Dyno Don made them famous with his brutal wheelstanding A/FX Mercury in 1965, breeding clones and street cars for a generation. The lowly Comet and Falcon had met the perfect set of aesthetics, weight, and performance to make the Chevy guys wonder what it would be like to run the engine with the funny valve covers and exhaust-port arrangement. Soon belts of the cars appeared at Lions and OCIR before the moon set on those tracks.
The whole FX thing was feared dead until racers began to gather at the Hot Rod Reunion and March Meet for a little snort of nostalgia. That is where Todd saw his first B/FX car. It had a ferocious small-block with a dual-quad 289, 4.56s, and a four-speed. He also met Phil Featherston, who was racing an original '64 Thunderbolt with a 427 running 9s in the A/FX class. Like the generations before him, Todd built a clone.
Todd had his fun until he started noticing Comets racing at the same tracks. They were smaller and better. He quickly found a '65 Comet driver and warmed the seat for a while on the street, but the idea was already there. With a 289 and 4.56:1 gears, it became a quick little racer that was making the Thunderbolt look large. Soon the 427 was out on the hook and waiting for the swap. That's when Todd got lucky. Searching online, he found a Hilborn injection system for an FE with the innocuous number 101 stamped on the side. He later discovered that it was the first unit made for the FE by Hilborn.
With the nostalgic big-block in place, it was time to go racing. It happened that the five or six guys with original '60s drag cars didn't mix well with the modern race cars. Todd hatched American Nostalgia West with friends Dave Franklin and Joel Miner. Together, they would go to Speedworld, Firebird, and Famoso, eventually becoming their own show. Soon they were being invited to Mopars at the Strip, the March Meet, and the Mooneyes show.
Having developed a following of folks who travel to see the FX cars run, they organized to run 16 to 24 cars with qualifying and elimination rounds, just like everybody else. Most of them are big-block cars, but small-block guys (B/FX) are OK if the car is right. The tour is spread across the Western states; check them out at AmericanNostalgiaWestRacing.com.
Who: Todd Hoffman
What: '65 Mercury Comet Cyclone
Where: Vista, California
Engine: This is the FE engine from the Thunderbolt. The aluminum block is from Robert Pond. The block offers a bigger bore, is stronger, and only weighs about 130 pounds. This engine has a 4.285 bore and a 4.375 stroke using a Shelby American forged crank displacing 505 inches. The compression ratio is 14.0:1, and Todd runs it on alcohol. The engine was assembled by Monte at Machine Tech in Oceanside, California, and it makes 765 hp and 704 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm. The aluminum heads were made by Dove Engineering in Ohio, ported by Machine Tech, and fitted with 2.25/1.76 intake/exhaust valves. The Comp cam has 0.744 lift and 278/282 advertised duration ground on a 112 LSA. The engine is shifted at 7,000 rpm.
Those tanks: Todd originally wanted to mount a functioning Moon tank on the front bumper but discovered it was illegal. His next plan was to run a plastic fuel cell in the trunk, so he cut the top off the metal cell that was on the car and used it to cover the hole in the trunk floor. He changed his mind again and ended up using the Moon tank under the hood, which is connected to the Enderle cam-driven fuel pump that feeds the Hilborn injection.
Induction: The intake base came with the injection system that Todd found on the Internet. It was made by Hilborn for Holman Moody in 1964. Todd initially thought it was the 101st system but was pleasantly surprised when he visited Don and Stu at Hilborn, who told him they started their numbering at 101 instead of 001. Todd has the invoice that was addressed to Holman Moody in Long Beach, California. Monte modified a few things to get the system to work, but most of the parts—including the base, timing chain cover for the cam-driven fuel pump, and stacks—are real. “They worked on this system an inch at a time,” Todd says.
Transmission: This car uses a C4 built by Dana Sniff, who since the '70s has been working these units to live behind big power. The car launches off a transbrake with a Continental-prepared, 4,500-rpm converter. The Cheetah shifter is nostalgic, in a way.
Rearend: Todd once used 4.56:1 gears in the 9-inch, then took the teeth off a set 4.11:1 gears before settling, by necessity, for a set of 3.90:1 gears set up by his friend Mitch Alers. Because of the torque the engine makes, the car is actually quicker now, bringing the 60-foot down from 1.33 to 1.27. The Cyclone also uses 35-spline, gun-drilled axles and a 4-inch aluminum driveshaft.
Suspension: The traction bars are from a '58 Fairlane and are welded to the Currie housing, a trick that is correct for the era. Back in the day, they were called “lift bars” and were found on the '64 to '65 A/FX Comets, Thunderbolts, Mustangs, and assorted gassers. They are unique because they are nonadjustable, as they are also bolted to the crossmember. To control the suspension, Todd is using a Calvert Racing split monoleaf and QA1 double-adjustable shocks.
Brakes: The front brakes are Wilwood and use a '68 Mustang part number. The rear brakes are a custom fitment, also from Wilwood.
Wheels/Tires: The front wheels are from the Georgia Shaker clone built as a tribute to the original that was destroyed. Todd bought the clone and noticed the original Halibrand wheels. Knowing the original Shaker had Cragars on it, he switched them with the Cyclone wheels. In the rear, Todd made a mold of a set of steel wheels to create a center made of aluminum. He then welded them into an aluminum hoop and painted them black. The look is steel, but the weight is aluminum. A Crites spring relocator kit moved the leaf inboard to fit the rear 29.5/10.5-15W Mickey Thomson ET Drag tires without mini-tubs. Todd wanted to leave the body as original as possible.
Paint: The black paint is original and hand-lettered by Roy Potter. The livery is a nod to Hayden Proffit's Mercury. Jack Chrisman's car says Supercharged Cyclone, so Todd used that for inspiration as well.
Interior: Todd wanted a basic car, so he gutted the interior and added simple black door panels, a new headliner, and a rubber floormat from Crites. The seat looks original but is actually made from carbon fiber and covered with upholstery. It weighs only 5 pounds.
Exhaust: The headers are made by Crites with 2-1/4-inch primaries for Thunderbolts and Comets. Todd doesn't run mufflers.
Ignition: The MSD billet distributor is connected to a 6AL box and an HPC coil (the blue box on the inner fender).
Speed: Fastest run to date: 9.53 at 139 mph and 6 flat at 110 mph in the eighth.
Thanks: Ken Moreland at Moreland Choppers in Solana Beach, California, for helping and storing the car, and Kit Kantner at Bulky Boy.