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Classics This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street/Strip Car in the 1960s and Still Cruises Woodward Today—with its Original Owner!

23:56  07 february  2018
23:56  07 february  2018 Source:   hotrod.com

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Feature on 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner with day - two modifications. Tom is one of Woodward ’s original cruisers, raised in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, which remains a central cruise spot during the summer months and during the annual Woodward Dream Cruise .

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner ! Car Craft Summer Nationals 2017: Pro Builder Announcement Muscle Car Restorations 1964 Ford Galaxie XL500.

There was an automotive hierarchy on Woodward Avenue back in the 1960s. As the cruisers meandered between hot spots such as the Big Town, Maverick's, and Ted's drive-ins, where the hot cars gathered, to the Big Boy, where the girls were, there was a high-performance caste system that everyone understood.

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This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

"There were guys with regular cars out there, looking to meet girls, and there were guys with pretty hot cars who were interested in the car scene," says Tom Sawyer (yes, that's his real name). "And then there was the upper echelon of cars, the ones driven by factory guys and from the dealerships. They were on another level. We knew who they were, but we didn't mess with them, and they didn't mix with us, but we were all there on Woodward."

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Tom is one of Woodward's original cruisers, raised in the Detroit suburb of Birmingham, which remains a central cruise spot during the summer months and during the annual Woodward Dream Cruise. From the late 1950s through late 1960s, he was a fixture on the Avenue, hitting all the neon-lit sites that have since been replaced with soulless strip malls and industrial parks.

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This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

He did it mostly in a 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner he purchased new. Five decades later, he's back on Woodward in the very same car. He has owned it the entire time, although it spent more than 40 years in hibernation in a northern Michigan barn.

"I was 20 years old when I bought the car, but nobody would lend a kid my age the $2,800 to purchase it, so my dad had to sign for it," says Tom. "A couple years later, he signed it over to me, officially selling it to me for $1."

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Despite a penchant for performance, Tom ordered a loaded, comparatively heavy convertible. Actually, his father, a Ford employee, did the official ordering, on the company's A Plan. Bypassing the dealership made delivery a formality that took place at a Ford tractor outlet in Birmingham, which was razed long ago and is now populated by condos.

Tom's Sunliner was built at the cusp of the factory horsepower movement, with most power parts offered over the counter rather than in a specific model. Tom's car, however, was ordered with the high-performance package that included a four-barrel-fed 390 engine rated at 375 hp, heavy-duty brakes and suspension, 15-inch wheels, and electric wipers. Tom ordered the optional column-shift three-speed manual with overdrive. Stout stuff, no question about it, but it would be another year before Ford would offer the truly high-po 406 engines and a four-speed transmission.

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This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

As a stopgap measure, Ford offered a 6V, 3x2 induction system over the counter in 1961. It raised the 390's output to 401 hp, which was just four horses shy of the legendary 406's 405hp rating with a similar induction system. Tom drove his Sunliner for about a year, including banging off some mid-14-second e.t. 's at Detroit Dragway, before forking over more than a few of his hard-earned dollars for the performance promise of the triple-carb setup. He installed it himself, too.

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Muscle Car Review Featured. This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

"It all came in a box," he says. "Like everything mechanical back then, it was a pretty simple installation. You just pulled off the factory intake, laid down a new manifold gasket, and installed the new intake."

Well, there was a little more to it than that. For one thing, Ford reversed the position of the Holley two-barrels on the manifold, ostensibly to prevent interference issues with the distributor. That required a more complicated linkage that crossed over to the right-hand side of the manifold to connect with the carbs' throttles.

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"Rather than vacuum-assist, like the Pontiac Tri-power, the Ford setup was an entirely mechanical linkage," says Tom. "You needed a ruler to measure the adjustable linkage rods, but after they were set and tightened, you basically never needed to touch it again, unlike the Pontiac system. I haven't touched the linkage on mine since we restored the car back in 2011."

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Related Articles. Muscle Car Review Featured. This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

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Back in the day, the "backwards" position of the carburetors reportedly caused stalling or fuel starvation on hard stops because the fuel bowls were reversed. But Tom says he's never encountered the problem, then or now.

The same year he installed the 3x2 setup, Tom also replaced the original column-shift mechanism with a sturdy Hurst stick.

"The column shift was clumsy, was hard to power-shift, and the linkage broke often," he says. "Installing the Hurst shifter made a world of difference. Like the intake setup, I installed it myself, which included cutting a hole in the floor and getting the linkage rods set just so, but it's been banging off the gears in the car now for more than 55 years."

Curiously, Tom never swapped in a four-speed, preferring to stick with the original BorgWarner three-speed overdrive, the design of which dates back to the 1930s. It's an electrically operated system with a dashboard control that engages OD or locks it out. Even when engaged, a throttle-activated switch on the firewall disengages it at wide-open throttle.

"It still works great after all these years, and it really comes in handy on the freeway," says Tom. "At 65 mph, the engine is only turning about 2,800 rpm, and that's with a 4.11 rearend, which is what the car originally came with."

In the early years, Tom ran a 4.71 gear on the street, which really helped launch the S.S. Sunliner, but pretty much limited its practical top speed to 55 or 60 mph.

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"That's just what everybody did back then," he says. "It's no wonder so many people blew up so many engines."

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This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

This 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner Convertible was a Day Two Street / Strip Car in the 1960 s and Still Cruises Woodward Today — with its Original Owner !

Tom cruised and engaged in the occasional backroad challenge until about 1967, when he parked the car in a barn on some property he'd purchased in northern Michigan. Although he didn't intend a museum-type preservation, the covers he used did a remarkable job of keeping the elements and critters at bay. He wasn't even sure he was going to keep the car when he pulled it out of suspended animation in 2011, but his wife Judy (no, he didn't marry a girl named Becky Thatcher) urged him to keep it.

Rust in the car was blessedly minor for an early-1960s Michigan car, but Tom had accumulated a number of N.O.S. parts through the 1970s, including front fenders and rear quarters. The door skins and other sheetmetal, such as the decklid and hood, were in great shape and were retained before five coats of paint replicating the original Monte Carlo Red were sprayed on the carefully block-sanded flanks.

The original steel wheels were painted, too, and as time passed they have become treasures in their own right. The reinforced 15x5.5 wheels from Kelsey Hayes are what Ford installed on its higher-performance models, but with the production numbers so low—and the fact a good many of them were dumped for being boring, heavy steel rims—precious few survive. The dog dish hubcaps were mandatory, too, because Ford didn't have a full wheel cover for 15-inch rims.

"We called those hubcaps 'dimes' back then," says Tom. "I don't know why. Probably because of their resemblance to the coin, but that's what we called them."

The rest of the car received more of a cosmetic refurbishment, as Tom sought to retain as much of the car's originality as possible. That includes the red-and-white interior, which features the original carpet, sill plates, and upholstery. Some of the original red paint is wearing off the steering wheel, but it simply enhances the car's authenticity. And before any of you Ford concours nuts sends us a note to tell us the interior door handles are backwards in the photos, Tom knows. He reversed them more than 50 years ago.

"You always had wise guys doing stupid stuff in the parking lots," he says. "One of them was reaching down and opening doors for no reason. Flipping the handles over prevented that."

There aren't too many jokers like that anymore on Woodward, and there certainly aren't too many owners whose stories with their car date back to 1961, but Tom Sawyer is assuredly a Woodward original.

At a Glance

1961 Galaxie Sunliner convertible

Owned by: Tom Sawyer

Restored by: Owner

Engine: 390ci/401hp V-8

Transmission: BorgWarner T85 3-speed manual with overdrive

Rearend: 9-inch with 4.11 gears and limited-slip differential

Interior: Red and white vinyl bench seat

Wheels: 15x5.5 Kelsey Hayes steel with hubcaps

Tires: P215/75R15 BFGoodrich Silvertown Radial

Special parts: Dealer-ordered 3x2 induction system, vintage Hurst shifter

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