Under The Hood

Phil Bonner 1964 Ford Thunderbolt drag car finally surfaces

1964 Thunderbolt recovery may be the ultimate ‘Barn Find’

Story and photos by Al Rogers

On a brisk morning last January, this 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt emerged from 40 years of hiding. It had been stowed untouched for the last two decades in a non-descript barn in northern Georgia. Although the Thunderbolt had been hidden under the radar for decades, a handful of Thunderbolt hunters had knocked on the owner’s door in hopes of finding the car or its current whereabouts. All were rebuffed.

That hidden Thunderbolt held a special piece of racing history, and the owner knew it. Ford Motor Co. had provided it to Phil Bonner as a replacement to his original burgundy Thunderbolt after a member of Bonner’s racing team took his first Thunderbolt on a pass at Paradise Dragway in Calhoun, Ga., and rolled it.

Phil Bonner's 1964 Ford Thunderbolt drag car has recently been uncovered after 40 years of hiding.

Phil Bonner’s 1964 Ford Thunderbolt drag car has recently been uncovered and verified by Thunderbolt experts after 40 years of hiding.

Barn Find Passenger Quarter Panel Tail Light Opening 2015b

Plans are underway for Bonner’s second Thunderbolt to receive a rotisserie restoration by the new owner who has already restored a handful of award-winning Thunderbolts and Ford factory lightweights.  He purchased the Thunderbolt with the intent to restore it back to the way it looked when Dearborn Steel Tubing (DST) initially performed its magic to those select few 1964 Ford Fairlane destined for drag racing glory.

The April 2 issue of Firsatsaatleri will showcase the long-lost 1964 Phil Bonner Ford Thunderbolt as it was photographed by Al Rogers during its recovery. Rogers had the pleasure to be on hand and followed the process as it was removed from the pole barn where it had been stowed for the last 20 years of its 40-some years in hiding. Rogers will also provide updates of the Thunderbolt’s authentic restoration in coming issues of Firsatsaatleri.

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