The setting was a typical idyllic sunny Sunday afternoon in So Cal: A cozy ranch home with the garage door open, a bright-red hot rod inside, and a bunch of guys leaning over the fenders. That all of them were speaking with British accents was a bit less typical. The front man, Richard Hall, immigrated to the U.S. back in the early '90s; it was his home and his car. The Pauls-Paul Wayling and his son P.J.-were guests from across the pond. All are major fans of American muscle.
The car was the very same '64 Fairlane in which Richard's wife, Karen, rode home from the hospital when both were new. Her father had traded his '62 Porsche for the more practical Ford, but he went for the two-door hardtop with a 260 V-8 to keep some semblance of performance. After it had served her father for years, it was used by Karen's older sister for school, then later by Karen. Finally, it was retired to the backyard, and that's where Richard first saw it.
"I'd always liked American musclecars, long before I came to the States. I owned an Australian Fairlane in England circa 1980, a '66, and I'd put a Cleveland in it and did some other things. It looked pretty much like the U.S. version, save for the righthand drive." It isn't hard to imagine the intrigue that came over Richard upon seeing the '64 sitting derelict. No doubt visions of Thunderbolts were soon dancing in his head. His dreams were put in motion later after he and Karen married, when the Fairlane came as a sort of unintended dowry.
Before long the 260 gave way to a stock 302, and soon after, another 302. "I put it in with 11.0:1 pistons and a cam that was way too big, but it was quick and a lot of fun. Later I put together a 351." Although the Windsor swap didn't produce the power gains Richard was looking for, a serendipitous address soon provided a solution; Richard happens to live near the well-known performance engine builder Coast High Performance. "One of their guys used to drive by every day on his way to work. One day he saw me working on the car and stopped." Soon after, a stroked 408-inch Windsor package was coming together just down the street.
The Windsor engine, with its taller deck and resulting extra girth, will fit in a '64 Fairlane, but precious little space is left for exhaust provisions. Having done his research for the 351 swap, Richard anticipated the potential hindrance and had a Crites Restorations shock-tower kit installed by a friend. Crites is known for specializing in reproduction parts for vehicles from Ford's Total Performance era of the mid-'60s. The shock-tower kit is meant to replicate what was done to Fairlanes that were being prepped for 427 FE transplants on their way to becoming Thunderbolts. The modifications are limited to the lower sections of the towers and aren't very obvious once the engine is installed, but they do make a big difference in header clearance for engine swaps like this one.
When we came upon Richard and his band of merry motorheads, they were finishing up the reinstallation of the Victor Jr. heads after Ford Performance Solutions had CNC-ported them, the latest step in the quest for more power. Prior to the porting, the 408 put 417 hp to the wheels; afterward it jumped to 450 hp. So just how fast is this thing? No one knows for sure as yet. The itch to run it down the quarter is strong, and all indications are that the Fairlane will dip deep into the 11-second range, traction willing-though it usually isn't. "As it is I have to roll into the throttle or it just goes up in smoke, but I'm going to work to change that," Richard relates, referring to the slightly narrowed 9-inch he's planning to go with the upcoming mini-tub work in the trunk. There's a LenTech AOD in the works as well. And the father-in-law? "He loves the car and says he wants to drive it, but I don't think he knows what he's in for."