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Turning my ‘63 hardtop into a street/strip beast

Discussion in '1955 - 1966 Classic Ford Thunderbird' started by Craig Hili, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. Hi all, I’m Craig. Some dummy who owed me some money gave me a ‘63 hardtop instead of paying his bill, so I got thrust into owning my Thunderbird rather than looking for it, but a little work (new lifters, cap, rotor, plugs, wires, diode, button, timing chain, water pump, power steering pump, shocks all around, leafs in the rear and coils in the front, maybe a few other odds and ends) later I realized how much I liked it and liked working on it. My wife LOVES it, so that’s that, lol. This car is getting full blown tricked out. I own and operate automotive repair stations as a business, so my cost on parts and labor is pretty reasonable.

    Here’s the plan to make it a street strip cherry, tell me what you think-

    Simple stuff
    - the body is gorgeous and the numbers match on everything, so I want to make sure any mods can be undone; other than changing the hood for a carbon fiber one that I can cut a hole out for a blower, I’m going to keep the look stock and just remove any rust, all new badges/chrome, and throw on some pearl white metallic
    - the interior is red and it’s pretty mint; I’ll leave that alone

    More in depth
    - I’ll remove the stock motor, trans, shaft, rearend, etc...and save them should I want to go back to factory
    - new suspension, tires, disc brakes, driveline components, etc... to get as fast in the quarter mile as possible without having to do anything irreversible to stock

    This last bit I could use opinions on. Blown big block Ford with EFI and electronic ignition is a preference. What would y’all do for this project if you had the resources to do whatever you wanted?


  2. Dlluinstra

    Dlluinstra Active Member Gold Donor

    Your car do what you want.

    I don't like your plan.

    The way my 61 convertible, 59 and 63 hardtop are done, suspension, brake ,efi, wire wheels 14", upgrades. Stock look.
    Great fun to drive.
  3. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hey Craig, sounds like you have a case of T Bird fever, welcome to the club!

    Check out The Angry Bird in the pictures section of this forum. It's a '62 with a turbocharged 351W and air intakes in the fenders that looks pretty tasty. Going with a small block like the 351 would reduce the weight of your car by around 200 pounds. But I get the attraction of a "torque monster" big block motor.

    Another thing, is the unibody strong enough for a drag racer? There's a guy here in California that drag races a '63 Dodge Dart (the "Poison Dart") and he welded a frame under the unibody to stiffen up the car to where it could handle the torque and weight of a 392 hemi.

    Keep us posted please. This sounds more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

  4. Opinions are a dime a dozen, but here is mine. Unless the car is highly optioned, has rare options, or is rare for some other reason, I don't think power train mods will hurt the value. I do think that the your mods would get pretty close to irreversible though, since they will involve cutting and welding. Motor mounts, transmission mounts, and especially transmission tunnel mods. If you were able to make your own motor mounts so you can reuse the existing holes and perches and make a custom transmission cross member for a trans that fits, then it would be reversible. A hot rod, or FE group is probably a place to get more info.
  5. From what I’ve gathered in my research, running up to around 700HP through the car is very doable after you tie the front and rear clip together. That’s as simple as adding two pieces of rectangular tubing. I’m going to be fabricating my own motor mounts, no trouble there. I’ll try to find a trans that fits. I’ll need a beefier driveshaft and stronger gears and axles, but after that it’s just trying to see what I can do to get the most HP to stick to the road.
  6. https://charlotte.craigslist.org/cto/d/1963-ford-thunderbird-customsp/6735411874.html

    You guys should chat. Lol
  7. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    That '63 on Craigslist is a real sled!
  8. That bird is a bit much. I want mine to be a bit more stock. That means no machine work or cutting. Welding is ok so long as I can undo without anyone being able to tell.

    Here’s where I am...
    - shocks and springs all around; I need to chop a coil or two because I’m nose high since I went on an aluminum diet for heads and intake
    - electronic ignition is going on the FE today when I should be working, lol
    - fuel injection
    - return fuel line (because...injection)
    - cam
    - torque converter (because...cam)
    - heads that flow well and don’t weigh 6 million lbs.
    - O2 sensor
    - headers, Cherry Bombs, pipes
    - intake that doesn’t weigh 900 fu(king lbs.
    - lifters, pushrods, yada yada yada
    - electric fan and aluminum radiator
    - front and rear clip tied together

    I’ll drive it for a bit every day and when I’ve decide I don’t need to mess with mechanical any longer I’ll drive it to paint and interior.

    Anybody have any suggestions for handling? The suspension is as tight as factory but it’s still in need...
  9. Any “in-progress” pics available? This is going to be fun to follow your build. I think we all would love a little more power. Even the purist types. Rock on brother!!
  10. I need to post some pics. This started as a little bit of work and turned into a pretty full restoration, lol. In for a dime, in for a dollar I guess.

    The engine has been completely gone through, with new Trick Flow heads, 3” headers, hydraulic roller cam with hydraulic roller lifters, performance rods and roller rockers, performance intake, EFI, electronic ignition, fuel pump in the tank and a full return line fuel system; all that should make the thing as reliable as a new car. The trans has been completely rebuilt, the rear rebuilt, new motor and trans mounts, new shock, new springs, new wiring throughout, new fuse panel. New radiator, new heater core, you get the idea. All that was the easy part.

    The hard part: we acid dipped the frame and all the body panels, welded in patches wherever there was rust, and just now the thing is finally in primer, block sanded for waves and ready for paint. Mechanical will all be in the car in a few weeks, then paint, then pics.

    So much for a “little project”. Anyway, we chose not to go far enough from stock that we couldn’t go back. It’s not a race car, it was never meant to be a race car. That said, it’ll have a lot more spring in its step now and it’ll be as close to new as one can expect a ‘63 to be in ‘19.
  11. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Hi Craig. Thanks for the progress update. What motor did you end up going with? With all the improvements, it would be quite interesting to have some dyno numbers on the final build.

    More importantly, does your wife still love the car? Happy wife, happy life as they say.

    Pictures, we need pictures,

  12. Here's a few...

    Attached Files:

    64ZCODE likes this.
  13. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    Wish I had your shop. And the workers while I’m at it.
  14. No you don't either, lol. I got rid of that business and all the other ones too. I'm a retiree now flying at an airline to give me something to do. Running a shop is a huge pain in the ass from sunup to sundown, trust me. You're better off finding a good shop and spending a few bucks.

    You can make more money. You can't make more time. I've had no regrets since I moved on. Flying is fun. Wrangling with assholes is not.
    64ZCODE likes this.
  15. 64ZCODE

    64ZCODE Well-Known Member Gold Donor

    I was thinking more like Jay Leno has a shop and workers. Like a rich celebrity, not like actually having to make money:)

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