American muscle cars have a lot to answer for. Back in the early sixties, the revved up research and development team at the Ford Motor Company decided to see what would happen if they shoehorned in the big block 427ci motor, built for the much larger Galaxie, into the lighter, intermediate sized Fairlane. It worked a treat but the hierarchy at FoMoCo decided it was unsafe for the general public and bolted a disclaimer in the glove box lid. With only 100 of these racers ever produced and many destroyed, owning an original is an expensive privilege.
A Ford guy at heart, Albert Pace couldn’t help but be inspired by these and other muscular Fords of the period. Scouring the Trading Post in the early nineties for a project, he came across a 1963 Ford Fairlane 500 in Lilydale that had been stripped down in preparation for a rebuild that never happened. “I never expected that I’d end up with a Compact Fairlane,” confessed Alby. The downsized Fairlane’s (hence the term ‘Compact’) were introduced in 1962, whilst full size models would continue under the name of Galaxie.
It didn’t take long before the rebuild got underway, and a thorough build it was. “Everything that I could replace, I did,” says Albert. The body itself remains mostly stock, the only deviations being the XY GT mirrors and the Thunderbolt fibreglass bonnet which he located in Queensland. That raised teardrop ram air scoop lets you know she’s no sleeper. Lock pins hold it in place for looks as well as ease of fitment. Peter Robinson from Profinish Car Repairs laid down the paint.
Good friend Eddie Farrugia from Motorpro did the spanner work on the 351 Cleveland adding a 600+ solid lift Crane cam, TRW pistons and good internals. He reworked the 2V heads and added an Edelbrock Performer intake, 750 Holley DP and ICE ignition. Albert estimates the output to be in the vicinity of 380 to 400 hp but has never tested it on the strip. “It’s always had the good rev range. It’s plenty, I didn’t want it any hotter.” Since it’s first build the engine and most of the mechanicals have been freshened up. “I try to rebuild or upgrade something every year,” he adds.
Fitting the larger 351 Cleveland into a mid-sized engine bay made for a Windsor wasn’t a straight forward job and required the shock towers to be trimmed down in order to clear the extractors. The transmission tunnel also had to be modified for the four speed Top Loader and Hurst shifter. “I used to run an auto with a 4,000 rpm stall convertor but I got over it,” he admits, swapping it for the cogger about five years back. Third member is of course a nine inch with spritely 3.7 gears. The mini tubs were already done, Alby made good use of them by squeezing in the Weld 15×10 rims with 265 Hancook rubber. At the front are 15×5’s with 165s.
Albert went one step better than the original Fairlane furniture by installing front and rear seats from a 1970s ZD Fairlane before having the whole lot covered in white vinyl by CNZ Upholstery. I congratulated Albert on the fact that the interior is still white after all of these years. “We’ve dragged the kids all over Victoria in this car,” he added in a tone that tells us it’s not easy keeping it like that. Black carpet and body coloured dash are a nice contrast. The steering wheel scored the pearl treatment thanks to Pearlcraft and the cowl mounted oil pressure and water temperature gauges keep the original dash uncluttered and add a competition flavour.
The build took 18 months with most of the work done in-house for a cost of around $14,000! That was 18 years ago and the Fairlane has been well looked and used for what it was built to be, a family cruiser. “The family’s been in it since day one,” says Albert, “I’ve still got the baby bolts in it”.
The future for this well kept ride? “We never thought of selling it. We’ve got two sons, Nick and Brad, so they can both share it”.
The family that plays together, stays together.
BY GREG FORSTER, PHOTOS BY CAPRICE PHOTO. FULL FEATURE CRUZIN MAGAZINE #160.