The plan had been to buy an American V8 and customise it a bit, perhaps introduce some personal touches. At least, that's what Bernie Prendergast had in mind when he first saw this 1968 Ford Galaxie two-door fastback on Trade Me.
He spotted it again at the Kumeu Classic Car and Hot Rod Festival, laid a few persuasive arguments on his wife, Marie, and they trotted home to measure the garage then whizzed back to do the deal.
That was five years ago, and their everyday cars now live outside to give the Galaxie the space it deserves, but the customisation project went on hold. "It had only done 29,000 miles (46,670km) then -and just 9000km since. When I got it I had visions of doing all sorts, lowering it and pimping it, but I realised it was in too good a condition."
So the only work Bernie has done has been to add a dual exhaust to enhance the V8 burble, and boost the brakes to improve safety. "I've got the original wheels with their whitewall tyres, they're stowed away, and I put gas shocks on all round, as like all old American cars it wallowed round corners, and it handles a lot better."
Those few things can easily be reversed, and Bernie has kept the relevant bits. He has also added a small new stereo under the dash. "The good thing is I don't have to do any work, just maintain it, and it breezes through every WoF."
He says: "I've always been a bit of a car nut and always liked V8s but could never afford one until now. Marie was never into it, but I sold the idea to her as an appreciating asset, and since then she's enjoyed the cruising we've done, and the shows, and I think it really is appreciating now, as it's so original."
He's not kidding about that. The box of stuff it came with even includes the first receipt, from Ford to the West Side Motor Company, Hamilton, Ohio, which bought it as
a demonstrator. The standard car cost US$2936.26 ($3721) with a six-cylinder engine. The 302ci (4949cc) optional V8 powerplant added US$106.72, and the Cruise-o-Matic auto another US$200.85. Power steering - "You'd need muscles like Arnie without it," says Bernie - cost US$94.95. Other options topping up the price included the limited slip diff, a left-hand mirror (US$9.58), comfort stream ventilation, the radio and electric clock, with the dark red interior, deluxe full-padded dash/steering wheel, drum brakes and seatbelts added at no extra charge, the total (including a $65.23 transportation fee) coming to US$3625.91.
The car had only two owners before it was imported just before Bernie's purchase - the dealership and an Ohio resident who made notes in the workshop manual, and also left the owner's manual with it, the original brochure, the accessories catalogue, local maps from the year he bought it, a bottle of touch-up paint and more. "It's like a time capsule," he says.
Bernie's in the automotive trade as parts manager at Giltrap City. He belongs to Huapai Hot Rod Club, and he loves driving his Galaxie, though "I don't take it out enough". He admits he's a bit anal about keeping the car tidy, but he and Marie attend some events and runs. "Waiheke Rod and Custom Club had a show and shine during the Sculpture on the Gulf exhibit, so we went over on the ferry. There were about 80 cars and we won people's choice. We were stoked. And the organiser's pick, because it is so straight and original."
I'm enjoying the V8 burble as we drive. The ride is so smooth I can write notes. The passenger footwell up front is spacious though rear legroom is surprisingly limited and the boot smaller than expected.
"It'd be a sin to pimp it now," Bernie says. Really, he needs another car to fiddle with. "We'd like a 56 or a 57 Buick ... and given the Galaxie only just fits the garage, a longer car would mean a different house."
Bernie Prendergast (left) drives his 1968 Ford Galaxie with pride. The Galaxie interior (above) is in tip-top condition Pictures / Jacqui Madelin