Tom Nolan’s Time Machine 

Long time GM-brand racer Tom Nolan has swayed somewhat – and we are all pretty glad he did.   Tom’s period correct 1964 Ford Thunderbolt Stocker is one of the most impressive drag racing conversion projects in Canadian history… 

Nolan, who is from Lacombe,  Alberta, debuted his truly spectacular new creation earlier this season and the impact with racing fans and officials has been immediate.

Tom’s mission, which is now complete, is in fact the end of a long journey for him, with the seed being planted in his mind at a very early age.

Tom Nolan's 1964 Ford Thunderbolt "Clone" is truly a masterpiece!

“This idea goes way back — when I was around 7 years old I first learned about the 1964 Ford Thunderbolt,” he reflected.  “It was a factory original “Race Only” car and only approximately 150 of these Thunderbolts were built by Ford’s racing program. This was back in the day when “win on Sunday — sell on Monday” really meant something.”

“I had known then that this was a car that I would like to have some day,” he continued.  “I’m a drag racer thru and thru and racing a ultra rare original Thunderbolt may be frowned on by the collector car crowd.  So I decided to build a Thunderbolt clone.”

Tom Nolan

“The ’64 Fairlane post cars and parts for it are harder to find – but after 2 years of looking for the right car, I purchased this car site unseen via EBay in Tulsa Oklahoma.  It was a clean 2-door post, original California 6-cylinder car. The car was then shipped to PMR race cars in So Cal where Phil Mandella and his crew installed a chromoly roll cage and a 9″ Ford rear end.  I brought the car home to Lacombe in June 2011 —  I then took the last year to finish the car.”

The engine program is a 427 Hi-Riser vintage engine that was built to NHRA stock eliminator specs by Ford FE engine expert Blair Patrick (Pittsburg TN).  Tom revealed that he spent hundreds of hours searching for parts.  One of his biggest finds during that time was a set of “virgin” Hi-riser cylinder heads still in the original Ford wooden and wire crates (!)

“I could have used NHRA approved replacement carburetors but instead – I searched the internet and found all the castings for original carburetors,” Tom added.  “I have been told by some die hard Ford guy’s that there was less than 300 sets of original part number carburetors built.  I found all the correct pieces to have 2 complete restored and numbers correct “Thunderbolt” carburetors.  I had help with building the headers from my friend Dave Trimble, he has a dyno shop here.  He is a all round handy and talented guy to have close by.”

The Thunderbolt has been to the race track twice this season – attending both the NHRA division race in Spokane and then the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nitro Jam inEdmonton.

The car’s first check out pass produced a 10.94 @ 122 mph and the best so far has been a 10.71 ET at 125.82 mph which is well under the A/SA class index.

Needless to say the car got noticed too by event tech officials.  Nolan’s Fairlane Thunderbolt gathered in “Best Engineered” awards at both the NHRA division race and IHRA National event he attended.

"Best Engineered" at NHRA's LODRS event in Spokane

“By being presented with these awards it has helped validate all the hundreds of hours I spent researching and building this wonderful old car,” said the satisfied racer.

Future plans include Tom attending drag racing’s marquee annual event – he will travel to and race his 1964 Thunderbolt at the NHRA Mac Tools Nationals at Indianapolis over the Labor Day weekend!

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler & Rich Carlson