Well, we did it. In less than two months we took Project Ford Country — my 1957 Ford 2-door ranch wagon turned sedan delivery — from a rotten floor, motorless/trannyless parts car to a vehicle capable of doing a ¼ mile in less than 12 seconds.
With the 521 ci BBF (masterfully and quickly put together by Mike Dunn at Western Drivetrain and Machine Works Inc in Nanaimo, BC) freshly broke in just the day before, I somewhat gently drove the car to two passes of 12.99 at 101 mph and just a little over 12 flat at 114 mph. The car will definitely dip into the 11s with a little practice on my part and a heavier foot. A more violent launch might also help. The car’s debut at the 10th Annual Thunder in the Alberni Valley event was particularly sweet. Held the first weekend of August at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport in Port Alberni, BC, this event rekindled my passion for drag racing and made me thirsty to drive something other than my CHR daily driver pickups.
Maybe two months sounds like a long time – but keep in mind that in the magazine world the actual time to work on a project is very limited and often very condensed. In Ford Country’s case, most of the work on the car was completed between July 21 and August 6. The final mad thrash began Thursday morning August 5 and continued into the early morning hours of August 6 when a tired but hopeful group loaded the car onto the trailer and headed off to Port Alberni.
Saturday, the engine break-in went smoothly and after bleeding the brakes we were ready for our first run. At least we thought.
The starter wasn’t engaging the flex plate properly and when we did get the car started, it was running hot. We blamed this on the puny pusher fan I’d installed.
(Hey it was in the garage and it didn’t cost me anything. It was left over from a 4 cylinder Mustang I had parted out many years before. I now have a 3,300 cfm puller ready to install). We shut the car off and pushed it through the staging lanes. As we got closer we started the car but had to shut it down when another car suffered catastrophic failure just after the lights. When the track was finally cleared, the car started but only after many attempts. I was directed into the area just outside the burnout box and the car was still running hot. Since it was a new motor, I was a little skittish and when there was another delay I shut it off. Of course it wouldn’t start again and our first run attempt resulted in a tow back to the pits.
Despite the part number saying it was the starter for the 57 Ford’s 460/C6 combo, it wasn’t the right starter. There was a bit of doom and gloom in our pits but only momentarily. Another racer from Victoria who was running a 460 but broke an axle in the previous run offered up his starter. Then another driver, Dean Peterson of Courtenay, BC (he runs a killer 1967 Mustang doorslammer) said he had a spare we could borrow instead. We installed it that night and the car started right away.
I was nervous Sunday morning. To get a feel for the brakes and throttle pedal, I’d taken the car for a cruise up and down pit road but that was it. To be cautious, we pushed the car right up to the moment we were to enter the burnout box. I babied it in the box, keeping the car just under 5,000 rpms but going through first then second gear. I was so nervous I ran through the staging lights and had to back up. Though my Gearstar Performance transmission C6 had a 3,200 stall converter I didn’t load up and just stuck the throttle when the last yellow light flickered on the tree. The car launched nice and was pulling strong. Nerves again got the better of me as I let off the throttle while shifting from 1st to 2nd then I got into it again and shifted into 3rd a little past midway. That was the 12.99 run at 101 mph.
A few months before Port Alberni, my buddies Dan Cowie and Kevin Roberts were sitting in my shop predicting what the car’s first run would be. They both guessed 15 seconds or slower, reasoning the car would be in need of a good tune and a more veteran driver. I guessed 13.36. We were all wrong but I was pretty pleased to be the one closest to the actual time.
Ford Country’s second run was the first round of eliminations in the Modified class. With only one run under my belt, I had no idea what ET to dial in at. I reasoned it was definitely faster than 12.99 – but how much faster and how hard was I willing to drive it second time around. I picked 12.80 first, but Kev said “No way – at least 12.50 .” We were both wrong. Even after another brain fart – letting off between 1st and 2nd – I ran just over 12 flat at 114. I won the race but broke out so was eliminated.
It’s not often I’m elated after losing, but in this case I was. The car had come together so quickly and I had zero experience running a car with this much power. A near 11 second run was very far from any of our minds. It was a very emotional moment in the pits after that run. So many people had been instrumental in getting me there, especially Dan and Kev, Russ Fort and a host of other players including Daryle Sorenson, Keith Bryant, Wayne Roberts and more.
Special thanks to my sponsors, Edelbrock for the heads, cam and intake, Scat for the crank and rods, Wiseco for the pistons, Showcar Bodyparts for the as yet to be installed glass front end, PRW for the waterpump and flex plate, fuel sponsor Great Western Oil Tool Services of Virden, MB and again Western Drivetrain & Machine Services Inc. for so skillfully putting the 521 BBF together.
Can’t wait to get it down the track again.