“My First Race Car” Mike Thomas’s ‘64 Falcon

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1964 Falcon

“Real race cars have three pedals” – Roy Pool

Ford Country

After meeting nostalgia drag racers Dale Snoke (“The Rocket” 1964 Mercury Comet) and Roy Pool (1965 Mercury Comet) at the 2011 Bakersfield Hot Rod Reunion, Mike Thomas set off to build his own race car. He finally found this ’64 Falcon Futura for sale in Compton, California, and drove down there with cash and a car trailer. A deal was made and a rolling shell was acquired.

He jokes, “I should have brought some help with me!”

Later, a motor was found on Craigslist and a top-loader 4-speed and a 9” rear end were built for it. Everything was done in the garage with help from friends and family. Mike later found some Dodge A100 seats that were used in the Ford Thunderbolts for the interior and moved the rear wheel wells forward about 1.5 inches. His friend Roy Pool set up the rear-end, put screws in the back wheels and made Mike put a 4-speed in because “Real race cars have three pedals.” A year later, the car was racing at Famoso.

Mike recalls, “The hardest part of the whole build was saving money for it and the easiest was spending it.”

 

Vintage Drag Car

This Falcon is Mike’s first race car. He credits his dad, Bob Thomas, for inspiration. They attended the NHRA Winternationals and World Finals at Pomona, California and used to watch the races on Sunday afternoons. They also worked on an old truck together. It was Dad who ultimately inspired Mike to go racing and he was always ready to lend a helping hand on this build: from driving his son to get parts, to dropping the motor in or tightening bolts.

Mike recalls, “I always wanted to drive a race car, just did not know when or how. After attending the nostalgia races, I knew that is where I wanted to be. The people are so nice; the kind of people that would help you between rounds working on your car, even if that meant you would be racing them in the next round.

“I was really inspired by Dick Brannan’s vintage burgundy 1964 427 Ford Falcon and Hubert Platt’s 1965 427 Ford Falcon, “The Georgia Shaker.” The best part of the whole experience is all the great people I have had the honor to meet and race with.”

Mike participates with the American Nostalgia West Drag Racing Club for A/FX and NSS cars, doing what they do best – side-by-side drag racing!

Feisty Falcon

Mike wanted a period correct 1964 race car, so when it came to different parts or paint; he stuck true to the era. He is pleased with his Ford’s lightweight configuration (fiberglass front body components) and that it looks like it’s moving when sitting still. It also has an original 1964 small block Ford Hilborn injection unit on it and is all hand-lettered with gold leaf.

Technically its an early Sixties A/FX car (A/Factory Experimental) for altered wheelbase race cars using fuel injection with nitro methane. This was the forerunner for early funny cars. Notable racers in the early A/FX class included Gas Ronda, Dick “Mr. Chevrolet” Harrell, Hayden Proffitt, Hubert Platt, Sox & Martin, and Phil “Daddy Warbucks” Bonner.

Let’s Build a Bird (Falcon)

Mike gives special thanks to family and friends for helping build his bird. Paint, body work and roll cage where helmed by Bones Fabrication in Camarillo, California. Interior, mechanicals, and suspension were tackled by the owner and Roy Pool, and transmission work was completed at Anaheim Gear. Tom Clark at TW Brushwerks hand-lettered all the graphics and gold leaf accents and Hiro “Wildman” Ishi hand-painted Mooneyes logos.

The finished car now includes desirable parts: a 1969 Boss 302 short block running 351 Windsor heads, and Holman-Moody valve covers. A 1964 top-loader 4- speed feeds to a Ford 9” rear-end with 4.63 gears and 31-spline Moser axles.

During the build process, Mike learned about drag strip safety features, suspension technology and trying to figure out a mechanical 1964 Hilborn injection system. His own minor innovation involved removing welded-in, stock shock tower braces and bolting in 1964 Fairlane parts instead. He also had the top-loader tranny built with a big block input/output shaft so he wouldn’t twist one of them with the 5500 RPM launches. It was worth the learning curve to get it all done right.

Best pass with the injection on alcohol was 11.91 at 116 MPH. Not bad for a day of fun on the track! Future plans are underway for removing the Hilborn-injected small block Ford and installing a dual-quad 427 high riser. Listen for it.

TECH SHEET

  • Owner:  Mike Thomas
  • Occupation: Police sergeant
  • Location: Camarillo, CA
  • Builders: Mike Thomas & Roy Pool
  • Vehicle: 1964 Ford Falcon Futura
  • Body Modifications: Rear wheelwells moved forward 1.5”, fiberglass fenders, hood & front bumper, hood locks, 1964 Fairlane shock tower braces
  • Paint: Vintage burgundy 2-stage
  • Painter: Bones Fabrication (Camarillo, CA)
  • Custom Graphics: Hand lettered & gold leaf by Tom Clark (TW Brushwerks); Mooneyes by Hiro “Wildman” Ishi
  • Engine: 1969 Boss 302 short block w/1969 351 Windsor heads, 1964 mechanical Hilborn Injection, Holman Moody Valve covers, Doug’s tri-Y headers
  • Transmission: 1964 Ford Top loader 4 Speed (Anaheim Gear)
  • Induction: 1964 mechanical Hilborn injection
  • Ignition: MSD
  • Exhaust: Doug’s Headers
  • Rear End: Ford 9” Detroit Locker w/4.63 gears, 31-spline Moser axles
  • Suspension: F- Stock; R- Calvert Racing leaf springs
  • Brakes: F- Ford disc; R- Ford drum
  • Wheels: F- 15×4 slotted mag; R- 15×8 steel
  • Tires: F- 4.5/26.0-15 Racemaster; R- 8.5/26.0-15 Racemaster slicks
  • Seats: F- Dodge A100; R- Stock
  • Upholstery: Stock Ford
  • Steering Column: Stock
  • Steering Wheel: Superior 500

Dedicated to Roy Pool (1947-2016)

By Anna Marco. Addl photos: Thomas Family Racing

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