FEBRUARY 2024: 1961 FORD GALAXIE—A CONTROVERSY LURKS UNDER THE HOOD

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The general rule of thumb in the car hobby is ‘Ford in Ford’, ‘Chevy in Chevy’, and ‘Mopar in Mopar’.

There are many exceptions to the rule, but in general, car guys are fiercely loyal to their brand so what’s under the hood is important to the package.

This 1961 Ford Galaxie has a big surprise lurking under the hood.

Jerry Sutherland

Barry Lutz is the proud owner of this ’61 Ford. Barry has built and raced everything under the sun, so he’s seen every possible combination of engine and car. He’s a practical, make-it-fit guy so when this big Ford entered his world, he was wide open for options between the front wheels.

The Ford was very solid, but it did have a few rust holes in the floor pans after years of outside storage. Barry took care of that—then he had to decide where to go engine-wise. He had a 440 Chrysler big-block plus he thought the Ford C-6 transmission couldn’t handle the amount of power he wanted to generate with a Ford block.

Barry operates on the 1.25 horsepower per cubic inch principle when he builds an engine, so he thought he’d go with the bored-out 520 cubic inch Mopar and back it up with a 727 Torqueflite. He did some measuring and found out if he built an FMX Ford transmission to handle a built Ford engine, he would have to really carve the floor in the ’61 Galaxie.

The solution came in the form of a donor front clip from a 1976 Chrysler New Yorker. After that, a 518 overdrive Torqueflite was lighter and smaller, and it came out of a donor 1-ton Dodge. Barry went directly to an aftermarket fuel injection system—a decision he highly endorses.

The response time with the EFI is instant and Barry believes he’ll get decent gas mileage–plus he’s not washing gas down the newly built big block at startup.

The Chrysler front clip meant the wheelbase had to be lengthened 1 inch to 120 inches from the stock Ford 119-inch wheelbase to accommodate the bigger wheels. Barry explained how Ford went with small wheels to fit inside the crowded wheel well, so the bigger wheels tuck in like they were a factory fit.

Barry installed a ’64 Ford Galaxie interior. The front seats weren’t a problem, but the rear shelf was another story because the shelf on a ’64 Galaxie with a fastback roof is a lot bigger than a ’61 Ford square-roof two-door hardtop. He liked the outcome, but Barry wasn’t sold on the hours required to fit the new seats into his Galaxie.

Barry also made the Challenger-like hood scoop because he wanted to be upfront about what’s under the hood. Despite his effort to soothe the feelings of Ford guys, Barry doesn’t get much buy-in from the Ford guys. In fact, he doesn’t even get any buy-in from Chevy guys or Mopar guys.

Barry explained how it played out: “The Ford guys are mad because it’s not a Ford, the Chevy guys are mad because I didn’t use a Ford and the Mopar guys are mad because I put a Ford in a Mopar”.  He’s going to get a plaque that reads, “Henry Ford designed it, Louis Chevrolet offered to help and Walter Chrysler fixed it”. 

He doesn’t care. Barry built a driver—not a show car so his mission is to drive the wheels off the Ford and do it in the fast lane. The EFI is a charm to run, and the car’s overdrive kicks the rpms down to 2400 rpm at 70 miles per hour, so he’s expecting decent mileage too.

That’s why he built this car—it’s a driver because Barry hates trailer queens.   

Jerry Sutherland

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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