In the mid ‘60s Ford was struggling to keep up with the muscle cars and drag racers coming from Dodge, Plymouth, and Pontiac. To get back in the game, Ford created a limited edition, experimental, drag racing only version of the Fairlane. This was the 1964 Thunderbolt. The big engine that Ford put in the Galaxie at the time did not give that big, heavy car enough power to get up and go race with the other muscle cars, so they crammed it into the smaller Fairlane.
Ford produced the 1964 Thunderbolt in limited numbers, manufacturing 100 units in total. To fit the big, 427-cid engine into the smaller Fairlane required some custom work on the model. Front-end modifications were made and eight exhaust headers had to be entwined through the components of the suspension. The high-rise 427 required a teardrop-shaped air scoop in the hood. The 1964 Thunderbolt was also fitted with either a manual or automatic four-speed transmission along with a Hurst shifter. The enormous horsepower capability of the car was lowered slightly by big traction bars, a large battery, and asymmetrical rear springs.
To make up for the added weight and to trim it down to racing capabilities, the 1964 Thunderbolt contained few frills. The windows were plexiglass, the front panels of the body were fiberglass. Even the sun visors, mirrors, arm rests, and jacks were taken out to make this car as light and as fast as powerful. Ford even installed a label into the glove box to explain that the Spartan interior could be blamed on the purpose for the drag racing car.
So few of the 1964 Thunderbolt were made, they could not possibly be a big seller for Ford. What they did for the motor company, however, was bring racing clout and credibility. The 1964 Thunderbolt helped Ford get that year’s NHRA Super Stock title.