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Project Mud Bomber Part 2: The Trials And Tribulations Of Owning A Car That Sat For Decades


Project Mud Bomber Part 2: The Trials And Tribulations Of Owning A Car That Sat For Decades

(Words and Photos by Scott Liggett) In this second installment I continue working on my new project ’64 Galaxie 500 2 door sedan. This farm yard derelict sat for about 34 or 35 years. I spent a couple evenings out in the cold last winter, right where I first looked at the car, trying to get it to run for more than a minute. Then I came to my senses. We had a somewhat warm garage right in my backyard, with lights, and tools, and beer. So, I used my AAA card to get it towed the 3 miles home. “Yes, ma’am. My car broke down and I need a tow.” The tow truck driver looked at me like I was crazy after seeing those million year old tires on the car. “Dude, you drive on those things?” I managed a meek smile. He then just shrugged and started loading the filthy old car. He had obviously seen way more crazy than me.

20 minutes later that same tow truck driver dumped the Galaxie in the middle of the alley by my garage. He waved and drove away, leaving me to try to figure out how to move it from there. After an hour of trying to get it to run long enough to get it in the garage by myself, I had only managed to turned the car 90 degrees, at least facing the open the garage door. But, I was now blocking the entire alley. I used all the gas I had in gas cans and killed the new battery I bought for the car, plus the one in my truck that I needed to drive to work the next morning. I finally called in a few friends to help me push the big boat the rest of the way into the garage. My buddis John McHarness and Josh Sikes showed in quick time. We enlisted Josh’s daughter, Elizabeth, to steer while we pushed. It was much harder to push that Galaxie into the garage than it should have been. It was like one of the brakes was rusty and near frozen solid. 10 minutes later it was in the garage with Josh, John, and I were breathing heavy and Elizabeth was laughing at us.

If you have never worked on a car that has sat for several years, there are a few things you can pretty much can count on that would need replacing before you try to drive the car again. You can pretty much count on the brakes needing the master cylinder, wheel cylinders, calipers and rubber brake lines. If you live in the rust belt, those steel brake lines will probably need replacing as well. That is where I started.

Thankfully, Carson replaced the master cylinder already and did his own kind of brake stop. All cool and all, but as someone who has driven a car where the brake pedal hit the floor like it wasn’t attached to anything, I have no wish to experience that again. I went to the parts and ordered up brake hoses, wheel cylinders, and brake shoes.

When I put the car safely up on jack stands and took the wheels off, I slammed the hood shut. That is when I heard a thud from the passenger side of the car. Going to look, this is when I noticed a big dirt clod lying under the passenger door. Opening and closing the door produced more dirt falling on the floor.

Since I was waiting a couple days for the parts to come in, I crawled under the car with a screw driver to see what kind of dirt this car was hiding. it was pretty obvious that this car spent a lot of time on roads that weren’t paved. With the amount of dents in the oil pan, trans cross member, exhaust and frame, it appears it wasn’t not driven gingerly on that kind terrain. That was not anything compared to what I found crammed between the trans tunnel and the transmission. The cavity was solid mud and grease. As I followed the petrified muck up the bellhousing to the back of the block and the back of the intake. I have seen leaky intakes, but this one wins the prize. The Exxon Valdez didn’t leak this much. I spent about an hour chipping away at the mess with my screwdriver to get this pile. It was only the beginning.

When I pulled front drums off, everything looked pretty good. There was some rust behind the rubber seals on the wheel cylinders, but I was replacing them anyways. The old shoes and hardware looked really good. But, I replaced the shoes anyways. I pulled the brakes down the backing plates to get rid all the dirt, dust and rust.

The last thing I did was replace the hoses up front. Weird thing, hoses for a 1964 Galaxie would not work. I had to get 1965 Galaxie hoses. The build date on this car was May 4th, 1964. Since most car companies starting building the next model year of vehicle around June to get them in the dealers by September or October, it is possible the parts bins for the last months of the 1964 model year had some 1965 stuff in them.

Next up was the rear brakes. The old Ford had coil over “helper” shocks that used instead of replacing the worn out rear springs to keep it from being an ass dragger. The brake hose was cracked and original to the car. The steel lines on the rear differential looked good. But I literally couldn’t see the line going from the master cylinder to the rear of the car. It was hidden under 4 inches of mud between the rocker and frame. Somewhere was the fuel line from the gas tank as well. More chopping away to find it and replace it. I found a freaking corn stalk buried in the mud plus Mud Dauber Wasp nests. Five of them. This was only the beginning of finding those.

My brake line bending skills are not that great. Thankfully, no one see my work. Function is more important anyways, Again, the 1964 hose was not correct. I had to get a 1965 hose to get things to work.

Napa still carries those “Load Helper” coil over shocks. Since they were cheaper than new rear springs I got those for now. 1964 rear shocks didn’t work. I got 1965’s but they are mounted upside down from the ’65 models. I guess they will work that way.

While lying under the car working on the rear shocks, I noticed the original differential tag was still on the Galaxie’s 9 inch. The second line on these tags tell you the gear ratio. The car had the standard equipment 3.25 gears. The lack of the L between the 3 and the 25 on the tags said it was not a posi. Not surprising.

A good friend, who is a life long Ford guy, told me that I could find a 3.50 posi center section in ’70’s Ford vans. I remember there was a 1976 custom van that was sitting in the local self serve salvage yard. The center section was still there along with the identification tag which said 3 L 50 on the second line. 3.50 posi. SCORE!! I paid a mere $69.00 for it and ran back home laughing like Dr. Evil as if I stole it from that yard. My Galaxie didn’t run worth a shit yet, but I am gonna have posi!! By the way, I later sold my original open center section for $40.00. Net cost, with a new gasket was a lousy $35.00.

I did have to change the pinion from my original center section to the new one. It was much bigger. I am guessing having the 1350 U-joints.

Next on the list of To-Do’s was the gas tank and sending unit. Thankfully, the tank straps were still solid and useful. I had the local Roper’s Radiator clean it and line for me. It was about $100.00 to the job. See the pictures and you notice I found even more Mud Dauber nests on top of the tank. While working under that part of the car I found more than a dozen more tucked behind the rear bumper. Geebus!!! By this time I was thankful I was working on the car in the cold of last winter.

The sending unit was a rusty mess, but Ropers said they may be able to save it by cleaning up in the blasting cabinet.

I noticed the front sway bar end links were both broken, rendering the rediculously thin sway bar utterly useless. I bought an end link kit from the local Advance Auto Parts They were too long, so I cut down the spacer tube and got shorter bolts that worked out very well. I also noticed the previous owners used those cheesy spring separators in the front coils. Two different kinds of them too. Bigger front tires and better shocks would have solved this problem. Or just new front springs. I left them there for now.

The dirt raining down from under the car never stopped. It became a comedy. I swept up nearly 200 lbs of dirt over 3 months and probably inhaled a few pounds more.

Here is a closer picture of the front tire. How this thing held air is beyond me. Only an idiot would attempt to drive on these tires, so the biggest chunk of my budget during this build was getting a new set of wheels and tires. The wheels were barely 14×6 which meant tires choice would suck.

 

I started hunting for possibly choices.  A few weeks went by I pondered over several choices. I thought about the classic Cragar SS. or going to bigger 17’s or 18’s; but the more I looked at the car, the more the original style of steel wheel seemed to be the best choice. Obviously, something bigger was needed to make the car look cool.

I settled on Wheel Vintiques 15×7 and 15×8 steelies, just the like the originals. They even have the provisions to hold the original center caps. Wheel Vintiques sends them already primed and pretty much ready to paint the color of your choice.

Since I had never worked on an old Galaxie before I wasn’t sure if the standard back spacing would work on this car. Like most wheel companies, once you mount the tires, you own them. So, be smart and check their fitment before installing tires, or it could be an expensive mistake.

Fitting the rear wheels, so it was pretty close, but it still would have plenty of room with the tires.

Josh Sikes is a good friend, and great painter. He offered to help me paint the wheels the original Guardsman Blue to match the car. We spent a couple evenings drinking beer, eating pizza and painting the wheels, then clear coating them. With the beer, pizza, paint and clear, I spent about $200.00 on them.

I have used BF Goodrich Radial T/A’s for literally decades, but they have gotten so much more expensive compared to other similar tires, I decided to try out Cooper Cobra GT’s after a few friends recommended them. To get the look I wanted I put the raised white letters out. I am old school that way.

Installing them on the car made an immediate improvement in its looks. The stance came out just right with the 245/60/15’s on the front and 275/60/15’s on the rear.

I had to bash out the caved in rear quarter to get those 8 inch wide wheels and big tires on the left rear. Using that big freaking hammer caused more dirt to rain down on me. Just hammering out the quarter panel really didn’t help as much and straightening out the wheel lip. Taking a proper body hammer and dolly not only allowed the tire to fit better it also got the quarter panel much closer to its original shape. It looked much better.

I tried out the original center caps to see how it looked. It was a definite “Not Bad”, but I liked it much better Nascar style without the caps.

We got an unusually warm day last February, so I took advantage of the weather to get more of that dirt off the bottom of the car and in the engine compartment. After putting the car on four jack stands, I got out my pressure washer and preceded to completely cover my driveway in a thick layer of filth. The car lost another 100 lbs of dried on muck that day.

Here are the results after all that cleaning that day. While sitting and enjoying its new look, a friend and I came up with its name, Mud Bomber. It had definitely been bombing me with mud and dirt from day one of working on the old girl. There were Mud Dauber nests everywhere. The count is up to 58 nests found now. And, she looks like an old dirt racing circle track bomber from the ’60’s.

 

Now, I need to make it run and drive more than a few yards.


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15 thoughts on “Project Mud Bomber Part 2: The Trials And Tribulations Of Owning A Car That Sat For Decades

  1. MGBChuck

    Great start, my friend with a ’64 Galaxie (also chevy guy) has his running now (427-C6), loves his big boat, bought it to flip, thinking about keeping it. Those wheels look just right!

    Reply
  2. KCR

    I think it is great that you pulled it from a field and saved it.Yep you have to get them to start run and stop . I think that I have learned ,that today you can put disc brakes on everything. I from now on will not spend the $250.00 to redo old drum brakes. I’ll spend the $500.00 from the get go . We all say ” i’ll do this now ,And put better brakes on it when these wear out. They don’t wear out ,they just go bad like the ones on it from new. And disc brakes seem to be able to set a lot longer than drum brakes do. And I would not waist the time and money having it painted . While taking a year to get it ready to pain.You are not enjoying it and driving it. Great car drive on brother drive on

    Reply
  3. 75Duster

    That will be a cool car once you get it up and running, I would take KCR’s suggestion and put on disc brakes while it is in this stage.
    Looking forward to seeing it up and running.

    Reply
  4. Gary D

    Great write up and a very cool project car. Always like to see an old car saved like this by a hands on owner. I learned a while back that, if possible, the absolute first thing to do is to have the under carriage thoroughly pressure washed. And I live in California, not Nebraska! Good luck with this and keep us updated with the progress.

    Reply
  5. GL

    I have missed Scott Liggett\’s writing. Being a Chevy fan I have followed his previous endeavors. I know that he\’s a working man who also has to get something done on his cars to write about, but I\’ve still missed it. I have been where he is with mud and grease dropping all around. I don\’t even do my own exhaust work any more because I don\’t like the rash I get from rust going down my collar. Keep up the good work Scott and keep us fans in mind.

    Reply
  6. Blueford 66

    I love 60\’s Fords. I missed part 1, is it an FE 352 or 390? I\’ve had a 66 Galaxie for 36 years. yours already looks great, I\’m envious. Looking forward to future instalments. If you have as much carb fun as we did, it\’ll drive you nuts!! good luck.

    Reply
  7. don

    always liked the 64 Galaxies.
    the amazing thing is that with all of that dirt and mud under the car it didn’t have a ton of rust.

    Reply
  8. KCR

    I see here on BS in another story its at a show wearing a cool old school nascar #27 on the door . Good call,that was when nascar was worth watching.

    Reply
  9. John Winker

    Awesome! I just brought home a similar disaster – a 1968 Falcon. It does run, but you\’re dead-on about the brakes. There are none, and one of them sometimes acts like it\’s dragging. I managed to get it into my garage, though it wasn\’t easy. I have an 8\” rear axle to replace the original 4-bolt 7.5\”, new drums for the back on the way, new front disc conversion on the way, and then I get to start tackling the interior – or lack thereof.

    This isn\’t my first rodeo, but I don\’t think I have ever smelled something as bad as this Falcon after parked in a corn bin for 20 years. It was just plain awful! That includes work trucks owned by pig farmers! This thing was awful.

    The amazing thing, since the car was parked inside-ish for all those years, it\’s in incredible shape underneath. The paint on the frame rails is better than what\’s left of the roof & hood. And, since mine is a base-model Falcon, there\’s about 1/3 the surface area to cover compared to your Galaxie.

    John in St. Paul, MN

    Reply

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