It's natural when building a hot rod to want to tackle the engine first. After all, the main question you'll hear is, "What's it got under the hood?" Nonetheless, stuffing a big mill into a car with a weak drivetrain is just asking for a trip home on a flatbed. Even if it's not as much fun, the best way to build a fast car is to tackle all the systems that'll need to hold up to the eventual boost in power. This way, you can still enjoy cruising your project while you build the new engine. In addition, you won't have to worry about exploding your tranny, grenading your rearend, or turning your driveshaft into something resembling a DNA double helix.
This is how we're tackling the '70 Ford Fairlane 500 project. Even though we are itching to up the anemic power on the big blue Ford, we decided to save the engine for last, and tackle the less glamorous systems that are critical for long-term durability. With the brakes and suspension addressed (see "Brakes of Wrath," and "Suspension in A Box," Jun. '07), it's time to work on the driveline; in our case, we are starting at the back and working our way forward. The stock 8-inch rear in the Fairlane is strong enough to handle the current power from the stock 302, but it would quickly turn into a jigsaw puzzle if subjected to the 500-plus horsepower we eventually plan to stuff under the hood. What we needed was a new rear that could easily tolerate the torment we're going to inflict upon it. Since our ride wears the Blue Oval, the choice was easy: a Ford 9-inch.
We called Strange Engineering and were informed that we'd be its first '70 Fairlane customer. We were given instructions as to which measurements to take, and soon our crate rearend was in the production queue. When the new rear arrived, we measured it against the stocker and found that it was within 1/4 inch. Having Strange do the final assembly costs a little more than ordering a box of loose parts, but it's cheaper than having your local guy do it, easier than doing it yourself, and you will know it's done right.