1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt


Exteriors boasted fancy Fairlane 500 trim.
Exteriors boasted fancy Fairlane 500 trim.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Brutal and basic are perhaps the two words that best describe a 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt. Nonessentials were summarily dismissed: Thunderbolts contained no mirrors, sun visors, armrests, jack, lug wrench -- nothing that didn't contribute to its ability to blast through a quarter-mile distance.

Twin screens replaced the Fairlane's inner headlights, shooting great gulps of air to the carbs through huge flexible ducts. Apart from that change, the front end looked fairly ordinary. So did the bodyside, which kept its full-length Fairlane trim strip. Except for the massive hood bubble and lack of hubcaps, in fact, a quick glance revealed little about what lurked within.

Underneath, the 427 breathed through twin Holley four-barrel carbs and exhausted via equal-length headers. A 12.7:1 compression ratio contributed to the engine's official 425-bhp rating, but contemporary analysts estimated that it actually put out a hundred or so more horses.

As Hot Rod explained, a Thunderbolt was "not suitable for driving to and from the strip, let alone on the street." Warranties? Forget it. Every customer had to sign a waiver absolving Ford of any responsibility for either repairs or potential injuries. Buy a T-Bolt, and you're on your own.

Price for all this performance was $3,780 for a Thunderbolt with Borg-Warner four-speed, or an extra hundred if it carried the frequently installed three-speed automatic, adapted from Lincoln's transmission.

Regular Fairlanes, let's recall, started at $2,194. A few lucky folks got a T-Bolt for a buck, reports Thunderbolt expert Bob Trevarrow, because they qualified as favored customers.

Was it worth the cost? We're talking ETs (elapsed times) in the mid-11 second range here, with a T-Bolt ending its quarter-mile leap at 120 mph or more. Gas Ronda took the 1964 NHRA Winternationals prize by making the trip in 11.6 seconds, hitting 124.38 mph.

For those who revel in such goings-on, those are figures to make the mind dance with joy. At the same time, Thunderbolts set a sterling pace for Ford's "Total Performance" theme.

Keep reading to learn more about the 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt's specifications.

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