NO MATTER how big the show, there’s always that one special car. Summernats 24 was awash with high-quality rides but Tony McEwan’s dynamic duo really set tongues wagging. Yet while his black and blown ’67 Corvette dominated the cruise route, it was his ’64 Fairlane that you just couldn’t go past.
This article was first published in the May 2011 issue of Street Machine
Flawless red paint, immaculate yellow leather interior and a nitrous-sniffing injected 471ci big-block set way back into the firewall — what’s not to like?
The Summernats judges agreed, giving the Pro Street two-door a spot in the Top 60 hall and awarding it the gongs for Top Pro Modified and Outstanding Engineered Pro Competition.
“It was the best, hey!” Tony says. “I’ve just been trying to get a car there for so many years and finally bit the bullet. It was just an amazing weekend.”
But he’s no Summernats virgin. He had a blown Camaro in The Nation’s Capital back in 1988 and always intended to make some return trips.
It’s not hard to see why the T-bolt was so popular at Summernats. Aside from the unusual body style, it just looks fantastic and sits perfectly over those 31×181/2 Mickey Thompsons — this is what Pro Street is all about
“I didn’t even get back as a spectator for the next 10 years but I’ve been a few times since,” he says. “It was well worth it this year, believe me — I had the time of my life.”
With two-door Fairlanes being fairly thin on the ground here in Australia, Tony bought his Thunderbolt replica from the US, back when our dollar wasn’t as tough as today.
“I bought it in New York State about four years ago,” he says. “I didn’t have enough coin at the time so I did the deal a couple of months later. The car was built about 12 years ago pretty much as you see it. It’d been on the show circuit but had done a fair bit of racing in recent years, so it was getting tired.”
Tony was having a tough time finding a good tail-light surround, so Gary Myers took it home, fixed it up and mailed it back. “He saved me a heap of time,” Tony says. “You just can’t find them”
With his new ride back in sunny North Queensland, Tony just enjoyed it, driving it to all the shows and hitting the local cruises.
“I’m a Pro Street tragic,” he says. “Anything big tyred, I just love it. It was just a nice Pro Street car, and a lot of my cars I sort of can’t drive without getting in strife with the law.”
While he drove to the local stuff, for longer distance shows Tony would stick the Fairlane in the trailer. Which is where it all came unstuck.
“Loading it into my transporter, it got away from me and smashed the rear end. It wasn’t good — rear quarter and back end — and just getting parts for the thing was insane. I’ve got a Camaro and a Corvette, and you can just tick the boxes for them. But for this thing it took me three months to find a tail-light.”
The damage was paid for with insurance money but after the work was done Tony stood back, looked at the car and decided the whole thing needed redoing.
“New paint, new running gear; we just started from scratch with it. It had a few rust bubbles and it got ugly as we went further.”
The crew at Newell St Smash Repairs was given the task of fixing the rust, bodywork and paint, and the further the guys went, the more they found.
Under the rear sits a bulletproof Dana 60 with 4.10 gears. Tony reckons it’s always good for a laugh when Ford fans stick their heads under the back end
“When we started pulling it apart we realised it’d had a hit in the front at some stage and the Yanks only half-fix a lot of things. So it was like: ‘Oh well, let’s do it properly’, and everything came off the car from the windscreen forward.”
At least they were able to leave the engine in place. A decision that would come back to haunt them later on.
“With that motor being set so far back, it’s just crazy to get the thing out,” Tony says.
With the bodywork straight, the whole thing was given a fresh coat of the same PPG Concept Red it was wearing when it arrived. But don’t go thinking the car is no different, especially now that the aluminium trim’s all fixed.
“You walk around it now and it just looks so nice — to me it’s a different car,” Tony says.
Inside it didn’t need many changes as the interior was already good to go — it’s hard to believe that most of that yellow leather is more than a decade old. And check out the billet dash surround. CNC machining was a far more complicated and expensive exercise back then, so the original Yank builder mocked the dash up in wood and then replicated it by hand on a manually operated mill. The trim work extends right back into the boot area as well for a complete finish.
Set back 8in, the 460 big-block has been punched out to 471ci with a direct-port nitrous fogger system for extra poke
Under the bonnet there’s a Ford big-block that’s been reamed out to 471ci. They were going to leave it be, but a last-minute decision to tidy the engine bay meant the donk had to be pulled out again, just four weeks before Summernats.
“We didn’t really change it,” Tony says, “we just freshened the engine up. We kept the same heads and everything like that. I think it had already gone 513hp at the treads.”
That’s healthy enough to push the chunky Fairlane down the quarter in a flat 11 at 131mph. That was back in the US, however, and Tony has no plans to race her again any time soon.
Hard to believe that the yellow trim is a decade old; check out the hand-milled billet dash surround. The gauges are Mooneyes and there’s an eight-point chrome-moly ’cage too
“It’s a heavy little car but it’s nice to drive. It makes good horsepower and the times are decent enough.”
He doesn’t exactly live next door to a track either; the nearest strip is at least five hours away. And if he really gets the urge, he has other choices, such as his blown Pro Street Corvette and Camaro, or one of his tough early Chevy pick-ups. And he admits to having a particular affection for his blown ’67 C10.
“I use it to go to the dump, the pub, and the bottle shop. There’s a little blown 350 in it and it makes 350 at the treads. It’s the tightest thing I’ve got; it just drives like a new car.”
But the Fairlane is a nice cruiser — especially for a Pro Street car.
“It drives like a Cadillac for a four-link car, though it does bounce around a bit when you hit potholes or bumps in the road. But I love driving the thing and want to just cruise in it. It’ll fry the tyres anywhere it goes but you can just drive it; there’s no banging and clanging or overheating and blowers. It’s just nice to drive.”
1964 FORD FAIRLANE HARDTOP
Colour: PPG Concept Red
Engine: Ford big-block, 471ci
Carb: BG Demon 850cfm
Nitrous: Direct port fogger, 150hp
Pistons: Keith Black
Crank: AJ&L Performance
Rods: Keith Black
Converter: B&M 3800rpm
Diff: Dana 60, 4.1gears
Brakes: Wilwood discs (f&r)
Springs & shocks: Koni coil-overs (f&r)
Suspension: Modified Mustang-II (f), Art Morrison four-link (r)
Rims: Boyds, 15×6 (f), 15×14 (r)
Rubber: Michelin, 185/65 (f), MT, 31×18½in (r)
The boys from Hot Rod Icon Car Club; Mick from Newell St Smash Repairs; Matty Foster for taking two weeks off work to tow my car to Summernats