There are few things in life cooler than a hot-rodded classic station wagon. However, one of those things would be a hot-rodded classic station wagon with a modern powerplant. Enter Kevin Grani and his 1960 Ford Country Squire wagon powered by a modern Ford 4.6-liter Four-Valve engine under the hood.
A lifelong fan of the blue oval, Grani’s last few project cars have all been of the same era. “I am a big Ford and Mercury fan especially the 1960-1962 models,” said Grani. “My first car at 16 was a 1972 Mercury Capri, and I’ve only driven Ford-Lincoln-Mercury cars for past twenty years.”
Grani’s journey with the car has been an interesting one. Unlike most projects of this caliber, it started with a complete, running car, which most people would be happy to own. However, Grani isn’t “most people” and that shows in his creation.
“I bought the car two years ago. It was a frame off rebuild and basically a done car,” explained Grani. He then set about to change the car from what it was, into what he wanted, specifically. “I had wanted this particular model for years and just happened to see it on eBay 20 miles from my house. I immediately replaced the wheels and tires and installed and all new hydro boost brake system.”
The wheels and tires he chose were a set of Billet Specialties Rail wheels in a staggered diameter fitment – 18-inch in front and 20-inch in the rear. He wrapped them in BFGoodrich’s ultra-high-performance summer radial, the g-Force Comp-2. For brakes, Grani went to one of the most well-known names – Wilwood. He chose to go with massive six-piston calipers, coupled with 14-inch drilled and slotted rotors for a braking setup that could stop a locomotive.
The 20-inch rear Billet Specialties “Rail” wheels make the massive Wilwood six-piston calipers and 14-inch rotors look small in the cavernous wheel.
“Then I added an all-new suspension, steering wheel, and sound system,” Grani said. For the suspension, he decided on Ridetech coilovers, coupled with Fatman Fabrication upper and lower control arms, to get the car to sit the way he wanted it, and ride like a dream.
Of course, little did anyone—including Grani himself—know, was that he was about to be in for quite an adventure. “Shortly after I got all those new parts on the car, and got everything done, I decided to swap the engine,” laughed Grani, about what was to come. While the modern-engine-swap is common to the point of being scienced-out in the bowtie side of the world, on the Ford side, it’s nowhere near as common.
Looking at the available options, and the cost associated with each, Grani decided on an early Four-Valve 4.6-liter Modular engine out of a Lincoln Mark VIII. On the surface, that might seem like an odd engine choice, but for those familiar with late-model Fords, particularly, those powered by Modular engines, it makes perfect sense. The Lincoln Mark VIII engine is extremely similar to the engine out of a 1996-’98 Cobra, with the exception of the intake manifold and not having a forged rotating assembly. The main selling points of dual overhead cams and large-volume runners of the “B head”, as well as the renowned aluminum Teksid block are one-in-the-same.
The 1997 Lincoln Mark VIII engine is very similar to the 1996-’98 Mustang Cobra engine, with the exception of a forged rotating assembly and the lower-profile Mark VIII intake manifold, that was required for hood clearance in the wagon.
Rather than scouring junkyards and trying to piece together a combination, Grani played it smart and just went out and bought a complete car. “I bought a 1997 Lincoln Mark VIII, took out engine, transmission, and computer and junked the remainder of car,” said Grani. By going that route, he also got a transmission that was never offered in a Cobra – a 4R70W.
“My mechanic recommended going through the engine before putting it on the wagon, so he took it apart,” sighed Grani.“Not long after that, he moved out of the area. I was stuck with an engine torn apart.” Not one to be deterred, he found a local machine shop willing to help. “I took all of the pieces to a local machine shop who went through the heads for me, and then put it all back together for me, Grani explains. I then took the long block to Ben at Jack Dick Customs. He is the MacGyver of making things work together. He figured out how to make the Four-Valve fit. He had to notch the front cross member for clearance, but made it happen.”
Once the engine was shoehorned into the engine bay—for those who are unaware, the Four-Valve is a very wide engine— Grani got to work sorting out some of the more complex tasks, like wiring up the complicated modern engine. “I got it back but still had a lot of accessories and parts to figure out how to put it back together,” Grani said. “I bought a Ron Francis wiring harness made to interface with this specific engine. Having previous wiring experience in my younger days doing sound systems and alarms I knew the basics of wiring. What I didn’t know was a thing about this engine.”
Armed with a desire to learn and an internet connection, Grani set about learning the ins and outs of the complicated B-headed Four-Valve, with its intake manifold runner control system, and a plethora of sensors required by the stock computer to get it to not only run properly but to correctly control the transmission as well.
“With the help of the harness instructions and Google, I figured out what parts were what, how to install them, and wired everything up,” said Grani, making his endeavor sound simple. “I consider myself an expert now in how these engines work, how it goes together and how to wire it.”
From there, he installed, plumbed, and wired up a Vintage Air air-conditioning system, because what cruiser isn’t complete without ice-cold A/C? A Griffin aluminum radiator keeps the engine cool under all conditions, and he added a custom Dakota Digital cluster while he was elbow-deep in wiring the car.
From there, it was time to have custom headers worked up since there’s no swap kit for 4.6-liter engines into 1960 Country Squires sitting on anyone’s shelves. “I took it to Sanderson Headers to modify some custom headers and had a custom-built fuel tank made from Rick’s Tanks set up for fuel injection,” Grani related. From there, with the 4R70W transmission installed and wired, Grani had a custom driveshaft made to link the transmission to the 9-inch rear end, outfitted with 3.25:1 gears for smooth cruising.
Grani upgraded the instrument cluster with a new Dakota Digital unit while he had the vehicle’s wiring harness apart.
After two years of work, Grani was rewarded with a completely custom, one of a kind wagon, with a high-performance modern powerplant under the hood. “The best part of the whole project was firing up the engine for the first time and seeing that it actually ran,” laughed Grani.
While the car is pretty fresh off the rebuild, it has already garnered a ton of attention at the few shows Grani has taken it to so far, ours included. “Between it being a rare model—only one year was made—and how different the engine looks, it gets a lot of attention at shows,” he says. “A lot of people come up and stare at the engine compartment trying to figure out what exactly I did and how I did it.”
Whether it’s drawing a crowd at a car show, or cruising down the highway, Grani’s 1960 Ford Country Squire station wagon does exactly what it was designed to do – put a smile on his face.