1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner
The car was purchased in a sad condition many years ago in Auckland as a repossession. Evidently, the last owner bought a set of Ward mags and Bridgestone tyres on credit and defaulted with his payments so the car was put up for sale. When a friend rang me at my sisters place on the Northshore where I was staying and said there was a Sunliner for sale I went straight down to Otahuhu to see for myself as the only one I could ever remember seeing belonged to an old ‘Rodder’ and friend from Hamilton, Keith McQuade.
When I saw the car I recognized it straight away and the ownership papers later confirmed that it was indeed the old Keith McQuade car. However, after a life of 21 owners and first being imported into NZ on Nov 1965 from Singapore by an ex Serviceman, and also being on the 3rd time around the clock, it was in a sorry condition. The car was registered but had no warrant of fitness due to having no handbrake, faulty lights which I fixed at my sisters and it had no exhaust system at all from the manifolds back. Knowing how rare the car was, I worked out a deal and ended up trading it on a mint 1965 Mercedes I had, and drove the car home to Tauranga that night, leaving Auckland at 8 pm and arriving in Tauranga at 10.05 pm.
The Journey Home .. Flaming Heck
It was quite an experience as everytime I backed off the loud pedal, flames shot past the window due to the lack of exhaust system! I never knew what speed I was doing either as the speedo wasn’t working so I drove at a speed I felt comfortable with, trying to dodge law enforcement officers on the way. At a constant speed, the motor had a real mellow V8 burble to it, but when I throttled off or planted my foot, it really cackled.
‘Shotgun Shepherd’ and Marriage
When I arrived home, the first thing I did was fit a new exhaust system and get a Warrant of Fitness. The following weekend with the ragtop down I cruised to the Mount (Mt Maunganui) with my dog, ‘Gina’, a German Shephard cross sitting up in the back seat. Going through the main shopping centre, some young guys in a MK1 Cortina turned around to look at the car as I drove past. While they were looking they didn’t see the old lady in her new Honda Civic stop in front of them! You guessed it! Instant marriage of a Cortina and a Honda Civic!
While I had the car I’ve had many experiences with it as well as being pulled over regularly by the local Law Enforcement Officers, mostly just to look at the car thank goodness. As most convertible owners will testify … there is nothing better than driving along with the wind in your hair.
Heart and Soul
When the car first came into NZ it ran the original 352 V8 and Fordamatic transmission but was later fitted with a 390 V8 which was in it when I purchased it. I ran this motor for some time and it gave me good service until one day one of my mates had a real hot 429 V8 motor and C6 Automatic. As the car was getting to the stage of needing some T.L.C which I later found to mean ‘Tons of Loot and Cash’. The 390 came out and was traded on the 429 and Auto, but before I got around to shifting it, the shed where it was stored was broken into and it went walk about it, along with 2 or 3 other motors! I eventually found and purchased another 429 motor and C6 Auto from good friend, Don Loveridge, who also helped me install it in the car. This engine was stock condition out of a 1972 Ford Torino.
If It Don’t Fit .. Force It!
Although the gearbox crossmember had to be fabricated along with new handbrake linkages and shifted backwards, the original driveshaft fitted straight up after changing the front yoke. The motor is a fairly tight fit, especially around the steering box area, but still looked as though it should have been there all along. The original Galaxie crossflow radiator was used although I added an overflow filler tank made up from a 100E Ford vacuum wiper tank to supplement it.
The braking system required an upgrade also to cope with the extra horses and had a dual power booster system from a late model Falcon fitted along with rear wheel cylinders from a 9 inch Falcon diff. These bolt straight onto the original Galaxie backing plates and prevent rear wheel lock up I would have got using the original Galaxie wheel cylinders as I also fitted Falcon ventilated discs and stubs to the front after having the lower ball joint and tie rod end tapers turned out to the Galaxie sizes. The stub height of these units from the bottom ball joint to the top ball joint is the same as the original Galaxie units so didn’t affect the height of the car at all.
The springing was, I found out after checking the colour coding, the original ‘Boulevard Rating’ which remained the same excluding the shocks which needed replacing as they were getting a bit weak in the knees and on an undulating surface the car used to feel like a boat on stormy waters.
Cosmetics and Lace
About this time, I ditched the cruddy Ward mags and replaced them with 8 1/2 inch Chromed 12 slot wheels fitted with Bridgestone Eager tyres. The bodywork was painted off-white, it had a black ragtop, and the body was stock apart from chrome side-pipes fitted into the reversed sills along both sides of the car, ala 60’s style. There was a slight bulge on the bottom of both front guards from where the pipes first exited, to then run along the sills.
The interior upholstry was burgandy & white and I also fitted a pleated black dash padding and black armrests.
I owned this car for over 15 years, having a lot of memorable times in her.
I gave her the name “Summer Wine” and like a good white wine she gave me many good moments to remember.