Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to see if a Supercharged bomb can be included. Ford was fighting for dominance at the stock car tracks throughout the country, and was neck and neck with it’s crosstown rival Chevrolet. Little did anyone know, Ford had an ace up it’s sleeve. Lets all discover the 1957 Ford Supercharged “F” Series. And no, it has nothing to do with trucks!
By 1956, Ford and Chevy were locked in a dogfight with stock car racing dominance at stake. Neither company had been a factor in this competitive realm during the first part of the 1950s, when Hudson, Oldsmobile and Chrysler were the major players. However, with the introduction of Chevy’s new 265 Cu In V-8, and winning a few Stock Car events during the 1955 season, Ford came back in 1956 with 12 wins under it’s belt, with Chevy only taking 4. So in 1957, the Chevy small block was enlarged to 283 Cu In, and with the offering of dual quads or fuel injection, saw horsepower ratings go to 283.
It didn’t take long for Ford to realize it had to do something to fend off the attack, and fast. Ford boss Robert McNamara outlined a counteroffensive in the form of a supercharged 312. Time was of the essence, and McNamara wanted 100 units completed in time for NASCAR’s Daytona Speed Trials in early February, thus meeting the sanctioning body’s homologation requirements. In little more than two months, the necessary number of cars were built. Two high-performance engines (a 312-cu.in. 8V carburetor engine developing 270 horsepower, and 285 horsepower with a special camshaft) were approved for installation in the Ford car and Thunderbird. McNamara went on to say that it was the opinion of Ford Engineering that these engines were not powerful enough to compete with Chevrolet’s fuelies and other makes and that engineering recommended installing the McCulloch superchargers, bringing the horsepower rating to 300.
Ford went on to win 26 of the races held during the 1957 season, with Chevy capturing 21 in a closely contested season. However, right in the middle of the season, the Automobile Manufacturers Association unanimously recommended that the industry take no part in automobile races that emphasize speed and power, and promptly pulled all of their support. Never the less, the horsepower wars were in full swing, with Ford and Chevrolet at the forefront. Which brings us back to this edition of the Obscure Muscle Car Garage.
To make sure that there was a sufficient number of cars built with this special engine, the competition engine was installed in almost every model across the Ford line. As you would expect, Ford installed the 312 Cu In Supercharged V-8 in the 1957 Ford Thunderbird, with an option price of $500 (a lot of money in 1957). As is the result of a price premium this large, there were only 211 produced.
1957 also saw the debut of the Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop Convertible. Today, we take for granted that there are retractable hardtops, with models like the Volkswagen Eos, and Volvo C70 in production, but in 1957, this caused a sensation. They were rather expensive in their day, yet sold in acceptable numbers. And yes, the 300 HP Supercharged engine was available in this model, though only a handful were produced (reports say less than 10), with only 6 surviving today.
One of the most unusual models to have this engine installed would be a 1957 Ford Country Sedan. This is really a distant relative of the performance estates that were available throughout the 60′s, right up through the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. There is but 1 left today.
Even though the supercharged 312 was a one-year wonder, no doubt helped by NASCAR’s April 1957 ban on fuel injection, superchargers and multiple carburetors, it lives on as one of the most powerful Ford V-8′s developed. With horsepower rated at 300, and torque ratings of 300 lb ft, it rivaled the Chrysler Hemi in a smaller package, and lighter weight.
So, are Fords equipped with the “F” code Supercharged engine a worthy Obscure Muscle Car, or is it just another anomaly that doesn’t deserve a second glance. Discuss, and respond.
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