The Ford Thunderbolt
And what to our thundering ears should appear rolling from the Ford factory sometime in 1963?
Why it was an experimental car from Ford Motor called the Thunderbolt.
This lightning fast car was actually a limited production, factory experimental, drag race only automobile built by Ford for the 1964 production year and was based on the Ford Fairlane. It was called the Ford Thunderbolt.
They made 100 of these beasts that included the modified"high rise" 427 cu in V8 engine that had dual Holley 4 barrel carbs. 49 were 4 speeds and 51 were automatics.
Horsepower was rated at 425 hp but other sources estimate it was closer to 600 hp. This was enough for Ford to secure the NHRA Superstock title for Ford in 1964.
The first test of the 4-speed Thunderbolt took place at Lions Drag Strip in November 1963 and it ran 11.61 seconds at 124.8 mph.
The record for an authentic Thunderbolt with modern slicks is 9.23 seconds at 151 mph.
The Thunderbolt required major suspension modifications to the front and rear suspension and strengthening to handle the brute horsepower of the 427 engine.
Also to cut weight fiberglass doors, hood, fenders, bumpers, and plexiglass side and rear windows. The teardrop ram air hood was pinned into position to save weight on hinges.
Some racing mods include tubular exhaust headers, electric fuel pump, trunk mounted battery, locking differential, auxiliary gauges, and special drag race tires and wheels from Goodyear and Mickey Thompson.
An aluminum scatter shield was added for safety. The claimed compression was 13. 5:1, which is pretty close to a diesel engine compression ratio!
Most street accessories like visors, radio, heater, carpeting, etc were eliminated or replaced with lighter weight versions. Final drive was 4:44.1 for the automatics and 4:57.1 for the 4 speeds.
These rockets were built in partner with Andy Hotton of Dearborn Steel Tubing from partially built Fairlane bodies.
The first 11 cars were painted in "vintage burgundy". The remaining cars were "Wimbledon white".
The engines reflected the "K-code" solid lifter 289 Hi-Po engine and the Ford Thunderbolt had a special plate riveted on the inside glove box door which read: This vehicle has been built specially as a lightweight competitive car and includes certain fiberglass and aluminum components. Because of the specialized purpose for which this car has been built and in order to achieve maximum weight reduction, normal quality standards of the Ford Motor Company in terms of exterior panel fit and surface appearance are not met on this vehicle.This information is included on this vehicle to assure that all customers who purchase this car are aware of the deviation from the regular high appearance quality standards of the Ford Motor Company.
We would love to see a drag race between the stock Shelby AC Cobra and the stock Ford Thunderbolt. What do you think?
Not many Top Fuel Drag Racers have been friends with and partied with Willie Nelson, but three-time world champion in both the NHRA and IHRA Top Fuel Richard Tharp can say that he did.
He was considered a rock star of the drag racing era of the 70's and was one of the most colorful drag racers of that time.
He was also regarded as on of the finest pure drag racing drivers around and would race anything on the track and try anything off the track.
Although the seasons consisted of only 8 races, sometimes 9, he compiled a head-to-head record of 82-46 against top racers of the time.
His rivalry with Shirley Muldowney was legendary and generated vigorous competition between them for years.
He starred in the 1973 drag racing movie: Wheels of Fire as himself, along with Shirley Muldowney, Don Garlits, Billy Meyer and Don Prudhomme, all playing themselves.
His mantra was “A Star I Are, A Saint I Aint”.
For his racing accomplishment's he is named the #49 driver by the NHRA’s panel of drag racing experts, including print and television journalists and longtime historians of the sport.