Turbocharged, Sleeper Fairmont
This Car-Repair YouTuber’s 1979 Fairmont Is a Turbocharged Sleeper
Eric Cook of Kings Mills, Ohio, has been making automotive-repair videos for more than 10 years on his YouTube channel, Eric the Car Guy. Though he’s fixed hundreds of cars, he has never built a complete car until now. His daily driven, sleeper 1979 Ford Fairmont has a turbocharged Mustang drivetrain underneath.
Eric purchased the Fairmont for $3,200 from a used-car lot in Ohio. He went straight to the local dragstrip to make his— and likely the car’s—first passes on the quarter-mile, where it ran low-20-second e.t. baseline passes. Eric set out to cut that time in half, and he started by building a naturally aspirated, 400hp 5.0L from a Fox-body Mustang parts car. Because the Fairmont shares the same structure as the Fox-body, aftermarket parts are readily available and, with their vanilla appearance, the Fairmont, LTD, and Zephyr models are perfect sleeper cars.
“I took on this project to demonstrate the different and compatible aspects between those cars, but somewhere along the way, I thought it would be cool to get a turbo,” Eric says. That single notion shifted the project. “That simple phrase cost me $10,000 more, and the original plan would have been a decent sleeper with a lot less money and a lot less headache.”
Eric purchased a 1982 Mustang 5.0L parts car for its 302 engine and T5 transmission, neither of which were ultimately used; when Kalvinator Engines of Wapakoneta, Ohio, found rust on the 302’s cylinder walls, Eric ordered a new block from World Products. Kalvinator Engines filled the block with a stroker kit from PBM Performance Products, which includes a forged Scat crank, dished pistons, and 5.4-inch H-beam rods. They freshened up the 5.0’s GT40 cylinder heads and outfitted them with valvetrain parts from Comp Cams. The
On3 turbo kit includes a 72mm turbocharger, 3-inch stainless-steel piping, a
3-inch bar-and-plate intercooler, a 44mm V-band wastegate, a 50mm blow-off valve, and all the necessary oil-feed fittings. The single 3-inch wrapped exhaust dumps into either a Walker Exhaust Systems muffler or through a Race Ready RRP electronic cut-out. Electronics are limited on the car, unless you count the Retro Manufacturing radio and custom phone charger. An MSD 6AL ignition box works with an MSD 6-BTM boost timing master hidden under the dash. With every pound of boost, the MSD will pull 2 degrees of timing. “It just acts like a regular engine until it sees boost,” Eric says. The simple turbocharger setup works with a Holley fuel-pressure regulator that reads boost pressure. On the engine dyno, the combination made 575 hp at
5,500 rpm and 622 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm with 7.8 pounds of boost and a strong, steady torque curve. “It just doesn’t stop pulling,” Eric says.
After that dyno day, Eric had to rethink the project even more, wanting to strengthen the rest of the chassis to match his newfound power. He installed a Maximum Motorsports’ K-member, suspension parts, and an 8.8inch Ford axle. Once the new drivetrain was installed, Eric chased his tail with an inconsistent fuel-pressure issue. A solution came after a viewer suggested he run a return-style fuel system. “I get a lot of feedback from viewers; some information is questionable, but I do have some really good suggestions sometimes, and that was one
of them,” he says.
Test-fitting of the return-style fuel system resulted in an epic fire after an issue with the regulator filled the intercooler with gasoline. Of course, it was caught on tape. “It was an honest mistake,” Eric says, “and I’m grateful I had a fire extinguisher—that’s what everybody should be concentrating on from that video.”
He’s since fixed the fuel-delivery issue, and we found Eric at a Georgia car show, where he’d driven the car 1,000 miles.
Since completion, there are 2,500 miles on the odometer, with little trouble. Eric averaged 15 mpg on the mostly highway trip. At 75 mph, the Ford sees around
2,000 rpm in Fifth gear, which is right where the turbo makes boost, making it a blast to drive. “My only issue now is traction,” he says.
It’s a daily driver, but Eric plans a chassisdyno session in the near future. Plus, with the recently acquired Mickey Thompson slicks, he’ll return to the dragstrip. Eric has been conflicted about whether or not the money, time, and headache was worth it:
“It’s hard to say if I regret it. If I go to the dragstrip and run 10s, I’m not going to complain at all.”
01] The Ford 8.8-inch rear axle came out of a junkyard Mustang and features Strange 31-spline axles and 2003–2004 Cobra limitedslip centersection with 3:55 gears.02] The On3 turbo kit is designed for a Foxbody Mustang with EFI. Eric had to build new piping to get it to work with the Fairmont and carburetor hat.
01] The dash features basic controls with a manual boost gauge and a Retrofit Manufacturing radio—old look, modern features.02] A simple fourpoint rollbar sits high enough to keep the Fairmont’s sleeper status. Complete with bench seat and RaceQuip five-point harnesses, the interior is mostly stock. 03] Ford Crown Victoria wheels were used all around, and Eric insisted on not cleaning the car before our shoot. His slogan: “Stay Dirty.” 04] The front suspension features a Maximum Motorsports K-member that, with the combination of control arms, changes the frontwheel placement and gives the car a subtle stance.