This story was originally published in the January 2015 issue of Street Machine magazine
MAL Seiler went to Wintersun in 2007 on a mission. A lifelong car nut, he was looking for a new project, only he felt he wouldn’t know what it was until he saw it, and time was running out. “I wanted something different that you don’t see at every car show or everywhere on the street,” he says. “On the last day, I saw a black ’64 Ford Galaxie two-door hardtop. It had the low roof and sat just right. So I thought I’d go on a hunt for one.
“I called into Chevy Thunder on the way back to Brisbane and said to Phil Woodbridge: ‘You wouldn’t have a ’64 two-door Galaxie sitting around?’ He said: ‘Come with me!’ He had a ’64 hardtop sitting in his shed. It was all original, no rust or crash damage apart from the usual parking dents.”
Mal’s first idea was to throw in a new engine and gearbox for a quick transformation into a rat rod, but he soon thought better of it. He contemplated restoring it for a while before settling on building a tough street car. With the Gal having come with a non-original motor and gearbox, the opportunity was there to build something special.
Mal stripped the car at home and built a rotisserie to prepare the body while he had the chassis sandblasted and two-packed. He then set about sourcing the parts he needed from the US, including the engine.
“It was always going to be a 460 big-block Ford,” Mal says. “I looked at all the combinations and one of the biggest at the time was a 557ci stroker. I didn’t want a supercharger or turbos, just a normally aspirated engine with a big carby on top. I wanted to keep the engine bay simple. Big cubes, big power, big torque.”
The engine was commissioned with all the top brands in its innards at a very competitive price and dynoed before being shipped to Australia. Even so, Mal took it over to Tony at Toca Performance before fitting it.
On tearing the motor down, Tony discovered a bent valve and scored bearings, which didn’t faze Mal as much as it might have us. “The engine was cheap for what it was,” he says, “and it had all the good stuff,” including Eagle forged crank and H-beam rods, Probe forged pistons with Total Seal rings and a Ruben custom-ground camshaft. Comp Cams hydraulic lifters, roller rockers and valve springs operate Ferrea valves in Edelbrock Performer RPM cylinder heads. The donk is crowned by a ginormous 1000cfm Barry Grant Race Demon four-barrel, sitting on an Edelbrock Air Gap manifold.
The rebuild was entrusted to Toca Performance, as Mal figured the bloke responsible for Australia’s fastest True Street car would know their way around a tough street motor. “Tony is a master at what he does. He was just the ticket to build the right engine.”
Mal took the same approach to selecting the transmission, relying on local workshops with proven race credentials: Precise Automatics for the full-manual, reverse-pattern C6 auto, and Race Products for a tough nine-inch boasting an aluminium housing, Moser nodular iron centre, 35-spline axles and floating hubs. The tailshaft was custom-made from from thick-wall, three-inch chrome-moly tubing. With 585hp and 650lb-ft to transfer to the rear wheels, Mal wasn’t taking any chances!
When it came to the body, Mal knew exactly what he wanted. “The plan was to paint the car Ford Focus Electric Orange as soon as I saw the colour,” he says. “I decided on this car because I liked the shape, and for that reason the body has stayed essentially stock.” This extends to the exterior trim, but not the bonnet, which is topped by a Ford Thunderbolt-style scoop to reflect the coupe’s racing heritage. “We imported a fibreglass scoop and then Col Chapman replicated it in steel. He is a master of his craft, like everyone who worked on the car.”
Seven years into the build, Mal took the now-painted Galaxie to Patrick O’Shea at Pat’s Pro Restos in Beaudesert for a fuel tank mod. It was to be a pivotal moment.
“We had to put a sump in the fuel tank and thought we’d give Pat a go,” Mal says. “When it was done, he repainted the tank in Glasurit. We looked at the tank, we looked at the rest of the car and we could see the difference.” He had learned his lesson: “I used cheap paint first time around. Don’t go with the cheap alternative or you’ll be doing it again.”
Pat’s Pro Restos did such a good job on the fuel tank that Mal entrusted them to strip, prepare and repaint the Galaxie, and then assemble it in their workshop to an elite show car standard, with plenty of hands-on input from Mal. “I spent so much time at Pat’s, my missus thought I was having an affair,” he says. “Going with Pat and his team was the best decision we could have made. Without their expertise and knowledge, we would not have the fantastic finish to every aspect of the car that we have.”
With the bar raised, plans to re-trim the stock interior were radically upscaled. The centre console running through to the rear was Mal’s idea, and was designed and fabricated by Drew from PPR and painted by Pat himself, while Chris Bakker Elite Interiors sorted the two-tone caramel and cream leather trim. Seats are VZ Monaro front and rear, their comfort accentuated by Vintage Air, Pioneer sound and fast glass by Nu-Relics.
The Gal gets its sexy stance from Air Ride Shockwave airbags riding on modified front suspension arms up front and an Air Ride adjustable four-link down back. A Flaming River rack-and-pinion sharpens up the steering, and the big ol’ bus stops on tuppence with PBR calipers gripping DBA rotors at the working end and AU Falcon discs in the bum.
The Galaxie debuted at MotorEx Melbourne 2014, where it picked up third place for its interior, then went on to win Car Of The Show at the Harrigan’s Hot Rod & Custom Car Show in Calypso Bay.
“The car has exceeded our expectations inside and out,” Mal says. “We didn’t start the project as a show car. It was just going to be a cruiser.” And that’s exactly what it will be once it’s done the rounds of the elite halls.
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Street Machine is the bible of Aussie modified auto culture, celebrating wild muscle cars, customs and hot rods – and the incredible humans who create them.
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