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This 1966 Fairlane Packs SOHC Punch

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 10/4/2019 Eric Geisert
a white and red toy car: 001-1966-ford-fairlane-spratling

In its '60s-era performance racing heyday, you'd be hard pressed to find a V-8 engine that was as dominant as Ford FE-based vehicles. Though the first FE was introduced in 1958 (in an Edsel no less!), various versions, displacements (including the 332, 352, 360, 390, 406, and 410), and horsepower ratings all rapidly increased during Ford's war with Dodge and Plymouth on NASCAR ovals as well as on the dragstrip. The result of those wars were some fantastic high-powered vehicles (Thunderbirds, Mercury Cyclones, Fairlanes, Comets, and Torinos) sold at Ford dealerships across the country.

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But, for many folks, it's the 427 FE that's at the top of the food chain when it comes to '60s-based hot rod engines. The Ford 427 was introduced in 1963 (as a top-oiler, while the side-oiler debuted two years later), but it wasn't until 1964 when Ford, trying to conform to constantly changing NASCAR rules, created the single-overhead cam (SOHC) 427 revered by so many, both then and today. Back in the day Ford even sold complete 600-plus horse SOHC crate engines over-the-counter (the dual-carb version PN C6AE-6007-359J for $2,350) but soon the design was quickly banned by NASCAR and the engines lived on with the quarter-mile crowd.

They also lived on with that generation of hot rodders from the Golden Era of drag racing, one of whom is Gary Spratling. Being a California-based gearhead all his life, Gary has owned a wide range of performance vehicles, from a 1932 Ford coupe to being an original owner (47 years so far) of a 1972 DeTomaso Pantera.

He's 77 now but Gary has fond memories of when he was in his mid-twenties, saying "I was a Ford Performance enthusiast in the '60s when I owned Ford "street cars" with FE engines and drag-raced various models, including Thunderbolts, for a Ford dealership. I loved the 1966 Fairlane as soon as I saw it, with its simple, sleek lines and classic elegance, even before it etched its renowned spot in NASCAR history." Being a Ford guy, he naturally fell in love with the 427 SOHC motor and recently wanted to combine two of his favorite elements and create an SOHC-equipped 1966 Fairlane.

In 2017 Gary found a proper candidate for the project for sale, which had only three previous owners in its 50-year-plus lifetime. He also hooked up with Anton Lanesky of Anton's Hot Rod Shop in Hiram, Ohio, who was the one Gary believed could marry both the body and an SOHC motor to build his dream car: an elegant race-inspired vehicle with tons of vintage style.

Once Anton got his hands on the car for disassembly, acid dip stripping, and cleaning, he then turned his attention to the chassis. Anton ordered a Fast Track Stage III chassis from Roadster Shop, then opened up a framerail to install dual fuel lines before welding everything back up. The Roadster Shop utilizes their IFS/IRS systems on the Stage III, and Anton's incorporated Penske double-adjustable coilovers and a 1.250-inch antisway bar on both the front and rear. A Flaming River rack-and-pinion went in, and out back the independent rearend is made up of a Strange Engineering differential with a 4.56:1 US Gear ring-and-pinion and half-shafts from The Driveshaft Shop. Configured to withstand 1,200 hp, 33-spline stub axles were also installed.

a red car: 004-1966-ford-fairlane-spratling.jpg© Hot Rod Network Staff 004-1966-ford-fairlane-spratling.jpg

Anton's used master cylinders and a racing pedal assembly from Tilton Engineering and Baer supplied the 14-inch rotors and six-piston calipers used front and rear (coupled with an E-Stopp electronic parking brake) and the ride rolls on 18x10 and 19x13 one-off wheels designed by Gary's brother, Richard (who runs RS Design), and milled from billet by Mike Curtis of Curtis Speed. The road wheels are wrapped in Pirelli PZero Corsa rubber; 295/30ZR-18 and 355/30ZR19, with the latter having a 12.5-inch footprint.

The crown jewel in this build is, of course, the powerplant, and Gary was able to locate a Shelby Cammer aluminum 427 with six-bolt mains, and clearance a rear portion of the block to accommodate mounting an MSD DynaForce starter, then had the block polished. Michael's Racing in Macedonia, Ohio, machined the block, boring it for 4.375-inch Diamond pistons (set up with 10.25:1 compression) and a Scat 4.50-inch crank for a final displacement of 541 ci. Anton's put the motor together with Eagle H-beam rods with an L19 bolt upgrade, a Comp Cams camshaft, and a Cloyes primary cam drive with a Robert Pond cam drive set.

Robert Pond also supplied the 2x4 intake manifold, which is topped by a pair of custom AED Performance 750-cfm four-barrel carbs and are fed by an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump. Ignition is sorted by an MSD Digital 6AL controller, an MSD Pro Billet distributor, High Vibration coil, and custom 9mm MSD wires supplying the spark.

All this motor gets bolted up to a TREMEC T-56 Magnum six-speed transmission, which operates with a RAM dual-disc clutch and billet Pro Street pressure plate. A Browell custom bellhousing hides the 164-tooth RAM flywheel; Henderson's Driveline and Axle provided the driveshaft.

As dynamic as the driveline is in this car, a list of body mods showcases why this Fairlane is so unique. The wheel openings were just raised 9 inches in the rear and 3.5 inches up front, and the exact shape of the flare found on the factory front fenders was replicated to the rear in order to preserve some of the mid-'60s styling cues. This modification confuses many onlookers who believe the car has been sectioned when, in fact, it hasn't. Also both the rear window and windshield were flush-mounted, the side windwings were removed, and the driprails shaved off.

The A-pillar was also reshaped and the cowl was redesigned so that it could include air induction for the engine compartment. The grille opening was also opened up with a custom-made surround, and the same SOHC logo found on the valve covers was utilized as a centerpiece for the grille. The tops of the front fenders were also cut and aligned with the peak of the headlight bezel, and the rear license plate now resides in a frenched box section of the trunklid. To make room for the massive rear wheels, Anton's also fab'd a set of wheeltubs.

More frontend work can be found (or not found) on the hood itself. With a motor as large as an SOHC, it's surprising there's no hood bubble or scoop to accommodate the engine's size. That's because of the Dailey Engineering dry-sump system (with Peterson Fluid Systems oil tank and accessories) that allowed Anton's to lower the engine 3 inches and set it back 9 inches, eliminating any unsightly hood bump, but also improve the car's center of gravity and track handling. The hood opens with the aid of understated custom hinges, engineered by Anton's so they tuck back past the firewall when in the closed position.

Both the front and rear bumpers were shaved of mounting bolts, narrowed, and tucked in, with the rear getting extra attention with the addition of four ports for the exhaust, whose tips follow the profile shape of the bumper. Paul's Chrome Plating got the call for all of the car's shiny stuff, with Perfection Metal Polishing taking care of the polished metals. Also out back are a pair of rare early production taillight lenses (they don't have the backup lights in the middle) that Gary found at the NSRA's Louisville Nationals swap meet for a bargain price. All other factory bumps (door handles, key locks, badging, and trim ornamentation) were also removed. With Anton's finishing the body mods it was time to get the car into their paint booth, where Anton and Mike Velek covered the car with a three-stage Sherman-Williams paint; Ford Ruby Red base followed by a candy mid-coat.

Non-Fairlane Ford products also found their way into the car's interior, from the 1965 Thunderbird seats to the dash-mounted Ford GT rocker switches and a Lamborghini starter button. But there is one item that you've never seen before: a particular 3-3/8-inch speedometer from Classic Instruments. Classic Instruments supplied all nine gauges (based on their AutoCross Series of gauges but with red dials to match the car) for the hand-fab'd steel dash, but the speedo is a prototype and features a digital display window at the bottom of the gauge face. It's mounted facing the driver (like a Ford GT) and the other gauges include a 10,000-rpm 4-5/8-inch tachometer with shift light, five full-sweep 2-5/8-inch gauges, and two 2-1/8-inch short-sweep. Anton's wired the car using a Painless Performance Products wiring kit.

The car's upholstery, with its trio of black, charcoal, and ash gray leather, was stitched together over LizardSkin insulation by Spotlight Customs. Simpson 3-inch lap belts keep Gary in his place, and a leather-wrapped 350mm MOMO Jet steering wheel and Unisteer steering wheel helps him stay on course. Shifting is aided by a Philadelphia Racing Products' billet shifter (topped with a Lokar shift knob). And, if the exhaust note of the SOHC 427 wasn't enough, an Alpine stereo system with Bose speakers provides a soundtrack when Gary is rolling on down the road.

The car did make its rounds this past year at the indoor-outdoor car shows, which started when it debuted at the 2018 SEMA Show, then onto the Detroit Autorama and continued to shows across the United States, including the Goodguys Pleasanton show and then back to Columbus (where it competed on the Autocross course as a Street Rod of the Year contender) and finally onto the 50th NSRA Louisville Nationals in the Builder's Showcase area. But Gary says he's all done with that now, and it's time to do what he initially set out to do: drive his car, drive it often, and really, really enjoy doing it!

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