The Thunderbolt was based on a 289 High Performance four speed 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 2 Dr. Sedan modified to accept a 427 High Riser engine and Galaxie drivetrain components. The Thunderbolt was an industry first and was the only time that a complete turn key drag car was available to the general public. As the advertisement stated All you need to go racing is the ignition keys.
To date, the origin of the name Thunderbolt is not certain. It is believed it may have come from the office of Frank E. Zimmerman Jr., Special Vehicles Manager at the time.
First known use of the term Thunderbolt in an internal Ford document November 13, 1963. First known use of the term Thunderbolt in a dealership advertisement Gas Ronda - Downtown Ford November 9, 1963.
100 units total, 41 four speeds, 59 automatics. The first eleven vehicles were painted Vintage Burgundy and the remaining 89 were Wimbledon White.
1st Group (Planned date 21J) 11 units on DSO 89
Ten four speeds and one automatic released to the Ford Drag Council on October 22, 1963.
2nd Group (09L) 39 units on DSO 890004
30 automatics and 9 four speeds. Sold to the general public to meet the 50 car minimum build for NHRA Super Stock. Delivered between December 6, 1963 to February 4, 1964.
3rd Group (30A, 31A, 03B, 04B, 05B) five groups of ten units on DSO 890024
28 automatics and 22 four speeds, delivered between February 13 to May 26, 1964.
Lightweight and Weight Biasing Components
Front Bumper fiberglass on approximately first 50 units, then changed to stamped metal (aluminum) on next 50 units, aluminum bumpers were then retrofitted to the 1st and 2nd group cars for Super Stock class.
Hood and front fenders fiberglass
Doors fiberglass (approximately 18 sets released to Drag Council Team and factory sponsored)
Side windows plexiglass
Rear window plexiglass (approximately first 37 units)
Front windshield plexiglass (released only to certain Drag Council and factory sponsored units, approximately 10 pcs.)
Lightweight Bostrom Thinline front bucket seats
Seat belt drivers side only
Lightweight polyethylene floor mats
RH wiper arm, RH sun visor, coat hooks, arm rests, and quarter window regulators deleted (Coat hooks and sun visor hole cover plate on first eleven units)
Heater and fresh air ducts deleted
Hood hold down springs and low pitch horn deleted
Sealer and sound deadeners deleted
Spare tire, jack assembly, and trunk mat deleted
1.75 diameter exhaust system and single muffler
Trunk mounted Exide E36-SMR 12V car battery with external vent
Vehicle shipping weight - 3,210 lbs
Displacement - 427 CID with cross bolted mains
425 HP @ 6,000 RPM and 480 ft/lbs @ 3,700 RPM
Induction system Dual 6 inlet Ram Air duct with two 720 CFM Holley model 4150 carburetors and 8V dual plane aluminum intake manifold
High Riser cylinder heads with 2.197 and 1.733 diameter valves
Hollow stem intake and sodium filled exhaust valves (with 7,000 RPM kit)
Tuned individual equal length tubular headers (1.75 Primary, 3.5 collector) with balance tube
Domed forged pistons 13:1 nominal / 14:1 maximum compression ratio
324 Deg 500 lift mechanical tappet camshaft
Full centrifugal dual point distributor
High volume mechanical fuel pump
Increased capacity oil pan
Clutch fan and Galaxie radiator
Aluminum water pump and radiator (later Weight Redistribution option)
Long style 2400# non counterweighted pressure plate
special solid hub clutch disc
RC Industries Aluminum bell housing and inspection cover
Borg Warner T-10 2.20 1st gear with aluminum case and extension housing
Inland Steel (Ford) floor shift assy
Column shifted modified 3 speed Lincoln HX - model PCA-F
2100 RPM stall speed torque converter
recalibrated main control
revised rear servo and governor
rear pump deleted
31 tooth output shaft.
Removable 8 ¾ carrier
4.57 gear ratio
Detroit Locker Differential
31 tooth axle shafts
15 x 4 front wheels with Firestone 6.00 x 15 Firestone Deluxe Champion tires
15 x 7 rear wheels with 9.50 x 15 Firestone Lightening Drag 7 Slicks
Staggered RH Upper Control Arm for rollout (Early Drag Council units only)
HD Front Stabilizer Bar
Modified radiator support, front fender aprons, upper control arms, #2 cross member, and dash panel for engine packaging and improved cooling efficiency
Tied rear engine mounting system
3 OD modified Galaxie driveshaft assy
31 rear axle solid mount track bars
Biased spring rate RH 3 leaf and LH 2 leaf rear springs
Stewart Warner 240-A Electric Fuel Pump
Rerouted 3/8 fuel line
Heavy duty fade resistant 10 drum brakes and rerouted brake lines
100# S-W Oil pressure gauge
8,000 rpm Rotunda tachometer (8,500 rpm Sun on first eleven units)
Exerpt for the article I wrote for the Fairlaner, Jan - Feb 2009 issue.