SON Volt sings it, a chilled tune called Windfall that starts with a strummed acoustic guitar and goes into the lines that work so bloody well when you’re humming along on the highway late at night, the road to yourself, elbow out the window and stereo dialled high: May the wind take your troubles away/may the wind take your troubles away/both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel/may the wind take your troubles away.
This article was first published in the September 2003 issue of Street Machine
Not that Mark Hooper’s a troubled bloke but if there’s any street machine that should be cruised in chill mode with the windows down and the wind ruffling your hair, it’s his jet-black ZA Fairlane. It rides as low and shiny as a black snake, its Boyd Coddington wheels glinting in the moonlight and the burble of the Cleveland rippling through the air.
Mark’s had the Ford for 12 years and doesn’t look like letting it go. After all the work he’s put in and rewards he’s got back, it has become a big part of his life. Best of all for the spray painter, his skill and patience have earned him five Top Paint awards from eight shows, plus another 11 trophies besides.
He was an apprentice when he bought the unloved and rusty beginnings of the project. The idea was to give it a quick paintjob and drive it but Mark found more rust than he expected and it turned into a full bare-metal rebuild. It must’ve been crook – Mark replaced the sills, lower front guards, door corners, floorpans and parcel tray, making up patches for many areas.
“I hammered up all the small dents and file finished the whole car over a long period,” he says. “There was nothing big, just a lot of little car park dents and ripples. All the ripples had to be taken out because I was always going to paint it black, so it had to be straight.”
Lots of filing, lots of patience, lots of elbow grease. At one point it all got to be too much.
“I’d been doing it for a few years and, I dunno, I just wanted to have a break. A long break,” he says. “For a couple of years I didn’t do anything on it.”
Then the enthusiasm returned and he got stuck right in: “When I got like that every spare bit of time I had I was working on it. After I painted it I was working nights as well, putting it back together.”
When a spray painter sprays his own car, you know it’s going to be good. Mark says simply, “After heaps of blocking, repriming and more blocking, I was happy with the body and was ready to paint it.” Gotta give him points for that understatement.
He sent the shell away to Lee Brothers Trimming and afterwards bolted everything back together using stainless bolts.
See how neat the panel gaps are? Mark had a pretty good start on them, with the body being generally straight. “Just around the bottoms of the doors, I had to file the edges a bit to get them even all the way around, but other than that they weren’t too bad.
“All the bolts were painted originally and to save repainting them – and when you do them up you scratch the paint anyway – I thought I’d get stainless ones. They’re a lot neater too.”
Neatness extends to the lack of any badging, and rechromed jewellery and polished stainless-steel bits.
Along the way, Mark hacked into the dash to fit a full set of Auto Meter gauges, cutting and welding holes to fit the faceplates. He picked SAAS seats, the obligatory B&M shifter and a Dragway billet tiller. He wired up a Pioneer CD system with some 6x9s up the back.
The engine’s the 302 that was in there when Mark bought the Ford but he’s had it rebuilt with a mild cam, some head work (it likes premium unleaded now) and an Edelbrock Performer manifold under the 600 Holley carb. A set of extractors running into a twin 2.5in exhaust gives the right note. He fitted a GT radiator and a 16in thermo fan.
Mark dumped the car, taking five inches out of the suspension front and rear, and upgraded the brakes. And that left just one thing, the icing on a rich cake: wheels. He hasn’t yet seen another set of those Coddington billets in Australia but with a design as sexy as that it’s only a matter of time.
They look like they fill the guards chock-a-block but all Mark had to do was roll the lips of the guards a bit and Bob was his uncle. The front guards are such caverns that the tyres don’t rub when he pulls a U-ey.
“The car’s built to be driven and I drive to shows and do regular cruising,” says Mark. Yeah, turn up Son Volt and cruise. Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel…
CHOPPED OR DROPPED?
THIS Fairlane’s rear springs have been reset five inches lower than stock but the fronts are only chopped an inch. What gives? Dropped spindles, that’s what – a set of Castlemaine Rod Shop’s (CRS) four-inch jobs.
“Dropped spindles have made a much smoother ride while keeping it low and more comfortable for cruising,” says Mark. “I did have cut springs but I couldn’t get a proper wheel alignment with them, and the tyres were starting to wear out.”
CRS’s Rod Hadfield reckons that for about $300 plus brakes, you get correct geometry, full travel (great for legality), less bump steer if they’re a well designed set, better brake options, and more besides. Why do it any other way?
“I’ll never forget when I was young and stupid and you’d cut the springs,” says Rod. “You’d go over a railway line and shut your eyes and hope for the best. You’d judge how bad it was by the glovebox flyin’ open or whether the headlights were still in focus when you come out the other side.
“The first time I went for a drive in my car when we were testing these drop axles and we went over the same railways line, I couldn’t even feel it. It was just unbelievable.”
FORD ZA FAIRLANE
Colour: Glasurit Black
Engine: Cleveland 302
Manifold: Edelbrock Performer
Carb: Holley 600
Gearbox: C4 auto
Diff: 9in LSD, 3.55:1
Spindles: CRS 4in drop
Springs: lowered 1in (f), 5in (r)
Brakes: DBA vented discs; stock calipers (f), XF (r); ZD booster and master
Wheels: 18×8 Boyd Coddington Monsoon
Tyres: Falken 235/40ZR18 (f), 265/35ZR18 (r)
Seats: SAAS front
Wheel: Dragway billet
Gauges: Auto Meter
Shifter: B&M Megashifter