Best Ford in a Ford

Rick Smith
1957 Ford Fairlane 500
Michigan

While honoring the 62nd anniversary of the Detroit Autorama, it was the perfect time for STREET RODDER and Ford Racing to recognize street rodders who install a late-model Ford engine in a Ford hot rod or custom. Canvassing the massive confines of Cobo Hall we came across Rick Smith's freshly completed '57 Ford Fairlane 500, featuring a new Ford Racing 5.0L Coyote V-8, which stopped us in our tracks.

Smith's story with the car dates back to 1978 where as a teenager growing up in Clawson, Michigan, he saw it parked on the street near his parents' home for sale. Seeing that it was a solid car he made a deal with the owner for $1,500 and drove it home. Over the years he swapped in a 390ci Ford V-8 with dual quads and put plenty of miles on, even attending the Woodward Dream Cruise with it.

After the car sat for the last decade, Smith gave plenty of thought to finally tearing the car down to bare bones for a full redo at the urging of his fiancée Terri Campbell. He had always envisioned it with far better performance both in the driveline and suspension departments. After a meeting with Paul Reiter at Reiter's Metal Craft Inc. in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, they shared the same ideas on what it would take to bring the car to the next level. Working with friend Lorn Arnold, the pair began taking apart the car. It was then brought to Reiter's where the team completed the disassembly.

The original frame was blasted clean and evaluated for improvements. Out back the original 9-inch rear was freshened up, filled with 3.70:1 gears and suspended in place with a Chris Alston's Chassisworks four-link with Panhard bar and adjustable coilover shocks. For ultimate handling a Fatman Fabrications IFS was added featuring 2-inch dropped spindles, adjustable coilover shocks, and power rack-and-pinion steering. For braking, a dual master pushes fluid through stainless lines to 11-inch discs and four-piston calipers at each corner. Completing the chassis a set of 17-inch polished American Racing five-spokes were wrapped with Goodyear rubber.

To add plenty of seamless power, Rick contacted Ford Racing for one of their cutting-edge 5.0L 32-valve DOHC Coyote V-8 crate engines. The engine features Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (TiVCT) and delivers 420 hp at 6,500 rpm with 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. It comes with a an aluminum block packed with a forged steel crank and connecting rods linked to hypereutectic pistons topped with aluminum cylinder heads and 11.00:1 compression. Reiter's team made the install look factory. The engine links to a TREMEC TKO-500 trans packed with a Centerforce clutch to move the goods.

The body was then blasted clean to identify areas needing repairs which Reiter's masterfully accomplished, completely metal finishing the vintage steel. It was then treated to a decadent coating of custom-blended PPG rootbeer and crème giving it new life. To complete the build, Portage Trim stitched up a classic leather business office in a complimenting color combination accented by Vintage Air, an ididit column, with T-bird steering wheel, and '56 Ford F-100 gauge cluster by Classic Instruments. Congratulations to Rick who will receive a limited-edition jacket as the award winner.