Surviving three earthquakes during the build, Paul Williams's monster Ford XL500 Galaxie packs a super-rare GT40 Le Mans-spec Holman Moody 427ci side oiler - and 650hp
This article was originally published in the September 2012 issue of Street Machine
SOMETIMES you see a car and you just have to have it. That’s the way it was for Paul Williams when he first laid eyes on this big ol’ ’62 Galaxie hardtop.
“A good friend brought his Galaxie around and I didn’t want him to leave with it,” Paul explains. But leave he did. However, a few months later he managed to pry the keys from his mate’s hands.
A native of Christchurch, New Zealand, Paul has been tinkering with cars of various makes and models since he was a lad, but something about the Galaxie got him all fired up.
Nicknamed Pedro — he’s not sure why his mate called it that — the XL500 Galaxie was white and sported lakes pipes, along with a few dents and a little rust but it was exactly what he wanted.
He wanted to give it that race car look so he plastered it with stickers, added a Thunderbolt-style scoop and some smoothie wheels. With a Z-code 390ci four-barrel engine under the bonnet it had a bit of grunt to match the style.
“I installed the biggest, lumpiest cam I could,” Paul says. But he still wasn’t happy with it. “I wanted a show car to go drag racing. It seemed like the right thing to do.”
Being in Christchurch, they didn’t have the easiest time building this car. “We’ve had three big earthquakes during the building of this car. My garage is half a metre from where it used to be!” That meant he had to build some temporary accommodation for the car before he could get into finishing the Galaxie off.
He started with the driveline, tearing out the leaf-sprung rear end and installing a brand new five-link wrapped around a 31-spline limited slip nine-inch diff.
Just like here in Oz, not everything Paul needed was waiting on speed shop shelves so he hit the internet for most of his go-fast parts.
“Man, you can get hooked on buying good shit online. I became NZ Customs’ best client!”
He brought in a heavy duty C6 transmission from the US because he was planning on buying an all-alloy 511ci FE engine to go up front.
“There’s no use putting a big-block in front of light parts,” he said.
But that all changed when he discovered the world-famous Holman Moody workshop was still building cars and engines. The idea of having a genuine Holman Moody big-block up front was just too good to refuse.
“I was straight onto the phone asking if they could build me a 427 side oiler,” Paul said.
“They only had two blocks left from the Ford race factory in 1967. When talking to Lee Holman [son of the famous John Holman] about my car and what I was planning to do, he said they would like to help.”
While an all-alloy big-block would have been cool, it’s easily aced by an original race block in a classic ride. But giving the whole deal an antarctic chill, his engine was to be built by John Tucker, the same man who built the winning 427s for the original GT40 Le Mans cars.
“John told me that back then, they used to go to the foundry and sand back the plugs to thicken the block where needed,” Paul says.
The engine took four months to build as parts had to be custom-made by other suppliers. The idea was to create a Le Mans-spec engine with a few concessions to streetability. For example, instead of using one massive carby like the race engines, this donk runs two smaller four-barrels, alloy Blue Thunder heads and a shorter lift cam.
Paul and his wife Alex actually flew over to see it run on the hot bench. Wouldn’t you?
“I was very nervous at this stage because I’d sent them a lot of money,” Paul says. But it was all good and the engine punched out 650hp.
“After a trip around the US, we flew home almost literally sitting on top of the engine — it was down in the cargo hold.” While all this was happening, the shell was undergoing a total rebuild with a back-to-metal resto at the hands of Dave Hunt from Phataz Bodyworks in Christchurch. Rust and damage repairs were just a small part of the to-do list.
“I wanted something different. The concept was to make it wide and low,” Paul says.
To that end, he had the roof chopped two inches and then they laid the rear windscreen forward to give the Galaxie more of a fastback look and feel.
Throw in a flat firewall, a custom steel Thunderbolt hood and a whole bunch of smoothed metal work, and you’ve got a killer Gal.
Shane Jamison, also in Christchurch, applied the paint. It’s a custom PPG mix called Liquid Crystal Black Turquoise and depending on the light it can look black, blue or dark green.
“It took eight months to build from the ground up and it’s come out quite nice,” Paul says.
He also loves the fact that it shares the same engine as the GT40 that powered its way to a Le Mans 24 Hour victory in 1966, a victory won by New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon, who shared driving duties. It was the first of four straight wins for the GT40 during the great Ferrari-Ford track war.
“That’s a great bit of New Zealand history; it’s nice to have a piece of it.”
And he’s adding to it. Unleashing that Holman Moody 427 on the strip had the 4000lb (1825kg) beast reel off a 12.8sec pass at 108mph, running Hoosier Quicktime street ’n’ strip rubber.
That’s a decently rapid run for a big lump of iron, yet it loses nothing as a street car, which is just the way Paul likes it.
“I detuned it so I can drive it like an old lady,” he jokes. “It’s a driving car.”
Click on the image below to go to the video of Paul's Gal at the Muscle Car Madness car show in NZ