Have you ever seen an old car-maybe rotting away in a junk yard or behind someone's house-that you'd never imagine in a million years had the potential of being resurrected into a work of art, let alone operational? We all have, and there are even a few out there who saw potential and acted on it, despite heavy discouragement from friends, family, and complete strangers. One such visionary is Gary Paolucci, who stumbled across the beautiful convertible you see pictured here just a few years ago. Thing is, the car was about as far from a good starting point for a project as you could get...but that wasn't enough to deter him.
Having to deal with his peers' doubts that his newly acquired '60 Ford Sunliner convertible would ever see the light of day again (some even asked how much the previous owner paid him to take the car!), the Signal Hill, California, import auto repair business owner persisted for a solid 14 months. When all was said and done (done mostly by himself), suffice it to say, all were amazed-including us! Without exaggeration, Gary's efforts were concours-level, one might easily be fooled into believing the '60 was a restoration prior to its customization.
Literally purchased in pieces, which may have made some things easier for Gary, the project was undertaken and completed in his spare time (weekends!). As frustrating as it could get, especially with friends and family doubting him, he stuck to his guns and built the car the way he wanted to. This all started with the Ford's chassis, which received a power steering conversion ('73 F-150), dropped spindles with 12-inch discs, Bilstein shocks, a Lincoln disc-brake rear, and airbags at each corner. Gary also installed front and rear swaybars and mated a Chevy tilt column to the newly adapted power steering. Power-wise, we opted for the larger-displacement Lincoln 460 (circa '74), this one machined by Al's in Signal Hill and assembled by Joe Koening in nearby Lakewood. The stout V-8 features Keith Black 9.5:1 pistons, an Edelbrock cam, and reworked iron heads. Gary finished the engine off with an Edelbrock Performer intake and carb, an electronic ignition, and a variety of finned aluminum accessories. Tim Deal Transmissions (Huntington Beach, CA) supplied the C6 automatic, while Whittier's Driveline Services put together the appropriate driveshaft.
Before even considering a paint color, let alone a graphics scheme, Gary had to labor over the convertible's massive bodywork chores. Along with hammering out all the panels, repairing rust, etc., he managed to shave the door handles, fill the back-up lights, smooth out the cowl, and nose and deck the car prior to sending it over to Mike Doyle in Fullerton, California. Doyle, a college body and paint instructor, based the '60 in DuPont's Patriot Blue, then added the cream-yellow flames (tipped in bright blue) bursting off the front wheel openings. A bit of Dutch-style striping, brilliant chrome replating by Artistic, 18- and 20-inch Intro five-spokes, and complementing blue cloth top (by Convertible World) set the Sunliner off in true custom rod style.
Before unveiling his unbelievable task to the naysayers, Paolucci needed to add some pizzazz to the Ford's interior. To really accent the exterior, Long Beach, California's Convertible World composed a gorgeous tan Connolly leather setting using custom-made door panels and a Glide Engineering split bench seat. Gary updated the dash, threw in a Vintage Air A/C unit, and then had Ray Martinez install a full complement of Pioneer audio components. With that said, it was time to debut...and shock!
Once Gary finally hit the streets of Signal Hill in his freshly recreated Sunliner, everyone could barely believe that what they saw before their eyes, just a year and half prior, took three truckloads to deliver to his house! Obviously, the response was incredible, which left Gary prideful knowing he beat the odds...but more importantly, he had himself one cool cruiser!