1966 Ford Galaxie Convertible November 2022 – January 2023 Cover Story

1966 Ford Galaxie Convertible

Galaxies joined Ford’s large car lineup in 1959, essentially as better-equipped Fairlanes, with four-door sedans, two-door hardtops and convertibles in several trim levels. In 1966 eight engine options ranged from a 240 cu in economy six to the mighty Cobra 427, which produced more than 400bhp and put the Galaxie right among the muscle cars. Three- and four-speed manual transmissions were available, along with the mandatory Cruise-O-Matic three-speed auto.

The 1966 Galaxie in “as bought” condition. Ford Australia introduced the Galaxie to the local market in the early sixties, but sales were restricted to sedans, with limited options compared to the US market. Galaxies earned a place in Australian motor sport history, and many will remember Lex Davison and Norm Beechey’s Galaxie drives.

Russ and Carole Dinte had previously owned a 1966 Galaxie sedan and a Fairlane, and based on this experience had set their hearts on acquiring a 1966 Galaxie convertible. However, Ford had never sold convertibles in Australia, so finding one would be difficult.

Moreover, only 36,182 Galaxie convertibles rolled off Ford’s production line in 1966, compared to 459,724 sedans and hardtops. And as convertibles were more prone to rust the number of survivors would be quite small.

A dealer from Victoria told the Dintes that he had a 1966 XL (deluxe) Galaxie convertible in good condition, free of rust and needing just cosmetic work, ready to ship to Australia. Photographs convinced the Dintes to place a 50 percent deposit in May 1995.
They also paid the dealer to insure the car’s transport to Australia. But after months with no car, the dealer told Russ that the container with his convertible was lost, probably fallen overboard. The dealer wouldn’t refund the deposit, so Russ took it up with the Victorian Police, who advised visiting the dealer to resolve the dispute in person.

Russ knew that the dealer had another 1966 Galaxie convertible, so he arrived unannounced and persuaded the dealer to hand over this convertible as settlement. However this car wasn’t anything like the one promised. It had been totally stripped and parts stored throughout a shed, and virtually all these parts were damaged, needing repairs or unfit to use at all. There was rust in the floor, in the rear beaver panel, in the plenum ahead of the windscreen, in a rear guard and at the rear of the hood. The right rear guard had been repaired and didn’t look too bad, but subsequently
needed a lot of work.

Russ needed to get the car home to Brisbane, and decided that he’d have to reassemble as much of it as possible. He spent three days collecting and collating parts, but soon realised that many were missing, included windscreen glass, wiper arms, wheel trims, gear linkage, speedo and accelerator cables, steering column clamp, handbrake, starter motor and hood. Russ was promised that the missing parts would be provided, but they never were.

Despite this, Russ got the car to a rolling stage, and without brakes or steering and with the engine in the boot and the car full of parts it finally left for Brisbane in October 1995. Russ had owned a body repair shop years before, so wasn’t too concerned about repairing the damage and rust. The body required a lot of work, especially the rusted-out channels around the rear of the hood and the plenum chamber for the wiper controls. However the rust in the floor wasn’t too extensive. When he took delivery of the car the body was off the chassis, and he was offered a choice of chassis. He paid extra for one that had already been converted to right-hand drive. He couldn’t fault the conversion work, so treated it with fish oil before painting it. Though the chassis was set up for right-hand drive, it had to be inspected and approved by an engineer before registration with Queensland Transport.

Russ engaged an engineer who prepared detailed plans, including all measurements needed to fit the steering column and brakes to the right side of the vehicle. Russ fitted the column (included gear selector), pedals and pedal box from a 1966 Galaxie sedan, then patched unwanted holes in the dash.

With basic repairs to the body and the RHD conversion complete, Russ decided that the next major task would be to convert the dash. Australian-assembled Galaxies used different instruments to American-built cars, but Russ wanted the car to look as though it had left the factory in RHD. He knew that this would be a big job, but didn’t realise that it would take all his time for six months.

He started by photographing the existing dash and instruments to provide a record of the original to refer to. He bought a complete dash frame from a 1966 Australian Galaxie to graft the LHD dash parts onto, cut the original into pieces, reassembled it on a backing board with everything reversed, then carefully MIG-welded the parts. The external plastic imitation wood trim around the instruments and the metal base forming the instrument cluster hood required reshaping, as did the padding under the dash cover. However the wiring harness was in very good condition and only required swapping to the right side. The car came with its original AM/FM radio.

The front mudguards and bootlid were from a Ford LTD – the same pressings, but different badges – and the Galaxie 500 lettering and numerals were missing from the rear guards. Russ searched for over a year to find Galaxie 500 badges, but the correct badges for the front guards were another story.

Russ imported doors with electric window mechanisms from the US and obtained grille and bonnet emblems and new windscreen locally.

To eliminate the brake fade and grabbing experienced with his 1966 sedan, Russ fitted disc front brakes and a dual braking system, overhauling the power booster as well. He also replaced suspension bushes and wheel bearings and fitted heavy duty springs at the rear. He outsourced the overhaul of the steering box and differential, but did the suspension and brakes himself. After the body and chassis were reunited Russ stripped all paintwork and primed it, using polyester filling only where necessary.

Russ moved on to the engine and transmission next. The Galaxie had the 390 cu in engine and MX automatic transmission. The engine had surface rust on the crankshaft, so Russ had it ground 30 thou under and the block bored to 60 thou over. As FE blocks suffer from oil starvation he enlarged the oil galleries in the block, put restrictors in the heads to reduce the oil flow to the overhead valve gear and fitted a Flashlube engine oiler. Russ also fitted an Australian Ford factory starter motor.

The car still needed a radiator, so Russ obtained a second-hand one which he fitted with a heavy duty core and a large flex fan and shroud.
He stripped and cleaned the transmission, fitting new seals and gear linkages (provided by a fellow Club member) before reinstalling the engine and transmission prior to final painting.

Russ painted the car himself in Springtime Yellow, a factory colour in 1966. He used Glasurit two-pack finish for its durability. After completing the painting and installing the fuel tank and lines and electrical components, Russ was ready to test the engine.

When it wouldn’t start, and after checking fuel, carburettor and electrics, Russ found that the timing was 25 degrees out: the harmonic balancer had spun on its rubber centre, throwing the timing marks out. With the timing reset the engine ran perfectly. Russ noticed a transmission leak: probably a seal, which he decided to fix later.
Seats and door trims were recovered in grey leather, and the original vinyl inserts recoloured to match the new leather. New moulded carpets were also fitted. The hood bows were all damaged and took quite a bit of time to straighten, then Russ purchased a readymade convertible roof kit and a how-to-do-it video, which he watched about 30 times before he was happy to proceed.

Nonetheless it took him and Carole a full week to fit the hood, and they’d hesitate in recommending anyone do it themselves. The electric operating mechanism was complete, but the hydraulic rams needed to be reconditioned.

External stainless and aluminium trim, rear light frames and wheel arch mouldings had to be repaired or straightened and polished or rechromed. The front bumper was rechromed, but the rear and the taillight lenses were good enough to fit. The plastic heater box was not serviceable, so Russ made a replacement, moulding it in fibreglass from the original. US rear indicators and stop lights were combined in the one lens, which is not permissible here, so Russ converted the reversing lights to amber coloured indicators.

After nearly nine months on the bodywork, with the engine running smoothly, paintwork gleaming and the hood fitted, the next task was to have a complete new exhaust system fitted. Russ obtained a permit to drive the Galaxie to the exhaust shop.

However just 300 metres from home the rebuilt transmission exploded. On investigation Russ found that he’d inserted a sleeve upside down, causing the pressure control valve to close and pressure to build up, with disastrous consequences. The oil leak that he’d noticed when he first started the engine was a result of this pressure building up, but Russ couldn’t have anticipated the result.

Locating another transmission took six months, and when Russ finally obtained one he had it overhauled by a specialist in US cars of the Galaxie’s era. Once it was reinstalled he could finally have the new twin exhaust system fitted.

Russ hadn’t intended to build a show car. He had wanted the Galaxie to be as close as possible to its new condition, but it was to be regularly enjoyed on the road, too. Russ estimates that he could have spent a further $6,000 on the car, but decided it had reached a standard that satisfied him. The time Russ spent and the skills he applied on the restoration saved many thousands on outlays.

Hood down on a sunny day with a few friends on a lovely autumn afternoon, we glided along in almost complete silence, apart from an occasional soft V8 burble from the exhaust as Russ accelerated. It was quite evident that for Russ and Carole the six-year restoration had been worth the effort. I’m sure they’re going to enjoy many Galactic adventures.

Ross McGown (condensed from his excellent articles
in Australian Classic Car, May-July 2003)

Source : “The Bayside Vehicle Restorers Club Inc. Magazine”