Intoxicating experience: Ford Fairlane Drag Pack
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This Ford Fairlane Drag Pack is a rarity. Not because only 249 were built, but because the owner’s identity is under wraps. Clearly the petrolhead staff at Driven headquarters — just this once — didn’t care as long as they got to hear about what it’s like to drive one.
The current owner bought it from an Aucklander who imported it in 2009, after it had spent 25 years as a display car in a dealership showroom in America’s mid-western cowboy country.
He’d grown up in an American Ford household. “The whole muscle car thing was going off,” he says, and his father was into every form of racing you could think of — heady stuff for an 18-year-old in 1964. That was when the GT came out, and Ford was cleaning up in Nascar. “I thought it was the most beautiful car in the world.”
His family subscribed to American magazines, and he read all about drag racing, Bonneville, American cars and Nascar.
Ford had traditionally run what the Yanks called full-size cars, for example Galaxies, but in 1967 Ford decided to run Fairlane GT-bodied cars instead, and with Mario Andretti at the wheel a Fairlane won the Daytona 500.
This was perhaps the height of the muscle-car era, and the big motor companies were conscious of the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” ethos.
The result for the Fairlane GT — which already had a specially tuned big-block V8 — was a dealer-fit option called the Drag Pack.
The idea was that the buyer would take it to the local drag strip and, hopefully, win.”
This was one of the 249 cars with that option, but our owner didn’t know anything about it. “This was here, registered and with a WoF, and the fact it had the Drag Pack option was a bonus.”
He drives it on the roads near his Wanaka home.
“Up to a third throttle it only opens the centre carb, so round town it’s just running on a single two-barrel carb. But open the throttle, and the other two carbs open.”
It had needed a lot of “little fiddly things” fixing when he bought it. For example, the rod to the throw-out arm for the mechanical clutch pedal was bent.
The car also had a big modern radio to back up the original AM kit, neither of which works, and so the three huge speakers on the rear parcel shelf will go, with a new radio fitted — probably in the glovebox, to keep the look right.
We clambered in with warnings about some recent hiccups still ringing in our ears — Bob McMurray, the Kiwi motorsport guru well known for his 30 years involvement with McLaren F1, had been stranded in it on Wanaka’s main street the previous day, and had to do a temporary fix as tourist traffic built up behind. We were told the fix, but didn’t need it.
The car was surprisingly easy to drive, despite its size. By our standards it’s huge — a whisker over 5m long.
There’s no three-point belt, if you hit something you’ll head-butt the steering wheel, but you forget that when you hear this mighty 6.4-litre motor grumbling away up front — it’s virtually idling round town, gurgling at 1500rpm in top gear at 50km/h, hardly working at 100km/h, at a lazy 3000rpm.
But wrestle that four-speed top-loader manual gear lever down a cog or so and give it its head, and this motor brings in the big guns, hurtling the car into the scenery with a breathtaking shove. Forget the 262kW at 5200rpm, this thing fields a tyre-shredding 570Nm at 3400rpm and you can almost hear the fuel pouring down the gurgler.
It’s an intoxicating experience, especially in Otago’s big-sky country, but not one guaranteed to keep your licence safe.
Fortunately we returned the car with it still intact — glad indeed we hadn’t had to finagle a roadside fix on this astounding beast.