down 552 hp at 5,900 rpm, and 530 lb-ft of twist at 4,900 rpm. Backing up the stroker was a built C4 three-speed transmission from Hughes Performance, connected to a Strange 9-inch rear by way of a driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline. Under the Ford we laid down some fresh undercoating and fabricated a Magnaflow exhaust system. It was a solid combination that took the Ford from looking like a muscle car, to actually being one. Before hitting the track, we dropped in a set of ProCar bucket seats, some Auto Meter gauges to track the vitals, and a few little touches to finish off the project. Where the old 302 powertrain managed to get the car down the quarter-mile in a leisurely 17.86 seconds, the new one got us into the 11s with an 11.995/113.37. The best part was that the car was now a complete package. It was fun to drive, and we could pull into any event or cruise night and park with pride. When all was done, we had just under $35,000 into our made-over Fairlane. Certainly not chump change, but it was a lot of car for the money. Later on, we civilized the car with an overdrive transmission from TCI, and cut the heat with an air-conditioning system from Vintage Air. But these items were just icing on the cake. We set a goal, spent wisely, and were rewarded with a car that dared to be just a little bit different. The same uniqueness that caused the car to be such a bargain paid off in the end, since in an ocean of Camaros and Mustangs, the Fast Lane Fairlane stood out. We heard countless times about how surprised gearheads were that such a mundane car could be made to look so cool. Hopefully, we inspired a few people to think outside the box. We're sure happy we did.
Our '70 Fairlane was a definite...
Our '70 Fairlane was a definite bargain at only $8,000. Not having to pay for paint or interior meant we had more cash to spend on the much-needed performance parts.
Artist John McBride's rendering...
Artist John McBride's rendering proved invaluable to the project by giving us a clear goal to shoot for. With the exception of the hoodpins we later added, the final car came out pretty darn close to our original vision.