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102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is not the beginning of my project, but rather a way to keep track and allow more experienced forum members such as yourself to assist me with your knowledge and experience!

I'll start with the story behind this car, and continue with a bit of it's history and factory build to my intended build. I will post when I can which may not be often. This project will likely take a few years as I am working on a limited budget with no intention of cutting corners. To those who plan to follow this thread, thank you and as I stated earlier, I will greatly appreciate any knowledge and help you can offer as I go about this build.

The story is quite long and if you just want to see the intent and progress, go ahead and skip this first post.

The Story:
This began shortly before marriage about 8-9 years ago. I'm hoping my wife never reads this as she has a different story about the following being my fault, a part of the married life I guess. Well, during the dating stage, I bought a 1981 Chevy Camaro, base model with a few nice little modifications. Factory V6 was instead an Edelbrock crate 350 with a slight build and custom Flowmaster exhaust mated to a turbo 350 transmission, beefed up rear and custom coil-over suspension.
That car was fast, I could light up the rears by sneezing off the line. Quite unlike most Camaros of that age, it could hang on to the road. And very much like most Camaros, it did not like winter, at all. So I did the right thing and garaged it for the winter, properly, all fluids out, wrapped the engine, covered the car, put it up on blocks, etc... We did need a car so I bought a little p.o.s. Honda Hatch, 4-speed. And to my surprise, my future wife, being the daughter of a mechanic had never driven a manual. Well, after two hours backing out of a driveway and another eight or so driving around, she failed to truly get the hang of it. I figured I could get a friend to eventually try and teach her, but never got around to it.
As luck would have it, we made it through the winter with her gear jumping, nerve rattling bangs and jerky shifts. The Honda however paid the price when the clutch stopped putting up with her and failed. We at this time were into spring and my weekend had been spent de-winterizing the Camaro.
So I had that Monday off already and planned to keep the Honda home and replace the clutch and send her off with the Camaro. If you have ever done a proper de-winterization, then you know to use break in oil right away for the initial run, dump and replace. I had not had time for the replacement and figured to get her to work, I could drain a couple quarts, send her to the parts store for proper oil and finish the job when she came home.
Easy, right? I gave her a piece of paper with the oil weight and type, told her to get to the store right away, hand it to the clerk, play off the woman in distress thing so the clerk would happily pour it in for her, and go to work.
What actually took place was a good friend showing up about an hour later. I already had the transmission on the Honda disconnected as he walked into my garage. Noticing the lack of mobility from my car he said I should probably turn my phone on, something I am notoriously horrible about and get in his car.
He said nothing about why or where we were going, but I had a bad feeling. We were taking my wife's route to work. Out along the highway. I kept pressing questions he refused to answer, until we approached what looked like and accident scene, cop lights flashing, on the side of the 70 mph highway.
The bad news was the Camaro was toast, the good news was my wife was ok and that our insurance would not take a hit from an accident. No accident. But the oil slick I followed from the shoulder to the Camaro told most of the story.
She did not go the parts store. She had ran the engine hard in second gear forgetting the nifty "D" position on the shifter. The eight grand engine was two quarts low on oil, with only 30w break-in oil for lubrication.
Even the cop looked sad as he took my triple A info for the tow, and helped me roll the car a few yards ahead where I could get a look underneath it.
Two rods hung out of the oil pan, the drivers side head had cracked from the concussion, strut bar was bent in a very strange fashion, the lower radiator hose had a piece of I think the crankshaft in it. Pieces of the oil pump rattled out of the pans new gouge. Never figure this on out, but the oil filter was missing, never found, being as meticulous as I am, 100% positive that one was on it. The damage was worse when it finally came home. The front crossmember had bent back along with parts of the frame. One of the back axle was free spinning with a neat shearing sound.
Oh, and the passenger side rear tire was flat.

6-7 years later, adding two kids and subtracting a Camaro:
At this point, I had the standard poor mans work car. An Escort with an amazing 88 HP, and an interior probably designed by the most boring think tank on the planet. 0-60 was long enough to catch a short nap, update twitter, lose and regain the GPS signal three to five times, and hills were a nail-biting snails crawl to the peak.
Needless to say, I was amazed I sold it for even five-hundred dollars. It was in great shape, but still. The decision to sell it was an award for my years of working hard, and my wife sick of my favorite phrase, "It's no Camaro". So finally I was given the green light to get a dream car. I'm not rich, so plan Bugatti was out. Camaro it was...
Until wifely practicality kicked in and we started our struggle. I can afford it I said. It's a sports car she replied. You blew mine up. Get over it, find a family car. Your van is the family car! I'm supposed to be after my dream car!!!
Well months went by of petty jabs concerning my quest for a dream car, when one day, she came to me and said, "I'll give you one rule to follow, any car you can afford, and I will bite my tongue, as long as you follow my rule." I consented thinking this was a victory!
"It has to have 4 Doors."

The "4-Door" Adventure:
Craigslist to this day is a gift very few appreciate. Nickel's Worth, Auto Trader, even E-Bay can't quite compete, in my opinion. So after a few month's of 4-door disappointments, I started browsing BMW's. Research into these expensive german machines quickly brought about the realization that they were really expensive to customize. I would never get my dream out of one. The budget just to maintain one was horrendous, also realized by most of my test drives being plagued by mechanical failures and even a computer reset to german on one interesting test drive.
Eventually this led to my craiglist trolling becoming a daily thing, praying I would hit on a 4-door that I would actually be excited by. At this point, driving my wife's over-optioned Chevy conversion van was becoming a point A to B race to get the hell out of the damn thing before I total it and try my luck at insurance fraud.
Finally I had consented to grabbing a Ford Focus, one of the most basic cars in America, I figured it was at least a step up on the old Escort and I could always turbo it for fun.
As luck would have it, I made a mistake one day by only typing in the search term "Ford" instead of "Ford Focus".

Victory is Mine:
I love the late 60's era in automobiles. The culmination of pre-restriction big blocks coupled with curved lines and innovations like disc brakes, A/C, power brakes/windows/steering and 40 years of aftermarket technology to play with was all blasting through my mind as I looked on at the craigslist ad titled "Old reliable ford car". It was kept simple. "This is a 1968 Ford LTD, all options, 4-door sedan, Black, 390, milelage unknown, reliable."
I researched, and thought back to the first engine I had ever re-built with my uncle, a workhorse 390 FE. That one went into a truck, which I have never been fond of, but when it burnt rubber from all four tires, the impression in my mind was as solid as the engine that did it.
I quickly called the guy. This was Tuesday. He answered right away and told me very little beyond, it's straight, some surface rust, 2-barrel, all original and nice interior. He only wanted $950, preferably cash.
It was however in a town about an hour away, even at speeds I'll press, over a mountain pass. He said however that there was interest in already and he was bringing it over Friday and was going to go down the list until it was sold. I was number seven.
By Thursday morning I had armed myself with a lot of knowledge, about not only what an LTD was, but what the aftermarket industry could provide as well as plans taking shape in my mind. Of course I was ignorant of the fact I was number seven on the list of potential buyers. Thinking hard about a solution to that, I called the owner again.
"Quick question about that LTD, are you driving the car itself out here or towing?"
"I'll be driving it."
"If it makes it out here, you have my word I will buy it, in cash, no haggling."
"I'll call you tomorrow when I get in town, about four or five"
And with that he hung up. I had not been given a solid commitment, but I went to the bank and pulled the money anyway.
The call came at four sharp, he told me where he was and asked if I wanted a test drive. Telling my wife I was walking down to the store, I ran, it was only a mile.
I got there at four-twenty. How I know that was from his puzzled look when I showed up on foot after telling him I was only a mile away. I barely even glanced at the car, I strive to be a man of my word, so asked for the title, filled out the bill of sale, handed him the cash and drove off.
Friday night was a blur, my average speed out on backroads was somewhere around 80, the only reason I came home when I did was because the tire started vibrating and the gas gauge dipped into "E".
The last antic I pulled was the sweet victory over my loving wifes 4-door treachery. I called her from a mile away.
"Hey, where are you?"
"Step out on the porch, I got something to show you!"
"It has 4-doors..."
I hung up and looped around for a blind corner approach. I wanted to see the look on her face pretty bad. There she was, on the porch, and her look of relief soon turned into the one that I was eager for. The "WTF" expression she gives when the tables turn.
After climbing out and giving my back a pop, I grinned ear to ear and simply reminded her,
"It's got 4-doors"

The Car:

Quickly I dug up history on the car. The prior owner had received a state transfer title, a 100% valid "lost title" on it. He told me the owner before him had his shop repair a transmission in his truck, owing the guy $950. To get his truck back, he asked if the mechanic would use his classic for collateral until he could settle the bill. The mechanic agreed and never saw the guy again. About six years later, he called the sheriff, went through the records with him and got the title in his name with a fresh copy so he could sell it to pay the bill. All of which brought to my driveway.
Turns out, the car was a custom order. At it's heart, it is a LTD, 4-Door Sedan, All Options, 390 FE with a 2-barrel, Raven Black exterior color and FMX Transmission. Custom options via the build sheet I got from ford stated this:

Tires Resized: 8.15/15 to 8.45/15
Diff Gear Reduced: 3.30 to 2.75
Other Options Added:
Police Opt. Searchlight
3 Connection Accessory Outlet
Interceptor Engine Valve Springs (Damper Springs)

Turns out this was built as a gift for the Police Chief of the town it came out of. Never found out anything beyond that.

So as long winded as this is, thanks for reading this if you did. I like the story and hope it's at least entertaining.

102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
September 7th, 2012

So I have had this car for a few years now and driven it daily. Did some light work to it over the years. And let me tell you, it has been the best teacher I have ever had.

What brings me to doing this all out was the electrical. The bane of the automobile I guess. My wiring was spliced, and re-spliced all over in half-a$$ed attempts to modernize the 40 year old electrical system. So I got a Ron Francis Kit, great kit by the way!
As I was removing the old harness, I found rust and ideas.

So my plan now is bare bones simple, no true build sheet, just a few notes and product preferences.

1. Dis-assembly
- Repair and replace as I go, that way re-assembly is almost a double check on having everything right
- Replace as much of the hardware as I go. Utilizing the baggy method and both the NAPA hardware section as well as Ace Hardware. Along with the MPAC (most valuable tool i have), it should be realistic.
- Modernize and update every component I can to provide reliability 1st, practicality 2nd, and performance 3rd. I have a reason for the order here as I will explain below.

2. Frame & Chassis Repair & Paint
- Frame rails need to be cut and will be welding new rails on
- Rear disc conversion, nothing expensive, likely summit's 9" disc kit for easy local replacement of pads, calipers, etc...
- Plumbing with hard line and modern AN fittings on all possible components. Black polyester hose with black fittings for asthetics and over all theme. Likely aeroquip or summit depending on cost.
- Body is mostly straight, lot of surface rust, so little dent repair is needed, mostly rust repair and paint.
- Track-Lock from ford racing for the rear end.
- C-6 transmission for weight, ease of part availabilty and economy.
- Best paint possible. (Eastwood likely, Local Scherwin-Williams as needed)
- Addco Sway bars (bigger front, added rear) for cornering, better on modern tires.
- May build a front rack and pinion. Unlikely however given the cost
- Firestone Firehawk tires wrapped around American Racing Rims, Satin or Black color. Close to original sizing, slightly wider though.
- Tow shocks in the rear, as I have a mobile tool chest/compartment planned, have no idea what I will do on the front, as I will be shaving a bit of weight off the engine.
- All bushings replaced, u-joint's replaced, rear axle replaced, H/D springs, etc...
- Fenders on wheel side will be spray on bed-lined. Chassis underside will be rubberized or spray on bed-lined.

3. Engine
- 390 FE, standard bore, rebuilt with Edlebrock cam, chain, if I can afford the heads at that point, may do those as well
- Edelbrock pumps, fuel and water, oem style belt fan and clutch, Tuff Stuff alternator, starter, and brake master & prop valve.
- March pulley system, with sanden style A/C compressor, finished off later with a Vintage Air system
- Matched Edelbrock intake manifold, performer for now, depends on the cam if I change.
- 4-barrel summit carburetor, been running it for a year now, like the holley features with the one piece base design.
- Pertronix Ignitor 3 dizzy, coil and wires
- Engine will be painted flat black with the top end (intake manifold and heads) aluminum or painted aluminum. Dressed with accessories (Alt, A/C Comp., Water Pump, Fuel Pump, P/S Pump) being mild gloss black, Pulleys will be Silver Cadmium or Aluminum, Valve Cover and Air Cleaner will be the Edelbrock Classic Series in Black.
- Headers, don't know which brand, hoping Sanderson will make a better design, black ceramic coated.
- Flowmaster 40 or 44 series mufflers, x-pipe cross-over. Dual 2.5", of course

4. Interior
- Leather or Vinyl seats, just re-upholster/re-cover the original bench seats.
- Lokar hardlines for most things (Throttle, Kickdown, Dip-Sticks, E-Brake Cables, Modified Choke Cable for hidden headlight doors)
- All insulation replaced
- New weatherstripping, Ron Francis wiring and switches in OEM locations. All electrical gauges, prefer Autolite American Muscle series but may have to go cheaper for now.
- In-dash brackets designed for some 'bear' tracking equipment in ash tray area. Modified ash tray door to flip down. Built in CB, rear fender modified to accept larger screw down antennas. More on this later.
- Modified Dash Cover, to use as replacement, hidden flip around plate in OEM speaker grille location for radar detector, flip out red and blues. I will explain later.
- GPS one foot snake style bracket under dash in the center with a antenna to usb plug
- Replace cigar lighter with a usb outlet and add two more in-side the glove box.
- All 'wood-like' panels and trim repainted to dull aluminum.
- Modifed rear seat back (put on fold down hinges) for over axle cubby access.
- Smooth out trunk sides with false walls to hide a second accessory battery (yes it will be vented) and fold down CB and Radar antennas, and false wall the over axle cubby. Rails in that cubby for a roll out mid-chest tool box. Bed-line the trunk floor and press in a rubber mat.
- Shave the trunk lock and make an interior latch style release
- Ford crown logo in the back modified to become a third brake light.

5. Exterior & Miscellaneous
- Headlamp doors cut to allow shine through lights.
- Red and Blues hidden behind grille to either side of radiator.
- Loud speaker hook ups rigged behind grill in inner fender area
- Cattle grill brackets installed, modified cattle grill available to hook up
- Full Size Spare mount brackets under trunk, custom protective wrap for tire when installed.
- Searchlight bracket re-installed on passenger side with a retainer for the actual light under the glove box.
- Small roll out cubby under passenger side of front seat. Maps and Gizmo storage.
- Most exterior chrome trim dulled if possible.
- Pull out control/kill switch panel for all lighting where the original fuse panel was in the glove box.
- Modify a fuel cell to fit in place of tool box along same brackets with quick release hook ups to a in-place, normally plugged switch valve

If you have not guessed by now. I am building a long distance rally/evasion car in the gumball tradition, with G-man flavor and style. And family practicality. Laugh if you want, or wish me luck, this is the beginning plan.





1,468 Posts
Re: September 7th, 2012

This is excellent, but Black Betty she is not! Dear sir, Black Betty is my 68 F-250 Ranger :)

102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
falconaround... the name was given by a friend who upon hearing me out on my crazy ideas, said "black betty there is going to be your home-wrecking other woman, but at least she is a brunette, a bit more respectable than a blond."

psig... thank you for pulling the original, back when stoners had talent!

76 Posts
Mark Brewer ran a 65 Falcon running a 427 with Enderly injectors on it during the 60's and 70's. It was called, "Falcon A Round!" He is a pretty cool guy and a good friend. I think he used the name first.

695 Posts
Mark Brewer ran a 65 Falcon running a 427 with Enderly injectors on it during the 60's and 70's. It was called, "Falcon A Round!" He is a pretty cool guy and a good friend. I think he used the name first.
"Falconaround" is just the secret identity of one of the superheros of FM.

Premium Member
34,855 Posts
Falconaround isn't my car's name, it's my wife's job to name her, My nic when not on my PC is Falconaround. :) And Black Betty has been in my possession for a long while, but not 7 or 8 years. So I'll go with Bigger Blacker Betty as a nic for my Ranger F250 :)

Wonder who that super hero guy is? Hurricane Helmsley maybe?

102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
First questions!

Local engine shop can get a basic 390 long block built for me for a reasonable price. So...

Would an RV cam and maybe a slight overbore or 408 stroker affect mileage by more then 1-2 gallons?
Would that even be worth it for endurance?

Is there anything I can specifically request from the build to keep the engine from overheating, or wearing out for a 3000 mile non-stop run? i.e. cooling mods, oil mods, etc...

Will basic parts used be fine or should I request/get better parts? i.e. double roller timing chain, H/D oil pump, chromoly push rods, etc...


Premium Member
34,855 Posts
I will suggest an oil cooler and an external tranny cooler. That will significantly lower the overall operating temp of your 390.

Now, saying that, I must also say that only a very few of the Hundreds of thousands of FE's out there actually have hot running issues... None of mine did and I've owned a ton of them expensive bastards :)

102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
External accessories come later ;)

Cooling plans involve these...

Tuff Stuff Performance 1421C - Tuff Stuff Supercool Water Pumps - Overview -
Edelbrock 8805 - Edelbrock Victor Series Mechanical Water Pumps - Overview -

Flex-a-lite 51160R - Flex-a-lite Aluminum Radiator and Fan Kits - Overview -

Flex-a-lite 3820-6 - Flex-a-lite TransLife Transmission Coolers - Overview -
(trannsmission cooler)

For an oil cooler, would adding fins (heat sink style) to the pan and the flat black paint be enough, or should I go smaller on the cooler and double it? I will need space for the A/C condenser.

If really needed. The HVAC hoses will be new and well sealed, I could run a little extra hose, easily modified registers to divert the normal cabin heat flow externally, (to avoid cooking myself if it's hot outside) and use the heater core assist trick to run cooler temps if it starts to peak.

And of course a manual toggle override for the fan just in case.

102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Got the front clip off, rust is primarily on the surface, little pitting on some test grinds. Some broken bolts, yay...
The passenger side took a hit, front part of the frame has a slight bend and the fender was shimmed, so some repair work will be needed there. For now though, I only have some cables, steering, brake booster/master, the exhaust and fuel tank holding me back from getting the body off, so this will be a busy weekend for me!

Strange how small the big block looks

Slight compression bend on this...

Fun with chemicals!


102 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Have not had a chance for an update lately, sorry :(
Body is ready to come off, but I need to build a support to hold it up. However, winter is coming on fast. Already in the low 10's at night, so good news is early winter/early spring. Bad news is the projects tear-down will be pushed back until then.
What I have been working on is an immense build list. I figure a solid and detailed plan will be easier on the pocket. Being methodical and O.C.D. (or A.R. as my wife puts it) the sheet is in stages, utilizing fords M.P.A.C. part # system and grouping. I have gotten as far as the engine section (60's) in my build. It would take way to much time to list but I will cover some of the highlights of what will happen.

Eastwood Paints all around, mostly satin/flat black and proper undercoating for N.V.H. and protection. All around disc brakes, as you read further, you'll agree they are very important! Polyurethane bushings for all suspension components, front and rear sways, heavy duty shocks and springs. Firestone firehawk tires wrapped around Cragars with a clearance minded increase in width. The weird part is that this car will likely handle like it's on rails, very unnatural for a big car.
The engine decision was back and forth, F.I. 390 or carbureted 410, either could be done very well for under 10k, so... 410 it is. The power was better looking and I would be wasting all that carburetor knowledge if I went to the F.I. voodoo. The 410 will be built out of the original block (which is in top shape btw) with almost all new parts, including the entire Edelbrock rpm package, heads as well. One of the brand new demon carburetors to feed the beast. Brand new eagle 428 crank and rods, sealed power pistons and all other stock stuff. March Performance serpentine pulley system and all needed changes. K&N filtration all around.
The really crazy part was in the transmission/drive-train. Performance Automatic has C4's/C6's & AOD's for FE's all over the spectrum. However painful to my wallet, I set my sights on their street smart 4R70W. 4 speed (wide gear ratio, 4th is .70) with overdrive, and the paddle shifter. Costly, but after talking to them, I feel pretty damn comfortable with it. Lifetime warranty doesn't hurt, and it should keep the mileage reasonable with the 410 sucking it down.
Custom drive-line of course, 1550 joints out of Inland Empire. Keeping the 9" rear, is there anything better... I think not! 3.25 ratio, to keep it mild and within reason (praying my math holds true). 28 spline axles however, should be fine. Trac-lok Diff, and Ratech bearings (did their package for the front and received Timken bearings for a 1/4 of the price separately!) and full length headers, dual exhaust with cut-outs likely but not sure about that one yet.
Oh, and lots of ARP to hold it all together, so if something breaks, I know it was the part itself and not the bolts...

About 8k into the wheels/brakes/suspension/frame and likely 15k into the engine/transmission/drive-train so far. Still cheaper then a brand new car, at least that's what I'm telling the wife.

10,327 Posts
About 8k into the wheels/brakes/suspension/frame and likely 15k into the engine/transmission/drive-train so far. Still cheaper then a brand new car, at least that's what I'm telling the wife.
I would take a well-done restomod $45,000 classic over a new production car of the same price any day. No question.

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