Reincarnation Magazine

Reincarnation Magazine
Continuation, Reproduction and Replica Automobiles
Rein Car Nation Cover Winter 2020
						Ronda Galaxie A20
Stellar Street/Strip Tribute

Tribute to Gas Ronda's Galaxie 500 XL

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

Fans of Ford drag racing need no introduction to Gas Ronda. He didn’t start out as a driver for the Blue Oval, though, having worked as a dance instructor for a time. But by the late 1950s, he gave up the fox trot for the three-pedal shuffle, selling his dance studios to fund a full-time professional racing career.

In the early 1950s, he drove Hudsons and Buicks and later switched to a Corvette. Disappointed by the lack of variety in the competition field, he made a dramatic change, picking a 1960 Ford Starliner running a 352 ci V8. He then joined forces with Les Ritchey of Performance Associates and moved up to Super Stock with a ’62 Ford Galaxie packing a 406 ci FE with three two-barrel carburetors.

In ’63 he upgraded to the vaunted 427 FE, but even with the uptick in power, the car was still burdened with too much heavy steel sheet metal. So he manned the wheel of the lighter 427 Fairlane Thunderbolt and became one of the top Ford drivers in 1964, winning the NHRA World Championship.

A cammer-powered (427 SOHC) Mustang was his ride in 1965, and later he ran Ford’s altered-wheelbase Funny Cars until 1970, when he was badly burned by a transmission oil fire that ended his career. (Ford actually had a fire retardant system on the way, but sadly it didn’t make it on the car in time.)

After recovering from his injuries, he opened the popular Funny Car Tavern in Azusa, California. In 1993, he was presented with an NHRA Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2016, he was inducted to the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

Before then, Gas and wife, Nina, had two sons, Gaspar “Gas” Jr. and John, and a daughter, Tyline. John followed in his father’s footsteps, racing for several years as one of the youngest drag racers ever. He went on to a couple of other business pursuits, one of which is Ronda Racing Enterprises.

Returning to his father’s early days of competition, he decided to recreate a 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 XL lightweight. The car he sourced for the build was born a P-code 390/330 hp Police Interceptor with a four-speed. But John converted it into a reasonable facsimile of what Gas Ronda was driving on the street when he won the 1964 Winter-nationals for Russ Davis Ford out of West Covina, California.

Easier said than done, of course, as the donor was in pretty rough shape when John found it, and sourcing long gone custom parts proved to be an expensive proposition. But John persevered out of regard for his dearly departed father, who died in October 2017 at age 91.

Replacing the steel bumpers, hood, rear deck and front fenders with fiberglass parts pared off about 800 pounds of pork, John estimates. But reproducing the Thunderbolt cold-air induction system intake cost nearly two grand. The only change he made in the original setup was adding K&N air filters at the screened headlight openings.

Other modifications included a solid lifter 401 ci, which is a bored-out 390 that ran in A-Stock class (the 427 was for Super Stock). It’s topped with a Ford aluminum 2x4 intake and dual Holley four-barrel carburetors in a custom housing that was fabricated to the specs of an original ’64 racer. Backing this big-block is a stout Toploader four-speed with a Hurst shifter linkage. Both the engine and driveline were assembled and balanced by West Coast Mufflers.

The stout 401 exhales through a pair of Sanderson ceramic-coated headers, dumping into dual exhausts with Quick Time Performance electric cutouts and Dynomax mufflers. The front has disc brakes and a sway bar, and in the rear is a Ford 9-inch with a 3.50 limited-slip. As per original, he relocated the battery to the trunk.

Inside is original red vinyl upholstery, also a challenge to track down since aftermarket companies didn’t always send John the right parts. It has a factory XL center console and bucket seats, along with a Sunpro tachometer on top of the dash.

Given all this effort, some might wonder why John chose to recreate a Galaxie instead of the Mustang that his father Gas was known for.

“Every year my dad got a driver from Russ Davis Ford, a wagon or a truck, in order to push sales since he was so well known,” he explains. “In ’64 he got a Galaxie as a driver. He loved that car; it touched his heart.”

Later on, John asked his father which one he should replicate, and that’s the one he recommended. “I could go someplace and still have a high-performance car,” Gas related to John. “My most favorite.”

But John decided to go one better, by making the car even more appealing by turning it into a custom lightweight. “It was my idea,” he admits. He felt that it would have more appeal from a customer standpoint since the car is now up for sale at My Hot Cars (where we came across it at the firm’s facility in San Ramon, California). Once that one sells, John has another tribute to Gas in the works as well.

“I’d like to do a ’70s vintage Mustang,” he says, “Like the one that caught on fire.” He plans to tub the back for big tires and lower the suspension so it looks like a Funny Car. And also paint it Ronda Red, of course, with a 427 cammer engine under the hood. “Something that would make dad happy,” he smiles.

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