Story in this months HotRod article…
Written by Scotty Lachenauer on September 1, 2017
When you think of Ford’s top-of-the-line, bad-to-the-bone offerings of the muscle car era, don’t forget the über-rare R-code 1966 Ford Fairlane. The race-ready stunner has both the beauty and brawn to back up the observation that this racecar in street-car guise could be Ford’s greatest gift to the muscle car movement.
There is no doubt that the Ford Motor Company put out some wild rides in the day. And yes, the later 7.0L powerhouses and Boss-motivated offerings are what many muscle car lover’s dreams are made of. But given the rarity (only 57 made) and the quarter-mile stats, 1966 Fairlanes could just be the ultimate Blue Oval burners.
Bob Klemann was a 20-year-old college student in April 1968 when he got the hankering to buy a muscle car. A buddy of his at school had a 1966 Fairlane with a 390 under the hood, and Bob thought he’d like one to call his own. He loved the look of the intermediate, and knew Ford offered some healthy powerplants for the car. He soon located a nice example for sale and quickly snatched it up.
The Fairlane had already been through two owners but was in decent shape when he took possession. The Wimbledon White car was blessed with a potent 427 with a dual-four-barrel setup. “At that time, R-code really didn’t mean anything to me,” says Bob. “I just liked the look, and the performance.”
He drove his new ride briefly while he was home and then stashed it away the following week when he returned to college in New Hampshire.
Arriving back home in New Rochelle, New York, for the summer, Bob worked at local Rye Ford in the parts department. At night and on the weekends, the young gun and his trusty Fairlane hit the streets, taking on anyone who would challenge this new dynamic duo. He admits that he won as many races as he lost but enjoyed every moment of the competition out on the street. That is, until he dropped a valve in the Ford’s big-block one race night.
Bob had to think fast, as he would soon need to get himself back to school in the fall. He found a temporary fix in a healthy junkyard 428 that would serve him well through college. Up at school, the new mill didn’t scare anyone on the street, as it idled at 500 rpm and was quiet through the Fairlane’s stock exhaust. But Bob still enjoyed tearing up the local roads and taking down some of the unknowing competition with his replacement powerplant.
After he graduated, Bob fell into a fulltime job at Rye Ford and started amassing parts to rebuild his 427. He soon met a guy with another 1966 R-code, a race car that had been ridden hard in its near-decade of life on the local tracks. Bob ended up buying this car as well, and pulling the non-original motor and trans out for use as a spare. The carcass was sold off to well-known local race outfit Downing and Ryan, which raced Fairlanes and other Fords throughout the 1960s and 1970s. They took some of the Fairlane’s important parts, including the fiberglass hood and OE grille, and put the car up for sale.
Over the years, Bob rebuilt and reinstalled the original engine. The paint was freshened up in the 1990s. This car retains many of its original parts, including the exhaust. The interior is totally factory except for the Sun tach (which Bob bought through Rye Ford) mounted on the dashboard. Bob thinks his R-code is probably the most original one in existence, and feels it might be the only one out there still sporting the original engine.
In 1974, North Jersey racer Scott Davies was looking for a suitable Fairlane to use as a drag car. He heard that Downing and Ryan had a few for sale in nearby Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, so he decided to take a look. They had three up for grabs, and Scott chose the only that wasn’t lettered by the race team. For the princely sum of $400 he had his new racer, though it was just a shell, missing most of the key parts.
First a 390 found its way into the car with the help of good friend Bruce Mailly. It ran D/Stock with that mill and performed well out on the dragstrip. Two years later Scott would source a 427 for the ride, which came from a 1964 Galaxie lightweight Super Stocker. He started racing A/SM with the Fairlane, and then both A/ and B/Stock as well.
After successfully racing for several years, life took over and Scott put the car aside to concentrate on family and work. After the kids were grown, he decided to bring the car out. Though not a very original ride, it is still a true R-code 1966 Fairlane. Interestingly enough, he didn’t know that little factoid when he purchased it. “I didn’t know at the time that it was an R-code car, but then again, it didn’t really matter back then,” admits Scott.
The Common Bond
So this two-sided story raises a big question: Was the car that Scott purchased from Downing and Ryan the same one that Bob sold to them? Without any record of the VIN from Bob’s second R-code Fairlane, it’s hard to figure out. Scott stated that there were three for sale at the time, and since he chose the nonlettered car, that makes this all the more possible. But there is no definitive answer here.
Scott first contacted Bob back in the early 2000s on a tip that he might know the back history of the car. It was then that the two discovered a possible link in Scott’s car’s history. Nevertheless, both guys are longtime owners—Bob at 49 years and Scott at 43—and both plan to keep their cars for the long run. Through their R-code Fairlanes they became good friends and developed a bond over a rare engine option that only a few lucky drivers have been able to experience.