It's always the same tired line--"I built this to be different"--while we're looking at another belly-button red '69 Camaro. So when Editor Glad ran across Kelly McLearran's quick little '63 Falcon, it had already scored points for being obscure. But it was the single turbocharged inline-six that really pegged the "off-the-beaten path" scale.
Kelly says, "I decided to start drag racing during treatment for breast cancer. I had helped my husband Will build and race his '86 Mustang GT. At first, I raced our '69 Mustang Sportsroof to get my feet wet, but we quickly decided to look for another car. That's when we found the Falcon." The McLearrans ran across an NHRA Stock Eliminator racer who was building the Falcon for V/Stock Automatic with the original 170ci inline-six. He had also outfitted the underpowered strip starwith a complete overkill Ford 9-inch rearend including Moser 33-spline axles and a set of 4.56 gears.
"The first time out, it ran 20.52 at 65 mph," Kelly says, which impressed no one. "But we noticed that a lot of people liked the fact that we were running an inline-six. We decided we needed a little more giddyup but wanted to stay with the inline-six due to all the attention we got with the 170."
"We looked for the biggest six we could get and found a '78 250 ci," Will says. This larger-displacement cousin made the swap easy enough, but the next step was much more brazen. With help from Rusty's Total Performance in Tucson, Arizona, they began the fabrication effort necessary to adapt the Garrett TO4, 57mm turbocharger to the spindlylittle six.
"For Stock Eliminator, only valve lift is limited. The cam that was in the engine had almo
This eventually involved several versions, so now Will is making manifolds for other people who've been caught up in the turbo-six fever. "We started with 7 pounds of boost and it ran 14.70s. We've been creeping the boost up ever since." To keep the little inliner out of detonation, they run a 50/50 combination of E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) with Trick 106 race gas. This puts the octane rating safely above 110. But that doesn't mean the six-pack is safe."We pumped the boost up to 11 psi and it went even quicker. Then we got greedy and went for 17 pounds. That's when it went the 11.85," Will reports. On the next pass it spit out the head gasket. Since the Ford engineers never considered that anyone might be crazy enough to stuff a turbo on one of these pedestrian powerplants, four head bolts per cylinder were deemed sufficient. Even with a good Fel-Pro head gasket and strong ARP head studs, the cylinder pressure genie escaped and took the head gasket with it. "We're going to try a Corteco gasket next and see how that works," Will says.
Kelly and Will estimate the little six makes 350 hp at a screaming 4,800 rpm, which is excellent power considering the low rpm and the tortuous path the inlet air must endure on its way through the engine. The turbo squeezes the air through a small, Toyota air-to-air aftercooler sequestered underneath the left front fender. The lengthy return path arrives at the Holley 2300-style two-barrel carburetor and then enters what has to be the worst factory intake manifold since Henry first started forging flathead four-bangers. Besides its right-angle turns and virtually nonexistent port length, there's really nothing good to say about this manifold other than perhaps your aunt's cat could probably design a better intake.
Kelly and Will quietly acknowledge their engine's limitation, but they aren't in this solely for the power. They're just in it for the fun. In fact, Will is building a '64 Falcon of his own, mainly because "everybody else is building Mustangs." While the Falcon is still very much a street car, it spends most of its time running the Open Comp bracket digs in Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA) and Fun Ford Weekend races. That's where we caught up with Kelly and Will running at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's dragstrip. Kelly is also doing this as her way of bringing awareness to the dangers of breast cancer since she and her mother are both cancer survivors. If you get style points for being just different enough to be interesting, then Kelly and Will have made the right moves.