Al Van Houdt's 1966 LTD

My Story

Picked up my first Galaxie when I was in the Air Force. I got a white'66 Galaxie 500 4 door with a 352 for $600. 1 loved that car. Lots of power and started no matter how cold those North Dakota winters got.

After two years I ended up buying a white 1971 Ford van and sold the Galaxie to my little brother. I never forgot how much I liked that car and regretted selling it. In 1996, 1 started the search to buy another'66. This time it was going to be the nicest Galaxie in town.

I never found that magic Galaxie, so in 1998 1 decided to buy a project car and build one. It's been a lot of work and many times I've regretted not buying a restored car, but nothing brings you closer to a car than putting it together piece by piece.

It was a 1966 LTD 2 door hardtop out of Spokane, WA. The original owner had died and the car sat for six years before the widow asked her brother to sell it for her. They had the original window sticker ($4277.94) and owners manual in the glove compartment. Turns out the owner bought two LTDs that day. A four-door sedan for his wife and a two-door hardtop for himself.

It was much nicer than my original sedan. It was Vintage Burgundy with a black vinyl top. Under the hood it had a fresh 390, 4V with PS, PB, C6 AT, and AC. It had the cast grille, remote control mirror, cloth seats and AM radio with front to rear fader. It had been in a fender bender, but repaired and repainted. They couldn't find the chrome on the trunk lid so they left it off. The interior was pretty fair, but the seats were sun bleached on top. The bumpers were straight, but rusting. Almost all of the chrome was in excellent condition as it had been garage kept.

Being a rookie at restoring cars, I figured I could fix this thing up for a couple thousand, so I bought it for four thousand. The drive, home was uneventful, but the car was severely underpowered. The engine had recently been rebuilt so I suspected carburetion or the ignition.

Rather than trying to rebuild the carb, I got a rebuilt Autolite 4100 out of Pony Carbs. It helped, but was not the answer. On a trip to Montana, the distributor froze and I ended up replacing the distributor and converting it into electronic ignition. That helped, but it was still not running right. I finally did a compression check and found out the heads were bad. They were so bad it was going to cost me $750 to rebuild them. I ended up putting a set of '64 heads on for $500 including resurfacing the exhaust manifolds and now it runs great !!! Feels like I added 50 more horsepower.

The interior was another problem. It smelled bad and would not go away. I decided I couldn't live with the cracks in the dash so I tore it out and had it restored at Just Dashes. I found two mouse nests in the process. While cruising down the road with the windows down at 90 mph, the headliner suddenly dropped on my head and I found another mouse nest. The guy who replaced the headliner said the same thing happened to him. Turns out that the pressure builds up in your trunk, goes up your pillars and pushes down on your headliner. I had him fill my pillars with foam to prevent that from happening again.

While he was at it, I asked him to repair the upholstery. The cloth was too old to repair and fell apart. $1000 later I had the cloth seats replaced with the same cloth and pattern. Looks perfectly stock. I took before and after pictures and can't tell the difference. The AM radio wouldn't do as I like to go to the drive-in movies and they broadcast in FM. Couldn't find an AM/FM radio so I added one of those converters inside my original AM radio. Works great.

I also like CD quality music so I took out the one speaker in the package tray and replaced it with two speakers with original speaker grilles. I covered the package tray in matching vinyl and it looks perfectly stock. I hid two more speakers inside the fresh air vents in front and the CD changer under the spare tire in the trunk. The control panel for the CD changer folds down from underneath the dash when in use. No one even suspects that I have anything more than an AM radio.

I had the bumpers rechromed and replaced the missing chrome on the trunk lid. Now all I needed was all new ball joints, springs, shocks, tires and wheels. Couldn't resist putting on Cragars. Other than the chrome wheels, everything else looks bone stock. Don't know how, but the hubcaps that were on the car looked like 1965 vintage.

The tranny was feeling a little sloppy, even the shifter would flop around. Turns out the hole in the housing where the shifter goes in was worn out. I had to replace the housing and rebuild the tranny. At least I got all the upgrades for the C6 put into it, including a shift kit. Had to replace the arm rests as the mice had chewed holes in them and then got the plastic pieces rechromed as well. The clock quit working so I had it converted to a quartz movement. The mufflers were shot so I replaced them with Flowmasters and now its so quiet you can hardly hear it run. How does that ad go? "Quiet power moving quickly or quick power moving quietly"

One year of work and $10,000 later, I'm very nearly done. Seems like I've reached the end of my journey. Not much left to do except enjoy it. Now I'm into collecting '66 Galaxie paraphernalia like old magazines, sales brochures, paint chip sheets, illustrated facts & features brochures, etc... Been to a couple shows, but I don't care to compare my car with the chrome queens. I just like sifting around talking Galaxie talk.

Al Van Houdt

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