TODD’S already got a ’63 Galaxie and ’63 Dodge Polara in the shed that are street-driven tributes to that golden era of drag racing. But he’s also had a hankering to build a nostalgic drag car, and, as Todd puts it: “What better than the legendary Ford Thunderbolt?”
If you’re not up to speed with your drag racing history, the Thunderbolt was a factory-built drag racing weapon based on the 1964 Ford Fairlane 500.
“It would have been a lot easier to go with a 385-series or Windsor engine, but I wanted to keep it FE-powered, which meant the engine build took a lot longer,” says Todd. The Thunderbolt would have been cool with whatever engine he chose, but keeping it true to the car’s original design makes it just that little bit more special.
Having said that, not a single part of the engine came out of the Ford factory. The block is from Genesis and is based around the ’65 427 side-oiler block, although it is much stronger and has siamesed bores to allow for much larger displacements. Todd’s engine is punched out to 4.35in – 100thou over – and the bores are filled with 12:1 CP flat-tops. The crank is a forged unit from RPM that increases the swing from 3.78in to 4.25in, resulting in a capacity of 505 cubes.
The top end is all top-notch stuff from Blair Patrick in the US. He’s a guru with FE engines and knows how to get solid, reliable power out of them. “The package is what he calls his ‘serious street/strip’ package, and it’s similar to what Scott Miller runs in his ’68 Mercury Cougar at Drag Week,” says Todd. Miller’s Cougar runs low nines at almost 150mph and has been a class winner on numerous occasions. The heads are Edelbrock Pro-Port items, and they’re matched to a Bear Block Motors tunnel-wedge 2×4 single-plane intake. Patrick also provided the cam, which is a custom-grind solid-roller with around 700thou lift. The carbs are Holley 660 centre-squirters, and while you could argue you’d make more power with a more modern single carb, you wouldn’t look as good doing it.
The whole shebang was assembled by Leon Withnell at A1 Hi Performance and finished off with a CSR electric water pump and an MSD ignition system that features a crank trigger and 7AL box. It might not be era-correct, but then neither is the car, which is built to compete in Super Sedan.
“The Thunderbolt went 10.40 with the old motor out of the Galaxie, which made about 550hp, and this one made 714hp at 6650rpm on the C&R Motorsport dyno, so I’m hoping it should run mid nines,” says Todd. “The engine isn’t built for maximum power but a strong, reliable, low maintenance build that I could run on the street if I wanted.”
TURN & BURN
THE carbs have been flipped 180 degrees, placing the throttle linkages on the right-hand side of the engine, and did you notice there aren’t any secondary metering blocks in the carbs? This means you don’t have to rotate them 90 degrees to fit on the manifold. On the factory engines, which used a dual-plane intake, progressive linkage and vacuum secondary carbs, this placed the primaries closer to the centre and made for better fuel distribution. On Todd’s engine, all eight butterflies open at once – usually to WOT – so none of that is a concern. After all, it is a drag car.