As a point of retrospect, Fairlane GTAs (automatic versions of the stick-shift GT) came with just one engine in 1966-the 335-horse 390 four-barrel that originally held residence in our feature car. Oft maligned today for being one of Ford's biggest underachievers, the reality reflected by period-magazine tests is somewhat different. Consider Hot Rod magazine's inaugural shakedown of a nearly identical '66 GTA in the Mar. '66 issue. Staffers weren't at all put off by the big FE's bone-stock 15.7-second e.t. and made the following comments after a day of thrashing at the local dragstrip: "Acknowledging the fact that this wasn't the hottest time ever turned didn't dampen our enthusiasm, because we had the class' top time and low e.t. for the day." Editors went on to opine that "the GTA falls solidly into C/SA."
While the aforementioned is all well and good, when Bill decided to freshen his old ride, 390 cubes just wasn't enough to satisfy. As noted, the original engine was in the ballpark for the era it was built, and yet the ensuing horsepower wars of the late '60s have pushed the bar considerably higher. You could say Ford itself set the target through the low-production 427 Fairlane, though the company oddly never paired this top-dog engine with the GT package. That wouldn't stop Bill, who with the help of West Coast Restorations in Snohomish, Washington, built what Ford probably should have: a 427 GTA.
This dual-quad intermediate is admittedly more cruiser than bruiser, but as you can see from our pics, it can demonstrate impressive power when called on. In keeping with tradition, Bill continues to pedal his big-block 'Lane whenever possible, with the expected wear and tear being a badge of honor that comes with enjoying a car as it was meant to be. Personally, and with little surprise to our readership, we wouldn't have it any other way.
Who: Bill Barnes
What: '66 Ford Fairlane GTA
Where: Lynnwood, Washington
Bliss Performance in Spanaway, Washington, screwed together a 427 for Bill's street-oriented intentions. Sporting the same 3.78-inch stroke as the 390, 427s were always heavily race oriented and built cubes using an application-specific block with 4.23-inch bores. Bill's block is a pre-'65 casting-meaning it's a top oiler rather than a side oiler-but all 427s sport race-bred cross-bolted main caps. Edelbrock aluminum heads, a modest Comp Cams hydraulic bumpstick, and forged pistons yielding a 10.5 compression make up the basics of this build, while an MSD distributor, an ignition box, an Edelbrock aluminum water pump, and a Milodon high-volume oil pan fill in the gaps.
West Coast Restorations supplied the N.O.S. Ford Medium Riser intake, but rather than fit it with 1,300 cfm worth of dual Holleys as the factory did, Bill opted for a pair of Holley 390s. The resulting 780 cfm may be a little shy for all-out power production, but Bill reports throttle response and driveability as excellent. For what it's worth, there are still 65 more cfm than Ford fitted to its single four-barrel version of the 427.
Headers from Ford Powertrain Applications are metallic ceramic coated and hug the floorpan like few others. The remainder of the exhaust consists of 21/2-inch aluminized pipes with an H-pipe and Flowmaster mufflers.
The original floor-shifted C6 automatic remains, though rebuilt by Jim Green's Performance Center. West Coast's main man Larry Berkovich has been twisting Bill's arm for the go-ahead on a five-speed conversion. Hey, Larry, twist it too much and the automatic will stay by necessity.
Moser axles and a Detroit Truetrac differential fill the stock 9-inch housing. We'd give Bill grief for the 3.00:1 ring-and-pinion if it weren't for the fact that he drives the Fairlane all summer long. Given that, we'll cut him some slack.