Unlike most of the cars of the 1960s, the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt wasn't ready for the street. Only a handful of 1960s fans have so much as seen a Thunderbolt in action, much less roared down a quarter-mile drag strip in one.
More than a few enthusiasts haven't even heard of this rarely spotted Ford, offered for just one year. That's because a Thunderbolt was about as far removed from a highway machine as anyone could get in the beginning of the performance era.
T-bolts were for dragging; that's all, nothing more. And they were created for professional race drivers whose only goal was to get to the end of a quarter-mile strip as fast as humanly possible.
One way to get there quicker has always been to take a lightweight car and drop in a beefy engine. Ford's Thunderbolt stretched that concept almost to its limit. Galaxies were going great around the NASCAR ovals, their considerable weight being offset by decent aerodynamics (for the time) and powered by the brutish High Riser 427-cid V-8. On the drag strips, though, Galaxies simply had too much heft to haul down the line.
With its 115.5-inch wheelbase, a Fairlane 500 measured three and a half inches shorter than a full-size Galaxie -- and weighed some 700 pounds less. Throw in a full collection of weight-cutting ideas, and the result could be promising indeed.
A few drag racers, in fact, were already running experimental Fairlanes. At Dearborn, the corporate folks didn't object to the idea of another winning Ford. This was the age of Lee Iacocca, after all, and motorsports were a major part of his program.
An initial batch of cars was ordered from the Dearborn Steel Tubing Company, near Ford headquarters, followed by two more groups delivered later; yet the total came to only a hundred Thunderbolts, most of them painted Wimbledon White. No wonder they're so little known.
Stuffing that 427 into position wasn't easy, demanding an extensive reworking of the front suspension, and refabrication of major components. Cutting weight was the order of the day, starting with the use of fiberglass for the car's pinned-down bubble-topped hood, as well as doors and front fenders.
Early T-Bolts wore fiberglass front bumpers, but aluminum went into later cars in response to a ruling by the National Hot Rod Association. Plexiglas filled rear and side window openings, but the windshield remained stock.
Continue reading to find out more about how the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt performed.