Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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TEQUILA STARBURST – MAL SEILER 1964 FORD GALAXIE

When self-confessed gear head Mal Seiler set his automotive sights on a new target, he aimed straight and bagged a beauty almost immediately he chose his prey. “I was looking for a toy to play with and didn’t want a Mustang or Corvette, or even a Shoebox. Seems just about everyone has done at least one of those,” he explains with a muted scoff. “It was while I was attending Wintersun at Coolangatta that I saw this Galaxie cruise by sitting real low in black paint. I really liked the roofline and thought…‘that’s it’.”

Not long after that inspiring apparition drove into the distance, Mal paid a visit to his friend Phil at Chevy Thunder who often had desirable American autos for sale. “We walked around the corner of his shed and there it was. A bit messy I might add, but there. An original car in original paint with no rust! What more could you ask for?”

When Mal investigated his new purchase he discovered that the 302-powered Galaxie was actually a Z code car that would have left the factory with a 4bbl 390 big block. Excited by what he had unearthed, his original plans to rat rod it and put it on the road ASAP got tossed out the window and set Mal on a seven year treasure hunt to amass all the missing pieces for a complete rebuild. During that long hiatus, life marched on and Mal met his now better half Ang, who wasn’t so committed to the unfamiliar project at first and even less patient!

“We were looking on the internet to see what was out there that we could drive for now and make a little cash on later and this 1965 Chev popped up,” Ang explains; “In Milwaukie!” Although Mal had sourced many of his parts from the land of Stars and Stripes with 85% of his inventory NOS (new old stock), this would be his maiden attempt at importing a complete vehicle. After viewing all the images of the big bowtie they took the punt and hit enter! Apprehensive by constant horror stories surrounding dodgey imports, the couple were more than relieved when it arrived in much better shape than expected. 

With the Chev providing a set of cool wheels to tool around in, Mal got focused and reengaged project ’64 with renewed vigour. The body was separated from its chassis and stripped of its aging paint while on a rotisserie, panel beaten where necessary and resprayed in Electric Orange borrowed from the Ford Focus colour chart. Feeling the end was in sight, Mal dove into his major collection of hoarded parts and retrieved the 557 cube big block mill he’d also found in the USA to rightfully fill the engine bay. 

As the project neared completion, a modification to the already painted fuel tank lead Mal to Pat’s Pro Resto’s to repaint it after the surgery. “His paint finish put the rest of the car to shame,” Mal confesses. He also noticed that the home applied paint work on the body was suffering from humidity blisters so he made the huge decision to strip the large shell one more time and have Pat and his crew lay down a professional finish of Glasurit two-pack clear over base. 

“After the boys painted, it we had just sold our transport business and hadn’t really had a holiday for seven years. After planning our holiday we left the Galaxie in Pat’s care with instructions to fit anything that he could while we were away.”

Mal’s downtime from work allowed him freedom to spend time at the shop and be completely involved in the build for about six months, where he developed a strong relationship with the Pro Resto crew. “They would ask me if I could get a certain part and if I couldn’t, Drew would fabricate it,” he recalls. “It evolved (the car). We shaved the boot trim and Galaxie script and we considered de-chroming it but the decision was to keep most of the original trim to break up the vibrant paint finish.”

Drag racing fans will immediately recognise the Thunderbolt hood scoop, native to factory experimental 427 Fairlanes and lightweight Galaxies built in 1964. Mal wanted to incorporate one into his own project for visual and functional reasons and to honour the big Ford’s race heritage.

“I went and saw Col Chapman who is always up for a challenge and he created one in steel. I bought a fibreglass Thunderbolt hood from Dearborn Classics, which he used as a guide to replicate it out of seven different pieces of steel. He then welded it all together into one piece and lead wiped it into the original hood. There is nothing that Col can’t do with sheet metal! Some people call it the million-dollar bonnet but it didn’t really cost that much. It’s honestly a work of art.”

The 460-come-557 cubic inch motor was first put together in Nevada but Mal was feeling uneasy about the competence of the builder, so he had it torn down locally at TOCA performance for a closer inspection. Mal’s hunch was correct and the big block Ford had a bent intake valve and a scored bore, presumably from its dyno testing abroad. It was stripped and rebuilt with tricked up Edelbrock RPM alloy heads, an Eagle forged crank and H beam rods. Fuel delivery is via a Barry Grant 1000 CFM Race Demon carby perched on an Edelbrock intake. After Tony rectified the engine woes it was shipped to Hervey Bay for a run on a trusted dyno where it produced 585 HP at 6,000 rpm and monstrous 650 ft/lbs of torque.

Mal dropped the C6 auto off to Precise Automatics where Neil reversed the shift pattern to a full manual arrangement an added a 2,800 stall converter. Meanwhile Race Products in Brisbane pieced together a bullet proof nine inch using chrome moly tubes, full floating hubs and 35 spline axles either side of an Extreme Driveline centre with Detroit Locker centre. A triangulated four bar keeps it all between the rails and is fully adjustable at the touch of the Air Ride remote. 

Setting the stance the front end utilises original upper and lower control arms with dual adjustable Shock Wave air bags fitted by Mal and Pat. He also informed me that the self-levelling Air Ride system designed specifically for the Galaxie is the first one that has been engineer approved for full rego in Queensland. Although actual driving miles have been very limited as this story was written, Mal was more than satisfied with the outcome stating that you can still put your arms around the tail shaft at its lowest setting and it didn’t even need to be tubbed for the rear wheels.

As one could imagine with all that mojo under the hood a decent braking system was in order and Linton Nitshke was contacted to make all the brake lines in stainless steel which connect to a purpose built front brake kit from Hoppers Stoppers. “I believe it was one of the first kits they developed for this particular vehicle,” Mal adds. Local production car rear binders and rotors are in place at the moment but plans to upgrade are already in place. Activating the four wheels discs brings a MBM billet master cylinder into play backed by a chrome MBM booster that’s polished to perfection.

Plans for inside the big hardtop was to preserve the stock standard 1964 factory interior prompting Mal to hunt down and purchase two sets of front bucket seats, a couple of rear seats, original door handles and window winders. Ang jokes that he ended up with near on three sets of everything. But back in 1964 the most seat adjustment available was back and forth. Pat showed them a pair of CVO Monaro buckets that he had fitted to a ’57 Chevy complete with all their electrics and comfort. He also, just so happened to know where a pair was.

With the new seating approved ideas of resurrecting the stock interior were well and truly thrown out the window and the modern replacements were sectioned through the upright to bring the headrest down to a more acceptable level for an old car. The back seat started out as a couple of buckets, split and widened to suit the space. The new centre console and rear seat divider was hand fabricated by Drew and colour matched to the exterior bringing the outside pigment indoors. Deleting the original padded crash pad further enhances the colour explosion and gave unlimited opportunities for dash refinement. 

“I had a mate that’s a trimmer who had the gig until Pat showed me Elite Interior’s work and it blew me away. It was more expensive to have it done so far away from home but the result is second to none.” Chris Bakker of Elite Interiors was given full rein to create one of his finest interiors that is stunning and perfectly captures the individuality that its owners were seeking. “We told him what we wanted and sometimes he would ponder on that idea for a week, draw something up and then just bin it and start again. Together with Pat, we all had our input and through modern technology we could communicate visually about the design and come to an agreement.”  

Mal recalls that the boot motif was a spur of the moment thing that Chris designed to lift that area of the interior. The inside door trim was mimicked off a 1956 Victoria that Mal found in a book after not being convinced of the design that was proposed. The diamond seat medallions that manifested after a discussion with the boys culminating in that the Galaxy needed stars. Drew penned the original design but Mal wanted his diamond shape to have a long tail. The shape was cut from stainless steel, polished and delivered to Chris for inclusion into the seat cover.

Mal fondly remembers that the lunch table generated a host of discussions and ideas for the car and it became a melting pot of creativity that they could bounce off each other. Without that collective input, he confesses that it never would have turned out that way that it did and he is very grateful to have been included. 

Mal was also hands on with the wiring that connects a plethora of power-operated components like the 7.1” touch screen stereo. Although powerful, the Pioneer amp and speaker package have a tough job competing with the beautiful note of a big block at full song. Power windows are a product from New Relic in the states that bolted directly into the factory holes when fitted by Mal and Pat. Drew made the custom drop for the Flaming River collapsible column and Lokar got the nod for the spiffy pedals. There was some conjecture over the trim colour and Ang called in Pat’s wife for back up and together they outvoted the four guys. “How does that happen?” Mal queries with a bemused smile. 

In the end when the eight hides arrived they were two shades darker than what was chosen and leaned more towards his liking, but now Mal wouldn’t have it any other way as the entire car turned out much better then they both expected. 

Car shows were never in the picture but as things snowballed with Pat’s influence and assistance Mal and Ang pushed the completion date to debut at Melbourne’s inaugural staging of Meguiars MotorEx. The enthusiastic couple were overjoyed just to participate, along with most of the Pro Resto crew, but to be bestowed with Bronze for interior was a nice reward for the hard work invested. 

Other than this photoshoot Mal’s first real time behind the wheel was cruising to Harrigan’s Rod and Custom Show where the purpose built driver took home top car of show amongst a quality field. From a potential beater to the beauty of the ball this Galaxy is a real star.

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #170

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