1967 Ford Fairlane (aka 'La Pantera Peruana')

Well, we finally got to working in Peru after years of thinking, planning, consulting, slogging through a pandemic, and so on. So by Sept. 2021 we had finally arrived, and being a compulsive spannerer I knew I would need some sort of mechanical project, as I love metaphors for redemption and resurrection (the Bible's framework will do that to a man). My good wife (I have only one, just to be clear), who has tolerated all sorts of motorcycle projects in the past, was quite clear that she didn't want me motorcycling around Arequipa, where we live in Peru's southern Andes. Can't really blame her, either; the streets are rough, the kerbs made of basalt, and the traffic fairly lawless and uncompromising.

So that meant no motorcycle projects... because we all know that if I was to restore one, then of course I would be tempted beyond what I could bear and ride the thing. So this meant I was either looking for (i) an ex-military helicopter, or (ii) something with four wheels.

I had noticed quite a few promising options quietly rotting under their layers of volcanic dust around the streets of Arequipa, but the problem with most of these jalopies is that they have no paperwork. And having the correct paperwork here in Peru is *very* important, esp. if you are an extranjero like me. Without the paperwork, you can't prove you are the owner, and so if they day ever comes when you face a roadside check of your paperwork, then you could end up simply having the vehicle confiscated. And also, if the day ever comes when you want to export the vehicle, you've got no chance of getting it out of the country.

     Above: Here's one such jalopy: GMC cab, Ford tray, early Volkswagen wheels, flathead Ford V8 donk.
     I did enquire about this beastie but the owner said it was his next project. Good man!

So I started trawling a few Peruvian online car sale sites. I was quite open-minded about possibilities, but was already leaning in the direction of a pre-80's F100 or something like that. But then what should I spy but a 1967 Ford Fairlane, for which the owner claimed he had all the correct paperwork. I went and checked the car out, and happily it was mostly all there and -- even better -- also needing a ton of work! This would guarantee hours (decades?) of spannering, problem solving, and the satisfaction of knowing that anything I did to it would pull it back from the brink of oblivion. The motor (original 289 V8) started easily, ran smoothly, and no smoke!

Next step was to co-opt Peruvian mate Carlos, jack-of-all-trades and master of about 15. He checked over the paperwork (as I didn't have a clue as to what constituted correct paperwork or not), declared it all pukka, helped negotiate a bit of a discount, and the deal was done!

Next day with Carlos at the wheel (I hadn't yet run the gauntlet of getting my Peruvian drivers licence) we drove the Fairlane back to my place (video courtesy of Annabell, daughter of previous owner):

I use the term "drove" rather loosely, as it kept on conking out -- and so at one point I had the crazy fun of pushing my own yank tank through the occasional intersection while Carlos chuckled away in the driver's seat, much to the delight of all the Peruvian spectators! Thankfully the return trip was mostly downhill and old Fairlanes respond to gravity rather well.

Naturally, after getting it home I hooked into the fuel system. The previous owner, trying to enhance the beast's fuel economy, had installed a carbie from a Daewoo Tico. That's right, a carbie from a 0.8 litre engine, grafted onto a 4.7 litre engine... I'm sure he got his increase in fuel economy, but let me assure you it was at the expense of just about everything else! Thankfully the original carbie -- an Autolite 2BBL -- came with the car, so I managed to find a refurb. kit for that and back in it went. The other major thing to address was that, for some reason (soon to become clear) the fuel tank had been disconnected, and a small 3-gallon homemade fuel tank installed in the boot (trunk). This was ditched, as it was very good at filling the boot space with petrol fumes, and no way would I want to light up a Cuban cigar anywhere near that.

I pulled out the fuel tank and checked it over. It was almost spotless inside, and I was wondering why it might have been decommissioned when what did I see but a cracked solder joint around the fuel line spout, where it entered the sender unit cap. That was easily fixed, sender reinstalled, fuel tank filled, and yes now it is fuel tight once again.

Of course, the smooth-running motor was a short-lived phenomenon. It started running rough, missing, etc. and so it was time to dive into the ignition system. The more I poked around the motor, the more I realised that despite being 55 years old, there was so much of the original factory equipment still present with "FoMoCo" logos everywhere. Yes, all looked original in the ignition department too, so I just replaced the lot... leads, plugs, coil, rotor button, dist. cap, points, condenser -- I just went to town. I also dismantled and cleaned the dizzy; a little bit of free play evident in the shaft but nothing excessive. After working my way through all that, we had a smooth runner once again.

Since buying the old tank I have tackled all sorts of other things, too: fresh wiring from the fuel tank sender, repaired the front seat adjustment mechanism, reco'd the water pump, some fine tuning of the carburetor, new set of (all terrain!) tyres, fabricated a retainer for the spare tyre in the boot, etc. Fixes in the near future include a proper set of seat belts, new shockies all 'round, new exhaust system, conversion to floor shift (from the worn out and hopeless column shift) -- just to name a few. The cosmetics will be the last cab off the rank!

Above: poking around under the hood with Carlos.

16th Aug. 2022...  Well, apart from all the shockies being utterly flogged out, the fact that the driver's side front shock was also completely disconnected from the suspension wishbone wouldn't have helped to reduce the pogo-stick effect! In the end I couldn't find exactly the shocks I wanted here in Arequipa, but I did get a set of front and rear that only needed a bit of modification to install. Now I'm just waiting on the arrival of the gear shift conversion kit (from the column to the floor) and then we can start cruising the town Stay tuned!

12th Oct. 2022... Well fiiiinaly the floor shift conversion kit arrived, and it works great. The hardest bit was trying to figure out where the hole in the floor had to go. I measured it all carefully several times, but still I was about 4" too far forward :-/ So I just had to patch up some of the steel flooring, but it was all good in the end. I've also changed out all the brake slave cylinders and the master cylinder. In the process of doing that I found so many loose chassis and suspension bolts it was scary. Funnily enough the car is much less rattly than before!

So now the Fairlane is, at last, a daily driver. It's fun being in such a barge in Peruvian traffic; people see this thing coming and they just give way :-D ... it's nice to have a little respect.

21 Nov. 2022... the radiator saga
Well the original 'FoMoCo' radiator was just springing more and more minor seeps and weeps, so it was time to replace the faithful old thing. Now normally this wouldn't present a challenge... but here in Peru, everything is a challenge if you're not a native inhabitant! No one stocks parts for the old Fords any more, and importing parts is a nightmare (don't ask me how I know). But there are hundreds if not thousands of talented artisans around here who fabricate car parts every day, radiators included. But how do you know who's a good one and who's dodgy? You don't. So in the absence of any direct recommendation I wandered off into the automotive wilds of Calle Puno (street with hundreds of auto shops) to see who I could find. Somehow I knew this wasn't going to be straight forward...

Found what could be a reputable shop. Spoke with a guy who seemed to know what he was talking about. We agreed on the specs (3-row, of course, and all made out of brass), I emphasised that if there was any problem or changes needed, to LET ME KNOW, etc. Of course, that is not what happened. After putting some money down up front, I went back the next day and was greeting by a radiator that was about 1/2 - 1" narrower than the original. It wasn't 3-row, of course... I don't know what core stock they used, but it wasn't standard automotive stock -- maybe for mining equipment? I don't know. I hate these situations. Why can't people do what they say... and if they hit a problem, just phone you like they agreed? Well, this is Peru... not that dealings in Australia can be much better, let's face it.

So in the end I haggled the final price down, and left with this radiator that clearly wasn't up to spec. What to do... Realising that the old Fords didn't seem to come with radiator shrouds as original fitment, I figured that if I could make a shroud to suit the radiator then that might stand a decent chance of lifting the overall efficiency of the cooling system. So that's what I did. Making a shroud out of galvanised tin and pop rivets, along with seams of silicone (more to stop rattling and vibrations than anything), was straight forward enough. The only mishap was when the drill bit snapped and I sent the jagged end of the broken bit spinning into the side of my thumb at 1000rpm or so :-D    Once the bleeding was under control, I finished the cowling with a coat of satin black to cover the multitude of minor sins that accompany any first-time fabrication job

And the result? Yes, she runs cool enough... the water temp. needle sits right in the middle of the gauge in the afternoon heat and the usual peak-hour choked Arequipenan traffic. So that's about 85-90 deg. Celsius, which is fine. On the open road we get 80-85 degrees, cool as a cucumber. So the saga has ended well, and also my wisdom and experience in wheeling and dealing with the automotive artisans of Peru has been raised into the bargain. Onwards and upwards!

Identity problem solved...
Well I had found the chassis number stamped into the cross member in front of the radiator, but no amount of internet sleuthing and forum trawling could help me make sense of it. But then I managed to spot the original ID tag affixed to the driver's door, just above the latch -- superbly camouflaged under about 3 layers of paint. Here it is in all its glory:

See that? Assembled under licence in Peru! Cool az, eh

27 Dec. 2022 ... 'twas a coupla days after Christmas
Picked up some friends from the Arequipa airport today, and it struck me how I must be kind of OLD. Because I think a car like a '67 Fairlane is perfectly normal, makes complete sense, and is exactly the way a car should be. But anyone 30 or so years younger thinks they're exotic! And as for the young fella peering over the back seat there, well he's probably going to grow up with electric monstrosities, and may not want to confess to his friends that one time he rode in the back of a -- HUH! -- liquid dinosaur slurping V8. The times, they are a changin'.

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