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408-cube 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door

By Boris Viskovic | Photos: Jordan Leist, 17 Aug 2019 Features

408-cube 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door - flashback

Just because it came off the production line in 1957, it doesn't have to be a Chev

IF YOU drag out your dog-eared March ’01 issue of SM you’ll see the inspiration for this car. It was a ’57 Ford wagon called ‘Intruder’ that Troy Trepanier built for George Poteet. It was a two-tone champagne and Burnt Orange number with the usual array of Rad Rides tricks and astounding attention to detail. “When I saw that car, I loved it,” Bill Fowler, owner of this home-built ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door, says.

This article was first published in the June 2010 issue of Street Machine

Fairlane 500Everyone loves the ’57 Chev but Ford actually won the sales race that year!

But Bill’s love of ’57 — and ’58 and ’59 — Fords stretches back way further than 2001.

“When I was 12 living in NZ, some of the wild V8 boys cruised around in ’57s and I just loved ’em. I thought: ‘Shit, I’m gonna get me one of them when I grow up.’”

magazineBill took his cues from George Poteet’s ’57 Ranch Wagon — mods include Jag headlights, extended fins, shaved everything and deleted window frames

Well, Bill’s grown up now. He’s been in Australia since 1985 and he’s had quite a few Fords, including a very tidy ’58 retractable convertible that now lives in Queensland. The silver lining of letting the retractable go was that it gave him the funds to get cracking on the ’57, and once work started it was flat-out for three months. Yep, start to finish this whole build took less time than most people spend picking a paint colour.

Read next: 429-cube big-block 1956 Ford Fairlane

Fairlane 500 rear“The car sat in the shed for nine months until I could get someone to panel beat it. I got a backyard guy to do it, Ted Street. I hassled him to do my car — he didn’t want to — but he had it done in a week. Once it was panelled it only took a few months, from the end of September until December to get it done.”
Bill’s brother-in-law, Wayne ‘Boggy’ Cull, imported the car from the US and it was an honest starting point; not a pristine one-owner ride but no rust-bucket either.

“It was unmolested and still in original paint. There was no headlining in it, the seats were stuffed, but it still drove. It had a 292 Y-block but as soon as I decided to start on the car I pulled the motor and ’box and sold it to a bloke in the Customline Club for 900 bucks,” Bill says.

Watch next: Kiwi electricity company builds electric '57 Ford Fairlane - video

Fairlane 500His original plan was to slot in a Clevo and C4 but, as with most plans we come across, it didn’t go, well, according to plan. “I bought a 351 and a C4 and it was meant to be a good motor. A mate had some tricked up heads that I was going to put on it but when we pulled the old heads off we noticed a score in the bore. So we pulled it down a bit more and everything was just rooted.

“I wasn’t going to build a big motor but Hitchy from Staunch Performance said: ‘If you’re going to build a motor, you might as well build a 408.’”

Staunch by name, staunch by nature. The 351 got a 20thou tidy-up before the Scat steel stroker crank and I-beam rods went in under a set of forged flat-tops from Probe. The heads are 3V 185cc high-port aluminium units from CHI, matched to a CHI manifold and topped with a custom Pro Systems 950 double pumper.

Read next: Blown 1957 Chev hardtop

Fairlane 500 engine bayHitchy also rebuilt the C4 to standard specs, though it does house a Dominator 3000rpm high-stall converter. A beefed-up ’box is in the works and will be needed to handle the torque of the big stroker, especially if Bill gives the old girl a boot full. The rear-end should have no problems, though; the standard twin-rib nodular nine-inch with a 3.5 LSD centre does the job nicely.

Bill painted the car in his shed at home — it’s a big shed, he says — and when it came to colour choice, it was a no-brainer. “I couldn’t find out the exact colours of the Trepanier car but I saw a car painted in Blood Orange and I really liked it.” The 2003 Ford colour is paired with Champagne Gold from a 1980-something Volvo and gives the car a real US-built look.

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Fairlane 500 interiorUpdated with Galaxie buckets, custom console and Dolphin gauges in a billet cluster. Wheel is from Grant

Inside was trimmed in cream vinyl and brown Macro-Hide, which is like suede but cow-friendly. The bench seat was flicked in favour of Galaxie buckets, split by a custom-built console that houses the stereo, DVD player, B&M shifter and a cup holder. Gotta have a cup holder.

The trim work was handled by Geoff at Arrow Canvas & Upholstery, who also remade the door panels to original specifications, vinyl welding and all. Brown loop-pile carpet covers the floor, and the dash was filled with half a dozen Dolphin gauges in a billet panel, except the tacho which was artfully moulded into the top of the dash.

Fairlane 500 dashBill credits Andy Brown with most of the tricky metalwork. “Andy works with me but he also builds choppers from his Palace Cycles business. He built the centre console — it’s steel — he made the mounts for the seats, patched the floor — he’s bloody brilliant.”

The final touch was a set of SSA Cobra five-spokes. At 18x8 on all four corners they aren’t that big but they give the car a more contemporary look, lacking any hint of ‘pregnant roller skate’.

So she was built in just three months but at the recent Retro Drags at Kwinana Motorplex, Bill managed a wheel-spinning 13.1 pass.
“Yep, she’s got balls, the old girl — a few blokes reckon she could go a low 12.”

THUNDER ROAD

Thunder RoadTHE 1958 movie that inspired the Springsteen classic of the same name was a story of a moonshine runner played by Robert Mitchum who roared down the back roads of Kentucky and Tennessee outrunning and outwitting the police with tricks such as a quick-release bumper on his hopped-up ’49 Ford. So, what’s this got to do with a ’57 Fairlane? Well, the old single spinner met with an untimely demise and Mitch upgraded to a ’57 Ford. With the coppers running around in ’57 Chevs, it’s a great flick to watch just for the cars.

Bill FowlerBILL FOWLER
1957 FAIRLANE 500 TWO-DOOR

Colour: Protec Blood Orange over Champagne Gold

ENGINE
Type: Cleveland 408ci
Carb: Pro Systems 950DP
Intake: CHI 3V
Heads: CHI 3V 185 High Port aluminium
Camshaft: Camtec solid
Conrods: Scat I-beam full floating
Lifters: Solid
Pistons: Probe forged flat-tops
Crank: Scat 4150 steel
Valve springs: Isky 8005
Valves: Ferrea 2.08 (in), 1.65 (ex)
Oil pump: Mellings
Exhaust: 15⁄8in 2V headers
Ignition: MSD 6AL, Blaster 3 coil, Pro Billet distributor

TRANSMISSION
Gearbox: C4
Converter: Dominator 3000rpm
Diff: Nine-inch twin-rib nodular, 3.5 LSD centre

SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Springs: Kings coil (f), leaf (r)
Shocks: Monroe Gas (f&r)
Brakes: XF discs, HQ calipers (f), drum (r)

RIMS & RUBBER
Wheels: SSA Cobra 18x8 (f&r)
Tyres: Roadstone 245/45/18 (f&r)

THANKS
Without Hitchy, Big Kev, Trev, Geoff, Lou, their wives and partners, and my wife Christine, I would never have been able to build this car in three months. I also want to thank my boss, Dave Pigdon, and Andy Brown at Pigdon Portable Restorations for their help