Street Rodder 1961 Sunliner
Sweepin' the Clouds Away
The same old Ford in a whole new light
One of my favorite parts of The Andy Griffith Show was the police cars. The steel wheels, poverty caps and pillow-soft ride and handling fascinated me, but I was always bummed the Mayberry squad car was a four door. Obviously it had to be a quadraport, but the blooming enthusiast in me wished for a coupe.
Sheriff Taylor’s law enforcement vehicle was always a Ford Galaxie, and as a result, that’s all I can think of when I look at this ’61 Sunliner. The SZ Blue flame drop top was built at Hollywood Hot Rods for the 2015 Street Rodder Magazine Road Tour. We’ve featured Road Tour cars in the past, but if you’re not familiar, the annual program would make any enthusiast drool. The magazine chooses a car and shop that represent the present and future of the hot rodding industry, and then gives it the full treatment using the best products available. Once completed, the new creation is driven on a stellar road trip, visiting exciting shops and shows along the way. Recently the trend has leaned toward big Detroit sleds, with a ’51 Chevy, ’59 Chevy and this ’61 Ford getting the nod. Cruising in comfort as well as style is the name of the game.
The original rendering by Eric Black called for the land yacht to cruise low to the ground, tucking plenty of tire. Unlike the Barney Fife cruiser, this Galaxie wouldn’t be bobbing and weaving down the road. A Roadster Shop-built chassis wearing their Revo front suspension package and a Flaming River rack handles (pun intended) the miles like a champ. A 9-inch rearend housing was stuffed with 3.73s, and both ends are linked with Afco coilovers. Wilwood brakes put an end to the go with a healthy dose of whoa, and Billet Specialties Fury rollers adorn each corner, measuring 18” up front and 20” out back.
Under the hood, you won’t find a Y-block or even a Coyote, but a good old small block Ford; a big, small block that is. Inhaling 427 cubic inches every revolution, the Ford Racing crate boasts 535hp, which would be plenty to push the plush convertible, but nooo, 1.25hp/ci wasn’t enough. To get the power closer to 2hp/ci, a pair of Torq-Storm superchargers were hung on either side of the engine, and they huff their stuff through a FAST EFI system. The dyno team gave the blower pulley the old switcheroo until they saw 15psi of boost and 790hp! Wisely backing the boost down in an effort to reduce fuel consumption and increase law-abiding actions, the 427 reported 17mpg on the open road. That respectable fuel economy is thanks in part to the Hughes-built 4L80E transmission hiding beneath the floorpan.
Sitting in the cockpit is nothing like the cruiser from Mayberry. Elegance Auto Interiors put a new set of clothes on a trio of SCAT Procar seats, two in front and a spacious bench in back. A Flaming River steering wheel completes the navigation ensemble; rack and pinion, steering column and the leather-wrapped tiller up top. A one-off VHX instrument system from Dakota Digital was designed to bolt into the stock dash, while offering a multitude of readings never available in the stock cluster. A Silver Alloy gauge face with white LED backlighting was spec’d, and visibility has been great, even with the top down. Vintage Air offered up a climate control system, while Custom Autosound helped out with the ambiance.
At first glance the Sunliner looks externally stock with a killer set of wheels and a great stance, but that’s what they want you to think! Looking closer (and having a stock ’61 for reference), astute readers will notice first the highly modified front clip. The original hood formed the top of the grill, but Hollywood Hot Rods thought it better to give the car a header panel of sorts. The leading edge of the hood was cut off and welded to the fenders, and the hood was reshaped with rounded corners, giving it a much smaller bonnet and allowing the brightwork to flow uninterrupted. The windshield frame was modified for a look more like that of the Starliner, which is the Sunliner’s hardtop sibling. Due to the changes, AM Hot Rod Glass was commissioned to form a new acrylic windshield, and Elegance Auto Interiors stitched up a new top.
The Sunliner represents 20 years of Road Tour cars, all they’ve learned and all they represent wrapped up into one big blue present. The Ford made the rounds (meaning they drove it across the country) and lived up to expectations. Who wouldn’t love to build their dream car, then drive it on a multi-state road trip? Surely, law enforcement officers Taylor and Fife would have enjoyed the ride.