Muscle Car Drive

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

The origins of the 1964 Ford Thunderbolt emerge from the belief of major car manufacturers that winning on Sunday meant selling cars on Monday. In the early 1960's Ford and Chevrolet were losing ground to Mopar and their ultra lightweight Max Wedge and soon to be released Hemi cars. Even the light weight Ford Galaxy with a 427 cubic inch engine was simply too large to be competitive at the drag strip. Ford's answer was to create an alliance with Tasca Ford in Rhode Island and create an ultra light weight Ford Fairlane and stuff it with the most powerful motor. The result was Ford's first true quarter mile supercar - the 427 cid Thunderbolt.

All 1964 Fairlanes began as a base 500 sedan and were shipped to the Dearborn Steel Tubing Company who were responsible for assembly. The cars arrived without sound deadner and any unnecessary insulation or seam sealer. All cars came without window mechanisms, heaters, radios, or even a spare tire and jack. Under conversion the cars saw the addition of plexiglas side windows, fiberglass front fenders and teardrop scooped hood. All efforts were made to lighten the car and shift weight from the front to the rear to increase traction. For example, the battery was moved to the rear and weighed nearly 100 pounds! A fiberglass front bumper was used on the front and a steel bumper remained on the rear. Total weight for the Thunderbolt was 3203 pounds. This was about 20 pounds heavier than the minimum weight for NHRA super stock racing in 1964.


The interior of the 1964 Fairlane Thunderbolt featured no heater controls, sun visors, radio, arm rests, or window crank mechanisms. Seats were from a Ford van and very light weight. Thunderbolts also included an 8000rpm Rotunda tachometer.

1964 Thunderbolt interior


At the heart of Thunderbolt was a 425hp 427 cid high rise engine. Although reported horsepower was 425 it was closer to 500 hp and rocketed these tiny Ford's to mid 11 second quarter mile times. The 427 engine featured 12.7:1 compression, two four barrel carburetors, and a special intake and camshaft. Air was fed into the engine through a ram air system with vents connected to unused head lamp entrances in the grill. Very unique headers were constructed that snaked around the suspension.

In order to connect this power to the ground the Thunderbolt's received asymmetrical leaf springs, drive shaft loop, and large traction bars. The rear rend featured 4.44:1 gears for the Hurst shifted four speed cars and 4.58:1 for the automatic cars. The standard transmission was a Borg-Warner T10 and the automatic was a Lincoln unit with higher line pressures and a special torque converter.

427 Thunderbolt engine

1964 Ford Thunderbolt

Production / Performance

Reported to be between 111 and 127 cars produced with about half being being 4 speed cars. Performance was to be 11.6 seconds in the quarter mile at 124 mph. The cost of a new Thunderbolt in 1964 was about $4000.


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