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Steve Magnante Is Fixing Problems on His 1981 Ford Fairmont Funny Car

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 9/18/2020 Jordon Scott,MotorTrend Staff
Scott Arundale riding on the back of a truck: 001-motortrend-working-from-home-steve-magnante-1981-ford-fairmont-funny-car © MotorTrend Staff 001-motortrend-working-from-home-steve-magnante-1981-ford-fairmont-funny-car

You have spoken, and we have listened! Steve Magnante is back for another episode of MotorTrend: Working from Home. This time, he's tackling some issues that have been plaguing his altered-wheelbase 1981 Ford Fairmont Funny Car for too long.

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Steve likes to call his Fairmont a, "match batch creation." The idea behind the car was to build a replica of a mid-1960s-style, altered-wheelbase Funny Car, but with modern parts that are more readily available—and cheaper. Then he decided to get a little weird with it and use a 1981 Ford Fairmont as the base.

Ford Fairmont Funny Car Front Suspension

© MotorTrend Staff

Like all self-respecting Funny Cars, Steve's Fairmont has a straight front axle. Ditching the stock, heavy MacPherson strut front suspension was a necessity. The Specialty Cars front tube axle was originally hung on short and stiff leaf springs, only 26 inches eye-to-eye and probably harvested from a golf cart, but those were too stiff to drive down the road comfortably. He replaced those springs with a set of 36-inch leaf packs from Eaton Detroit Spring that were much more supple, but since doing so has experienced some severe wheel shimmy. Now it's time to fix that shimmy once and for all.

The shimmy could be caused by any number of issues: the wheels could be out of balance, the bolts holding everything together could be lose, there might not be enough caster on the front wheels, or all of the above. Addressing each of those individually will definitely help to tame or eliminate the shimmy, but for good measure Steve is also installing a steering damper like you would find on a straight-axle, four-wheel-drive truck. Voil! No more shimmy.

Fairmont Funny Car Front Seats

a man sitting in a car © MotorTrend Staff

In the last Steve Magnante installment of Working From Homecatch up on the whole series for just $2 per month, btw!—Steve did a little bit of revitalization of the front bench seat in the Funny Fairmont. But no Funny Car from the 1960s ran down the track with a bench seat—especially a padded one like Steve has—so it's time to ditch the couch in favor of some lightweight, period-correct bucket seats. Steve had already fabricated a set of mounting bars and run cheap plastic buckets, but the thin material started to tear soon after installation.

To replace the cheap bucket seats, Steve bought a set of heavy-duty, hand-laid fiberglass buckets that would stand up to the forces of a full-grown man shifting around with the motion of the car. But the new seats have a rounded bottom and the plastic seats were flat-bottomed, so out comes the grinder and the welder to reposition the mounting flanges. Now Steve can mash the go pedal without fear of seat failure!

Steve Magnante is a living, breathing automotive encyclopedia and has much more to say in this episode than just talking about some improvements on his '81 Fairmont Funny Car. Little-known facts about the 426 Street Hemi, why you should (or shouldn't) build an aluminum-block Chrysler Slant-6 engine, and what you can do with a Vortec 4.8L V8—it's all there for your enjoyment!

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