Ford Vice President Lee Iacocca’s “Total Performance” program reached around the world into international motorsports, but one of its biggest impacts was felt on the drag strips of America with the sensational Thunderbolts. Built by contractor Dearborn Steel Tubing, the Thunderbolts were stripped and lightened Fairlane Tudor sedans, each one modified to accept Ford’s sensational 427 CI Galaxie V-8. The 1964 Thunderbolt presented here is number 68 in the Thunderbolt production sequence of 100 cars. It was originally purchased through Webster Ford in Schenectady, New York by racer Elwood Banker, who raced the car as the “Hemi Hunter.” described the car as “unbeatable.”
“I picked the car up at Dearborn Steel Tubing and then raced it locally,” recalls Banker. “It was unbeatable. The track at South Glen Falls guaranteed me money to race, and there was just no competition. The car beat the Hemi racers so bad that after a while they stopped showing up. Lebanon Valley only paid if you won, which I did all the time.”
“The only problem was that the automatic transmission kept breaking - I eventually concluded that the converter stall speed was too low, but that was much later, well after I installed the 4-speed.”
Shortly after making that one modification, Banker was asked to drive a gas dragster, and the Thunderbolt was retired, although not entirely - the car saw street duty for a period before Banker sold it virtually unchanged except for the 4-speed conversion.
Today the “Hemi Hunter” Thunderbolt is in spectacular condition after being restored by Performance Restorations. It has never been tubbed or fitted with a roll bar, and retains all its original sheet metal beneath the as-original Wimbledon White paint. Most importantly, it also still packs that “unbeatable” Ram Air-fed 427 Galaxie engine under its factory tear-drop hood.