The revival of traditional hot rods is widespread. The revival of ’60s-era traditional customs has been smaller and quieter. But time-stopping cars like Mark Wilson’s '60 Ford Fairlane are making that revival a little larger and a little louder.
Mark picked up his automotive interest and abilities from his dad, who ran a brake and frontend shop. He grew up watching his dad work on his own and customers’ cars, along with several of the stock car racers whose cars were sponsored by the shop.
The 1960 Ford Fairlane 500 Club Sedan showed up at the 2011 March Meet at Famoso Raceway, where it was sitting on a trailer in the swap meet area. It was stock, it ran, and the body was straight and still wearing all its original trim. As the owner of Mark’s Automotive just down the highway in Bakersfield, California, Mark knew he could do a good, quick build on the Fairlane and flip it for a profit. What happened instead is the unofficial motto of the automotive hobby: “One thing led to another, and here we are!”
Once he had the car in his shop, Mark turned his attention to the worn-out 292 Y-block. While attempting to advance the timing, he discovered that the distributor was stuck. “After soaking it, and tapping on it, I finally pulled off the intake and valley pan to reach it easier. I sprayed brake cleaner and anything else I could think of that might break it loose. A couple of days later I tried again. When it still wouldn’t move, I decided to put some heat on it, not remembering everything I had sprayed on it a couple of days earlier. Well, after burning all the hair off my arm I decided that’s it, and out came the engine and transmission.
The 292 was sent to Howie’s Valley Auto Machine Shop in Bakersfield for machine work before getting a full rebuild back at Mark’s Automotive. Mark beefed up the engine with an Isky RPM 300 cam and a set of EGC cylinder heads. The two-barrel induction system was replaced with a Ford four-barrel intake and a Holley 600-cfm carburetor. A PerTronix ignition provides spark. Exhaust exits through the smoothed stock exhaust manifold with 2-inch pipes, glasspack mufflers, and Bellflower tips. As much care went into dressing up the engine as any other corner of the car; the air cleaner, valve covers, and radiator cowl were painted and pinstriped to resemble the top of the car. A Wilcap adaptor ties the Y-block to the TH350 Chevy transmission, built at Moe’s Transmission.
The only significant modifications to the chassis were done in order to drop the car to its current elevation—not absurdly low, just low. The frame remains stock, and the frontend was completely rebuilt to new, but stock condition. The 9-inch rearend is also stock. The suspension was treated to some old-time traditional custom lowering techniques to put the Fairlane closer to the ground. In the back, the springs have been de-arched and matched with lowering blocks to bring down the rear. In the front, the coil springs were cut to accomplish the same effect. KYB shock absorbers were bolted in place at both ends.
The Lokar shifter is the wildest component in the interior. The rest is as mild as it probably would have been 50 years ago, with fresh paint and upholstery. The dash was recovered, the gauges were cleaned and repainted, and the factory steering was repaired and returned to the stock column. The front and rear seats were reupholstered at Auto Upholstery By Aquiles. Owner Aquiles Tovar matched the exterior paint by combining cream-colored vinyl with brown houndstooth fabric on the seats and doors.
The only exterior detail missing from the Fairlane is the reflection of ’60s Bellflower Boulevard storefronts in the windshield. Mark managed to nail the look popularized in those days.
The body modifications are few. The majority of the chrome trim was kept intact, from the gunsight turn signals on the front fenders to the rear fender arrows. The distinctive Fairlane 500 nose crest was shaved and replaced with pinstriping. A pair of vintage original Yankee aftermarket mirrors is mounted on both doors. The most prominent sheetmetal additions are the rear skirts and the trunklid. It’s that Continental-style custom decklid, designed and built by Wilson and Kevin Robbins from Bad Boyz Kustoms in Bakersfield, that gets people scratching their heads—or arguing about whether or not they came from the factory like that. When Bad Boyz Kustoms finished the bodywork, Robbins painted the two-tone finish, using Toyota Sunset Brown for the lower body and Ford Ivory for the top. As you can see, that was just the beginning. Ivory scallops cover the hood, sides, fins, and deck, accented by some perfect ’striping. Beautiful lace painting covers the top. All graphics were done by Robbins and Kyle Gann of K-Daddyz Kustomz.
To complete the Fairlane’s traditional appearance, Mark filled all wheelwells with P205/70R15 Hercules MRX Plus IV radial whitewall tires on 15-inch Supremes. The front and rear brakes are Ford drums.
With the crew at Mark’s Automotive contributing to the project, it didn’t take more than a few months to finish the Fairlane. It took much less time for this beautiful custom to start getting some attention around Central and Southern California. Mark has displayed the car at the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin’ Nationals in Santa Maria, and at the Long Beach Motorama. Whether winning trophies at an event, or jumping off the pages of an enthusiast magazine, or cruising the streets of Bakersfield, Wilson’s period-inspired Fairlane 500 is doing its part to keep the custom revival alive.