Don't even bother reading this text-just stare at the pictures for a good long time, especially the wheelie shot. You'll be disappointed otherwise, we promise, because there really is no way we can accurately describe John Calvert's '64 Fairlane and convey just how raw and visceral the feeling is when you stand next to it while the engine is running. Compared with a lot of race cars we've been around, it looks demure from the outside, but it gave us chills just sitting there idling. The temptation to resort to tired, old clichés of a raucous idle, thunderous exhaust, and ground-shaking torque is just so great, and yet it is so ridiculously inadequate to do so.
So here's what you need to know about this car: 15:1-compression ratio, 427ci High-Riser FE, dual quads, a G-Force four-speed, and 9.90-second quarter-mile times. That about sums it up, huh? This car is so impressive, so loud, so clean, so good looking, and so damn fast, we just don't know what else to say about it.
If you insist on reading more, we'll give you our best attempt at filling in the blanks. John Calvert should need no introduction to owners of leaf-spring cars. He's the owner of Calvert Racing Suspensions and the inventor of CalTracs traction bars. He's a longtime drag racer, and his '68 Cobra Jet Mustang has graced the pages of CC several times in the past. He's owned this Fairlane for nearly two decades, but he's only just got it back on the road.
Though John bought it to commute back and forth to work, he has always had big plans for the car. "The minute I saw it, it had Thunderbolt written all over it," John says. By the way, Thunderbolt was Ford's factory lightweight drag racing package for '64 Fairlanes, which included 427 engines, fiberglass hoods and fenders, fiberglass or aluminum front bumpers, a distinct lack of sound deadening, a radio, a heater, sunvisors, armrests, carpet, a spare tire . . . you get the drift. Designed to compete in NHRA's Super Stock class, Thunderbolts dominated their competition with 500 hp and their ability to run low 11s right off the dealer's lot. Unfortunately, NHRA rules changed, and the fact that Ford was losing more than $1,500 on each Thunderbolt sold cut the production short. Fewer than 130 Thunderbolts were made.
John's Fairlane was a 289-powered car with a C4 automatic. He only drove it for a couple of years before retiring it to his backyard, where it served hard time as a jungle gym for John's two sons and a variety of dogs. "I was building the business and racing my Mustang. I didn't have the time or money to work on it," John tells us.
Things changed when the NHRA allowed these cars to compete in the Stock Eliminator class, and that gave John the incentive he needed to haul the Fairlane out of his yard. He brought it to his shop in Lancaster, California, where he, his sons, and his employees all contributed to the restoration of this car over the course of 18 months. Among all the work normally associated with a restoration, they completely disassembled it and sent the body out to be chemical dipped. Fortunately, all the sheetmetal was intact and just needed finish work to remove the caved-in sections of the roof. They stitch-welded the chassis, added a six-point rollbar and subframe connectors, and built a positively wicked 427 with '64 date-coded parts.
Though it looks like a Thunderbolt, this isn't exactly a clone, nor did John intend it to be. It is lacking the dual-snorkel air cleaner and ducting to the inner headlight bezels, the bumpers are steel, and there is real glass in the doors. However, it is good enough for John, and he built it exactly the way he wanted. Plus, with a best run so far of 9.94 seconds at 134 mph, it's faster than the Thunderbolts originally were. That was a shakedown run. We can't wait to see how this car develops.