Wicked 427 Thunderbolt! 1964 Ford Fairlane

Often the late 1960s muscle cars like the Road Runner, Cobra-Jet Torinos, and GTO The Judge models spring to mind when we think about the classic muscle car era, but the Detroit Horsepower Wars started much earlier. Witness this genuine 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the baddest factory drag packages to ever run the 1320. With a Buy It Now price of $359,900 here on eBay, it had better be real.

As you might expect from a former race car, the original engine and transmission (at least) are long gone, replaced by “correct” original-looking replacements. A host of NOS (New Old Stock) parts testify to the effort expended restoring this Fairlane’s authenticity. Even the steel wheels and tires are correct. Significantly different from stock Fairlanes, the Thunderbolts went from Ford to Dearborn Steel Tubing where they underwent surgery on their shock towers to accommodate the new-for-’64 high-rise 427. This mammoth mill made 425 HP on paper, but true horsepower may have been between 500 and 600 HP. Thanks to Hemmings.com for some details.

Most Thunderbolts never looked this good, as every item on the car endured scrutiny in an effort to reduce weight. Mathematically if you want a car to accelerate twice as fast you can either a. quadruple the horsepower or b. halve the weight. Extreme weight loss may not be healthy for humans, but it sure pays off on racing cars. See that black floor? There’s no sound deadening or carpeting, only a thin layer of rubber, easy to clean if your passenger suffers bladder failure during a low 12-second quarter-mile pass.

What you see here, twin four-barrel carburetors, monster V8, hood scoop, and more, all came from Ford to the buyer, making the “compact” Fairlane (about the weight of a Fox-body Mustang) a force to be reckoned with. Manual drum brakes (lower rolling resistance than discs) slow the angry maroon two-door after your ET lights up. While the museum-quality restoration may discourage too much fun, let’s hope the buyer hammers that 427 at least a few times a year. What’s the craziest factory drag car you’ve seen?

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  1. Howard A Member

    The Thunderbolt story is a neat one. I read, only 100 were made, 49, 4 speeds, and 51 automatics. A guy named Dick Brannan bought the 1st 10, and they were burgundy, the rest were white. This has to be one of the original 10, as it would be pretty hard to recreate this. Not for the faint of wallet, but a more valuable piece of factory race cars, I doubt you’ll find.
    Interesting side bar, my son in law comes from Morris, Ill. not far from Joliet Raceway. We were talking about cars one day, he said his dad knows a guy in their town, that has a white ’64 Fairlane, with a strange hood bulge and holes for the high beams. I said, could it be a Thunderbolt? Yeah, that’s it, he said, so you never know.

    • Steve R

      Those hoods have been popular additions since the Thunderbolt was new. There are a couple of 64 Fairlanes as well as other Fords products from that era that race at the local track that have this style hoods. The Fairlane specific hood is still available through restoration suppliers for a little more than $700.

      Steve R

    • Johnny

      A guy told me the same story. Onle he said his son-in laws was telling him his dad was gonna sale his old Ford and the guy asked him what kind. The boy thought they called it LIGHTNING ROD OR SOMETHING . Then the man asked him if it was THUNDER BOLT and the boy said it was .The man got up and left. He went and bought the car real cheap. Was that you?


      If you reread the story the seller has on the ebay listing you will see that this car was originally white. Phil Bonner had it repainted red back in 1964 when he started to race it.

  2. Jrp

    Single exhaust on a drag specific, horsepower monster like this? Ford must not have gotten the memo…” dual exhaust = more horsepower.”

    • Retired Stig

      I think you can safely assume any exhaust system that might have been included on these cars when new was always considered a throwaway. Open headers would have been the only way this beast was raced.

    • Camaro guy

      Mopar did the same thing on it’s factory race cars single exhaust less weight they were never meant to be run through the stock exhaust system open header’s only


      NHRA may have required a muffler on the car for A/Fx cars . Didnt have to be hooked up.

  3. Chris H

    R K Motors explains this cars repaint from its original white, so it’s not one of the first 10. If so, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a $450k price tag.
    This car has tons of history.
    History = expensive.
    I would like to think that if one could afford this beautiful car, one could afford to climb in a really romp down on it from time to time.

  4. Dave

    This was 1964, so one might wonder why Chevy never built any 409 Novas or Dodge never built any 426 Wedge Darts. Ford was way ahead of the curve here.

    • Chris M.

      Actually the Stage 3 Max Wedge Plymouth Savoys and Dodge 330 cars were the dominant cars that competed head to head with cars like the Ford Thunderbolts and 409 Chevy’s. These are definitely among the greatest Ford racecars ever built but to suggest “they were way ahead of the curve” isn’t really accurate as they weren’t engineering marvels as compared to the competition. But certainly every bit as good.

      • Dave

        Chris, what I meant was that while the others were putting big motors into full size cars Ford was putting big motors into compact cars. While Chevy had a compact Chevy II Chrysler wouldn’t have a comparable size car until the 65 Dart. Chrysler took until 68 to create the Hemi Darts. I may be wrong on this, but didn’t Yenko Chevy order 427 Novas when the car was redesigned for 1968?

      • Troy s

        Dave, got to remember GM pulled out of all factory backed racing….the dreaded no racing policy, that didn’t stop a backdoor effort though. Bill Jenkins ran real good using the 327 Chevy II.
        Last factory race Chevy was in ’63, along with Pontiac. The Z-11 Impala and 421 Super Duty lightweight Pontiacs. Lots of neat super stocks.
        The Yenko 427 Nova, about thirty cars, was in ’69, fastest thing alive but not a factory race car as the Nova couldn’t be ordered with the 427 through corporate, unlike the Camaro and Chevelle.

    • Chris M.

      Dave, the Mopar intermediates like the Savoy and 330 didn’t weigh much more or about the same as the Fairlane. So it’s just a simple point that they didn’t need to put their marque 426 MW in a Dart when they had a competitive chassis. Especially when some of those “lightweight” cars were built with aluminum front ends. And to your question Yenko did indeed put 427s in Nova’s in ’68.

  5. Tort Member

    I would prefer the original color of white but it would not deter me from buying it but unfortunately the price tag does. It would be fun to make a few runs down the strip if you were sure to keep it off a guard rail or its top.

  6. Gaspumpchas

    I saw Phil Bonner’s Thunderbolt at the Bill Elliot’s Nascar hall of fame museum in Dawsonville, GA. Couldn’t tell you if this is the same one. I built a clone where we had to move the shock towers and installed the original style traction bar setup from Crites. With that setup you couldn’t drive it on the street. I had Phil Critique the car and I asked him about the driveability,and in his words, “the car was undriveable, minus, minus.” Fast in a straight line. I don’t have to say this but any prospective buy will need to make sure its a real T-bolt. Can;’t understand why they changed the color?? What say you guys??
    Good luck

    • James HGF

      But what if you want more than to be “fast in a straight line”? Alan Mann Racing tweaked their Thunderbolt for a foray round the very fast Goodwood circuit in 2015’s St Marys Trophy Revial race. Nine times Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen was the designated star driver for Saturday’s race. Starting in 29th place he……..

      Watch the full 25 min race with preliminaries beginning at 5:24:04 on this “Goodwood Revival 2015 Day 2 Full Replay”, (9:19:35) :


      How long will it take to overtake the 4 cylinder cars…what about the big Galaxys?

    • Steve

      I think you are right, don’t understand color change, personally I would have liked white better.

  7. mainlymuscle

    “What’s the craziest factory drag car you’ve seen ? ”
    I run a 69 Rambler Scrambler,that is still all AMC except the switch to Torqueflight automatic.Best time of 10:07 @139 mph on stock suspension.
    Cooler than this ,a lot faster,and worth about one sixth.I can change the tires and it becomes quite streetable.In fact,I drove it home from the track,15 miles, with drag radials ,in the rain ,due to a trailer issue.

    • Howard A Member

      Sorry, SC/Ramblers never did 10 seconds. The best for a stock SC was mid 13’s @109mph. Tires and tuning got them into the 12’s, but without modifications, 10’s were unheard of.

      • mainlymuscle

        Where did I say that mine was “without modifications ” ?

  8. George Mills

    “Easy to clean if your passenger suffers bladder failure during a low 12-second quarter-mile pass.”
    -Laughed out loud.

    • Bellingham Fred

      I agree, a great line, as far as humor goes. More for when you are on the street than at the track. Even if the rules would permit a passenger, they would weigh more than the difference between a carpet and a rubber mat.

  9. Bob

    I had a chance, or at least I tried, to buy one of these about 1965. It was a Ford dealer in Niantic, Ct and they used to race it. I personally knew the General Manager and stopped in one day to ask (beg) him to sell it to me. Jim said no way ! He told me I’d kill myself in it and wouldn’t budge on selling it to me. He was also good friends with my parents and said he would never want that responsibility on his head. It was one of the white ones, except for the drool spots as I looked it over. Guess he was right, because so many years later I’m still alive !

  10. moosie moosie

    Yeah, strange NHRA rules made you run an exhaust system. The wildest “factory” race cars had to be the “factory” Hemi Barracudas and Darts that came a few years after the Thunderbolts, the 1968 BO29 Barracudas and the RO29 Darts. Besides those, in 1967 Chrysler Corp had those Belvederes and Coronets that had the race Hemis in them, all sold with no warranty and no papers to get them registered for the road.


    It has window cranks it has a heater it has windshield wiper motor it’s not real

    • Camaro guy

      NHRA rules required that equipment for Super Stock/AFX class racing

  12. Troy s

    Mercury had one too, Don Nicholson ran a Comet stuffed with a 427, can’t remember if it was a SOHC or highriser.
    Pure race car here, quicker than snot in a straight line, nobody drove these on the street. ’65 was a Ford Mustang full of 427 inches, only a small handful were built.
    Factory drag race cars are quite interesting, I don’t know if I ever saw one, a real one as I’m too young, a few clones most definitely.

  13. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I remember seeing one at a drag strip when I was young. The sound it made would scare the pants off most spectators and the smell of the tires burning was something else. So glad there were a few that were preserved.

  14. RDB

    “By All means See Al Means, Al Means Ford Decatur.”

  15. Dennis

    My fiend had a 67 Comet Thunderbolt. It was all tricked out for drag racing. As we towed it, it was licensed. Every now and then we would swing the required exhaust system onto the headers and take it for a cruise. What fun for a young car geek. The locker diff made for creative cornering and it sounded like firecrackers at idle which was around 1600 rpm. By the way if you do ever tow one disconnect the drive shaft. We learned the hard way after replacing the trans output shaft twice.


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