Labeled as a “Pro Vintage” vehicle, this 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria is an exercise in automotive ingenuity and the determination to never let go of a dream. A car that originated in the fabulous 1950s became a young man’s dream machine in the late ’60s. It was recreated as a modern classic over the span of just a few months. The lifetime savings of one man went into this automobile, which was brought to fruition in northern Ohio by a shop that prefers to do things a bit differently.
For owner Tony Confalone, there could be no substitute. The man had wanted a 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria since the moment he first cast eyes on one, an event that occurred when he was but a child. The chance encounter took place while Tony was on his paper route one morning, an event that caused him to stop dead in his tracks. As all thought of chucking newspapers dissipated, Tony stared at the Ford Fairlane sitting in front of him, a machine unlike anything he had ever seen before. The young man couldn’t take his eyes off it. There was something fascinating about those body lines, and how they played with all of the little styling accents and overall color scheme, that created a feeling that Tony would never be able to shake.
Some may call it “love at first sight,” but this was more than that. This was the beginning of a budding relationship. A relationship that would last a lifetime, and become what some might consider to be the automotive equivalent of finding one’s soulmate. But in order to achieve this dream, Tony Confalone had to first wait and save for what would feel like a lifetime. Come 1966, Tony’s waiting and saving finally paid off, and his precious “Mandarin Orange” 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria was finally in his possession.
Fast forward a few decades, and Tony was ready for his next big automotive purchase. It had nothing to do with buying a new vehicle, but rather modifying what he already owned. His pride and joy was beginning to show her age, and after contacting Wild Wes Paintworks & Hot Rod Factory, Tony had come to the conclusion that it was time to entrust someone with the rebuilding of his beloved automobile.
Widely respected for from-the-ground-up restorations, and a heavy emphasis on Ford vehicles, Wild Wes Paintworks & Hot Rod Factory provided Tony with a very straightforward build pitch; Bankroll the build, and they would turn his tired Fairlane into everything its owner had ever dreamed of seeing and experiencing in an automobile.
After speaking with shop owner and chief fabricator/painter Wes Adkins, we received a healthy amount of backstory about Tony’s retro Ford Fairlane build. Adkins tells us that from day one he told Tony that his objective was to “build a reliable chassis with a blend of performance and comfort.” A car that can cruise down the interstate but still handle a tight corner with ease, all while offering a retro color scheme and TONS of power. Adkins goes on to tell us that finding a sweet spot between all of these things without sacrificing too much of one or the other proved to be the biggest challenge. But a balance was eventually found, and thanks to this project, Wild Wes now has a one-off that can be duplicated at any time.
My dad was a huge influence on me as a builder and artist. He taught me the body trade and about quality and I just ran with it… my wife, Stephanie, and I opened Wild Wes Hot Rod Factory…. where we handle full builds in-house from start to finish.
The Nitty Gritty
Sporting a fully rebuilt and upgraded 272ci from 1956, Tony’s old engine now packs a 306ci with a 3.800 bore and 3.380 stroke, and an offset re-ground steel truck crank. The pistons are a Wiseco flat top forged drop-in affair, and are mated to H-beam 6.200 connecting rods from K1 Technologies, which rely upon compression ratios that hover at 9.25-1, numbers that are ideal for the V8’s heavily modded upper portions.
Machined and rebuilt by Roger and Keith Decker of CAMS Racing in Canton, Ohio, the top section of this vintage V8 now includes Comp Cams‘ nitrated solid lift camshaft with a .545 intake and .555 exhaust lift. This camshaft is stuffed within the folds of two Mummert aluminum cylinder heads, which are fed by a Y-block specific Mummert intake manifold, a Holley Super Sniper throttle body, and a snarling TorqStorm twin supercharger setup, which we’ll get to here in a moment.
The classic Ford Fairlane also received one-off headers built by Wes Adkins himself, which were then followed by his own custom stainless H-pipe and exhaust combo, all made from Summit Racing piping and V band clamps, and swaddled in DEI heat wrap. The mufflers are from Flowmaster products with a 3-inch diameter inlet and outlet to match the rest of the Wild Wes custom exhaust. Meanwhile, a Holley PCM makes tuning a breeze, which was undoubtedly needed due to the supercharger setup resting atop this bright orange retro rocketship.
Being that this is an original, carbureted Ford Y-block V8, the need for a supercharger system that would play nice with this notoriously persnickety engine was a concern since day one. But due to all of his positive past experiences, Wes Adkins knew that if he went with twin TorqStorm blowers, and affixed them with his own Wild Wes Signature Series brackets, the vehicle would be both ridiculously rowdy, and undeniably reliable. Paired with a 4-inch pulley setup, and running on nine pounds of boost, Tony’s tangerine dream machine was set to be both cruiser and bruiser, with plenty of power on tap to spare. How much power, you ask? Try 600+ horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque on for size.
It might be strange to hear us referring to “twin” superchargers, but you read that right! If a single supercharger is not enough, TorqStorm’s twin superchargers kits are capable of supporting 1,200+ horsepower. They’re designed to be belt-driven and centrifugal style, and unlike a turbocharger that is spun by exhaust gas, they are driven by the crankshaft. They are hyper efficient in producing power thanks to the air being compressed by centrifugal forces. The head units are built from billet aluminum and feature a proprietary ceramic bearing system. TorqStorm equipped them with internal component coating to prevent wear that might result from operation and temperature.
Suspension and Stuff
In order to safely and successfully get all of that power to the pavement, a fully built F2 Ford AOD unit from Cyclone Transmission had to be ordered and then reloaded with a Cyclone converter and shift kit. This was accompanied by a Flaming River shifter, a Be Cool transmission cooler, and a Dynotech Engineering driveshaft, which was later encased by a custom Wild Wes safety loop. Once channeled to the rear, power hits a Summit Racing housing unit that’s been loaded with 3.73:1 gears and an Eaton Detroit Truetrac differential, which transfers torque to a duo of Moser 31-spline axles.
Suspension and brakes are engineered to mirror the power department, striking a balance somewhere between controlled and comfortable courtesy of a Detroit Speed X GEN 595 front suspension module, and a Wild Wes “Signature Series” sway bar. Then there are the JRI Shocks up front and Aldan American rear absorbers, which have been paired with Detroit Speed springs in front and a Summit Racing alternative out back. Final handling mods include Flaming River’s steering shaft and universals, and a Detroit Speed power rack steering box for effortless turns. Meanwhile, Wilwood calipers and 14-inch rotors adorn all four corners for unsurpassed stopping power.
As for rims and rubber, this “Mandarin Orange Dreamsicle” rolls atop Schott Magnitude MAGNITUDE EXL d.concave alloys in an 18×8-inch front configuration, with 18×12-inch rollers rotating in the rear. Tires consist of grippy Mickey Thompson Street Comp 245/40R18 rubber on the skinny side, with sticky ET Street 345/35R18 wrapping around the Fairlane’s rear haunches.
Structurally, Tony’s Ford Fairlane came to Wild Wes in fairly solid shape. At least, at first glance it did. Decades of use had left the vehicle stricken with quite a bit of cancer. Malignant mounds of rust had slowly been eating away at the floorboards, rocker panels, firewall, door panels, and more, steadily growing worse, year after year. In order to combat these issues, Wild Wes knew he had to make some major body modifications.
While the tucking of both bumpers was done more for aesthetics than necessity, many of the other body mods were more akin to open heart surgery than a tummy-tuck. Some of these drastic operations included full replacement panels from Mac’s Antique Auto Parts, and the fabrication of a fresh firewall, rocker panels, belly pans, floors, inner fenders, and even the radiator support. Adkins also installed a New Port Engineering electric wiper motor, along with a 3D printed replica of the original hood ornament, which he scaled down 60%, before having it chromed by Liquid 3D Design.
Since Tony adored the original “Mandarin Orange” paint scheme of his Ford Fairlane, Wes decided that making a “Mandarin Twist Pearl” would add some fresh flair, all while keeping with the vehicle’s original “dreamsicle” vibe. Concocted from Axalta and Victorian white pearl, and then blended and sprayed in-house at Wild Wes Paintworks, this Ford’s “Mandarin Dream” paint scheme is an undeniably enthralling slice of heaven for the eyes.
Regarding interior mods, all of the matching upholstery was completed by the one and only Jeff Elwood, with components from Classic Instruments and Vintage Air updating the stock dash panel with fixtures that are both stylish and useful. Speaking of the dash, those of you who are classic Ford fans have probably already noticed that it’s been extended at the bottom, a one-off modification that looks right at home within Tony’s prized possession.
Viva Las Vegas!
Despite having spent the majority of its life in the possession of one man, Tony’s ’56 Ford Fairlane experienced its greatest overhaul in just eight short months, which was due in part to its scheduled debut at SEMA 2018. Once on premise, Tony’s Ford Fairlane was selected as a SEMA “Master of Motors” finalist, which was shortly followed by its maiden voyage along a roadway, which just so happened to be a night cruise down the Las Vegas strip. TorqStorm-powered V8 officially broken in, Adkins returned home with the vehicle, and prepared for its showing at Detroit Autorama. There it would go on to win the coveted Henry Ford “Past Forward Award,” earning nods of approval from judges and enthusiasts alike. Tony could not have been more proud. His “Mandarin Dream” had come true, almost sixty years after he had first envisioned it.