This car has been in Phil Tenca's garage for too many years. In some ways, it's as common and comfortable as a pair of well-worn Levi's. In others, it represents the god of smoke and fire. To the world at large, though, it might as well be invisible. One thing is certain: that big, fun, full-sized Ford isn't going anywhere soon. Phil's screen name at 460ford.com is Big Fun, and he's big, too-230 pounds.
"I know they made a bunch of '68 Galaxie 500s, but I don't see many around. I have never been at a car show or dragstrip and seen another one like it," opines Tenca. "I left the Galaxie 500 tags off the rear quarter after the re-paint, and no one can figure out what kind of car it is ... Charger, Impala, Torino, Fairlane?"
The monsters of Phil's youth were played by '66 and '67 Mustang ragtops, a '68 Barracuda, a '70 Skylark, a '74 Impala big-block, a '93 Lightning, and a 40,000-original-mile '87 Grand National (which he still has). All of these cars had a lot more "fame quotient" going for them than his big gold Galaxie ever did, but he has a sweet tooth for it, just the same. He and his wife used to ride it back when they were bright, young, cantankerous kids.
"My grandfather purchased this car as a demo in 1969," says Phil. "He gave it to me in 1983 to drive my future wife Ellen safely to Iowa Wesleyan College from where we lived in the Chicago area. It had fewer than 20,000 miles, and was super mint. Everyone said 'park it and save it,' but I drove the car anyway. It was still on the road a year after I finished college, but I got out of it for good in the late-'80s. It had 42,000 on the clock, and it sat for about 10 years while Ellen and I were raising our family. By 1999, though, I had the time and the resources to modify it to its current state."
So you can see how the Galaxie is integral to the immediate family. Ellen isn't too happy about the way it is now, either. Says Phil, "I usually hear something like 'that thing's too loud. It used to be so nice. You ruined it.' My kids like it, but the dog runs when I fire it up." The dog part is even funnier when you know that it's a 100-pound Golden by the name of Hunter. Ellen, have patience. Your "quiet" car might just be the golden whale's next incarnation.
There are the obvious resources (i.e., lots of greenbacks), and then there are the human kind. For Phil, "resources" go beyond money. He has three children and three brothers, each of whom supplied either spiritual or physical support. Brother Terry (along with Phil, Tom, and the late George), is part of Kracker Racing (www.krackerracing.net) in Lombard, Illinois, which thrashed almighty on Phil's chassis and paint. Kracker Racing is not serious-it's fun, affordable, quality hot rods. "We have no plans to compete with Boyd or Rad Rides," cracks Phil.
About 10 years ago, the Tenca boys began putting handles on the Galaxie. Bodywork and paint came first, because the metal was clean, and because it coincided perfectly with Terry's vocation. They then upgraded the original 302 2-bbl engine with 351 heads and camshaft, which sounded nice but couldn't move the boat. Next they went for a mild 10.5:1 460, and that put the car in the 12.50s, but Phil felt they'd only clawed the surface-and he wanted more.
Enter the vagabond D1LV 460 Lincoln cylinder block that had but two-bolt mains. It didn't matter, it was free. So it went directly to John Zapp at Zapp Racing, who plugged in the stroker reciprocating assembly, secured Ford Racing Performance Parts Super Cobra Jet cylinder heads, and zapped them with his own tweaks before putting them to the short-block. The motor assembly was the greatest single expense, by far, but it was worth every stinkin' penny of it when the thing turned more than 800 hp.
In anticipation of a much rosier future, Jeff Gerhardt (www.gerhardt-racing.com) firmed-up the Galaxie with an Alston eight-point rollcage. It then ran an 11.15 with the stock suspension. Brother Terry got busy out back, shucking the buckboard springs in lieu of adjustable coilover shocks, and locating the axle with Alston ladder bars. For the first time, Phil's time card read in the 10s. Was he happy? Taylor, Brock, and Philip (his own kids) bad mouthed the car. It only ran 10.90s, but with a sharp tune-up (for a snappier 60-foot time), that same suspension should yield 10.50s.
Suddenly, Phil had the urge to bargain hunt. He found a new-for-him nitrous kit, but he hadn't pulled the pin by the time we wrote this. "Of course I am not satisfied with my 10.91 motor pass," says Phil. "I am looking for 9s this year, now that I have a power-adder."
Funny story about the brakes on this tuna: "The car would still have front drums if I didn't get the crap scared out of me," Phil recalls. "The brakes failed, as they are apt to do when the drums shatter, as I was going through the traps at 126! I say thank goodness for the sandbox. The folks at Strange took the stock spindles and created a four-piston caliper setup for the Galaxie. It stops now." It looks nice, too. Terry, Tom, and George cleaned up the Galaxie's face, and applied the '99 Ford Champion Pearl metallic base-/clearcoat, which is as close to the original color as they could get without footing the bill for a custom mix. The hood is now a complete mutt: it's part stock metal, part anonymous 5-inch fiberglass hat. On anything less than a jumbo Ford, it wouldn't look nearly as nice.
The sound of that big-lift solid-roller motor at idle would probably be enough for us, but Phil's already unrolling the treasure map. What's this-a tunnel ram intake huddling under a brace of Dominators? Jon Kaase P51 heads? A blow-through power-adder? Unfortunately, the new combo will likely null the combo's viability, which probably isn't cool if you envision the Pro Touring ethic as the Galaxie's next incarnation. A much more efficient assembly, we think, would be the twin turbos Phil's pondering for that 302. Let's see: flat hood, hellishly powerful, easy on the engine, easy to maintain, and breathlessly quiet operation.
Quiet. Ellen would dig the hell outta that.
It might have been an FE bullet,...
It might have been an FE bullet, but Phil went modern and put a bored and stroked 460 in the chamber instead. He says that Crites headers and corresponding motor mounts (www.critesrestoration.com) made the swap a simple procedure. On the motor, the 514 makes 810 hp at 7,200 rpm, and 680 ft-lb of torque at 4,950 rpm. The Nitrous Express 200-shot is in, but has yet to be detonated.
The guts of this 42,000 original...
The guts of this 42,000 original mileage car are in excellent condition, and framed with love by a rollcage and stringer bars. Other than the four-point safety harness and Auto Meter gauges, this bucks-down racer is strictly stock.