Project | Level 7 Motorsports 1960 Squarebird Stock Car

By: Blane Burnett | 02/26/2015 < Back to Motor Life Home
With awesome events like the Hot Rod Power Tour and Hot Rod Drag Week, it's no surprise that more and more car enthusiasts are building projects that not only burn it up at the track, but can also cruise reliably for thousands of miles. Companies are taking notice of this phenomenon and are manufacturing products that make achieving those goals less challenging. However, some builders aren't content with easy. After all, isn't our automotive obsession deeply rooted in one-upping each other from time to time? Enter Level 7 Motorsports, a custom automotive fabrication business located in southern Illinois. Recently the shop has found itself in the middle of one such project. Affectionately named "Vinnie", this project is the Level 7's take on a vintage 1960 Squarebird Stock car. "Our customer came to us wanting to build a car that he could take on the Power Tour, run the entire Route 66, and compete in the Sand Hill Open Road Challenge. More specifically, he wanted a 1958-60 Ford Thunderbird to do all of this", says shop owner Jesse Vaughn. "We helped him browse the classifieds, sorting through a bunch of nicer cars that were for sale around the country. After finding a lot of below average cars, we just happened to find one for sale in Alberta, Canada. Originally a California car, it had been restored and had been owned by a guy in Canada for the past year. Our customer, Mike, pulled the trigger on it and had it shipped directly to us."

A well-established plan was already in place for the car prior to its arrival at Level 7 Motorsports. It would be the beneficiary of a new engine and transmission, as well undergo substantial upgrades in the suspension and braking departments to harness this newfound horsepower. With Hot Rod Power Tour looming on the horizon, the shop got busy. With the car in transit, Vaughn began ordering the parts needed to complete a project of this scope. The Ford faithful should be pleased to know an LS engine won't be finding its way into Vinnie's engine bay. Instead, it was decided that a 10:1 compression, 351 cubic inch engine built by Tri-Star would be the providing the horsepower; 400 of them to be exact. The engine's personality would be set by the carefully selected Howard hydraulic roller camshaft. It measures out at 225°/231° duration, .533”/.544” lift, with a 112° lobe separation angle. Vintage Air accessory drives round out the front of the engine.

With the aforementioned increase in cars driven by enthusiasts, fuel injection is becoming much more prominent among the classic car contingent. Realizing this, Jesse opted for "what works" and ordered a Holley Terminator EFI system. "We've installed several of these systems on customer cars since Holley came to market with their Terminator product. The ease of installation and setup of these systems, coupled with their ability to self-tune and grow with future needs is a no brainer for our customer cars, says Jesse" Holley and Earl's fuel system products are used to transfer fuel from the modified stock fuel tank to the Terminator EFI system. Level 7 also installed a number of other modern upgrades such as electric fans, an aluminum radiator, electric wiper conversion, and a Vintage Air A/C system to keep Mike cool in between events.

Horsepower and torque make their way through a rebuilt Ford AOD transmission from a 1989 F-150 2WD. The suspension is all Ridetech and includes a triangulated 4 link, along with Ridetech's RQ coil-over system. Up front, Wilwood disc brakes are installed on forged Mustang II spindles while SSBC disc brakes slow things down in the rear. Vinnie will be cruising in style on satin black rollers from Wheel Vintiques, sized 17”x 8” in front and 17”x10” out back. What are the specs and brand on tires? A local Marion-based graphics shop designed and installed the vintage graphics package that Jesse and the owner envisioned for Vinnie's exterior. While this project is still in progress, Hot Rod Power Tour is on the horizon and will be here sooner than later. We look forward to showcasing this project again once Vinnie is complete. Stay tuned!
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