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Brief History of the Ford Galaxie

 

The Ford Galaxie was a full-size car built in the United States by the Ford Motor Company for model years 1959 through 1974. The name was used for the top models in Ford's full-size range from 1959 until 1961, in a marketing attempt to appeal to the excitement surrounding the Space Race. In 1962, all full-size Fords wore the Galaxie badge, with "500" and "500/XL" denoting the higher series. The Galaxie 500/LTD was introduced for 1965 followed by the Galaxie 500 7-Litre in 1966. The Galaxie 500 part was dropped from the LTD in 1966, and from the XL in 1967; however the basic series structuring levels were maintained. The "regular" Galaxie 500 continued below the LTD as Ford's mid-level full-size model from 1965 until its demise at the end of the 1974 model year.

 

The Galaxie was the high volume counterpart to the Chevrolet Impala. Some Galaxies were high-performance, racing specification machines, a larger forebear to the muscle car era. Others were plain family sedans.

 

A version of the car was also produced in Brazil under the names Galaxie 500, LTD and Landau from 1967 to 1983.

 

The similarly named Ford Galaxy is a large car/minivan available in the European market. The vehicle's name is taken from the original Ford Galaxie.

 

1959                                

 

1959 saw the introduction of the Galaxie name in Ford's model lineup at mid-year. That year, the Galaxie range of six models were simply upscale versions of Ford's long-running Ford Fairlane with a revised rear roofline that mimicked the concurrent Thunderbird. In keeping with the era, the 1959 Galaxie was a chrome and stainless steel-bedecked, two-tone colored vehicle. It was the very image of late-1950s American automobile excess, though somewhat tamer than its Chevrolet and Plymouth competitors. Ford advertised "safety anchorage" for the front seats. The parking brake was now a pedal. Seat belts, a padded dashboard, and child-proof rear door locks were optional, while a deep-dished steering wheel and double-door locks were standard.

 

Among the models was the Skyliner, featuring a retractable hardtop that folded down into the trunk space; this feature, impressive but complicated, expensive and leaving very little trunk room when folded down, did not last long, being produced from 1957 through 1959. Power retractable hardtops have since been used by luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, and Cadillac, but in all these cases the vehicle was a two-seater, allowing a much smaller top mechanism than the Skyliner's. Not until 2006, when the Pontiac G6 convertible, Peugeot 206 CC (in Europe) and Volkswagen Eos appeared, did another mass-market model with a rear seat appear in this category.

 

A fixture also was the previous year's 352 V8, still developing 300 horsepower (220 kW).

 

1960–1964

 

The 1960 Galaxie was all-new in style, abandoning the ostentatious ornamentation of the 1950s for a futuristic, sleek look. A new body style this year was the Starliner, featuring a huge, curving rear observation window on a pillarless, hardtop bodyshell. The formal roofed 2-door hardtop was not available this year, but the roofline was used for the Galaxie 2-door pillared sedan, complete with chromed window frames. It had been the most popular body style in the line in 1959, and sales dropped off sharply. Contrary to Ford's tradition of pie-plate round taillghts, the 1960 featured "half-moon" lenses turned downward. The "A" pillar now swept forward instead of backward, making entering and exiting the car more convenient. The appearance seems to be influenced by the flowing lines of the 1955 Crown Victoria while eliminating the "basket handle", also called the "B" pillar.

 

For 1961, the bodywork was redone again, although the underpinnings were the same as in 1960. This time, the tailfins were almost gone; the small blade-like fins capped smaller versions of 1959's "pie-plate" round taillamps once again. Performance was beginning to be a selling point, and the 1961 Galaxie offered a new 390 CID (6.4 L) version of Ford's FE series pushrod V8, which was available with either a four-barrel carburetor or, for serious performance, three two-barrel carburetors. The latter was rated at 401 hp (298 kW), making even such a heavy car quite fast indeed. The 352 was downgraded in favor of the 390; it was equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor and single exhaust. The Starliner was again offered this year, and Ford promoted this model with lots of luxury and power equipment, but it was dropped at the end of the year, as the re-introduced square-roof hardtop coupe took the bulk of sales.

 

For 1962, the Galaxie name was applied to all of Ford's full size models, as the Fairlane moved to a new intermediate and Custom was temporarily retired. New top-line Galaxie 500 (two-door sedan and hardtop, four-door sedan and hardtop, and "Sunliner" convertible). In an effort to stimulate midseason sales, Ford introduced a group of sporty cars along with its now-famous "Lively Ones" campaign. These models featured the bucket seats and console that was popularized by the Chevrolet Corvair Monza, and included a Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe, and a Falcon Futura. The full-size line got a new bucket-seats-and-console "Lively One," the Galaxie 500/XL (two-door hardtop and convertible). The 292 cu in (4.8 l) V8 was standard on the 500/XL. The XL had as sportier trim inside and out as part of the package. This model was Ford's response to Chevrolet's Super Sport option for the big Impala, which was introduced the previous year and saw a significant rise in sales for 1962. Performance was not ignored either, with an even larger 406 cu in (7 l) engine being available, again in single four-barrel or triple-carbureted "six-barrel" form. At the other end of the spectrum, of course, the 223 cu in (3.7 l) "Mileage Maker" 6-cylinder engine was still available for the more budget-minded driver. Tailfins were gone, giving the 1962 models a more rounded, softer rear end look. Taillights were set lower into the rear panel and were partially sunken into the newly sculpted rear bumper.

 

The 1962 models, however, were overweight by comparison to the Super Duty Pontiacs with their aluminum body panels and larger-displacement engines, so late in the production run, Ford's Experimental Car Garage was ordered to put the Galaxie on a diet. It produced 11 "lightweight Galaxies", making use of fiberglass panels, as well as aluminum bumpers, fender aprons, and brackets; the result was a Galaxie weighing in at under 3,400 lb (1,542 kg). The base 2-door Club Sedan was 3,499 lb (1,587 kg). It was an improvement.

 

For 1963, Ford saw no reason to radically change a good thing, and the 1963 model was essentially unchanged save for some freshening and added trim; windshields were reshaped and a four-door hardtop 500/XL was added. A lower, fastback roofline was added mid-year to improve looks and make the big cars more competitive on the NASCAR tracks with the added downforce. This 1963½ model, the industry's first official "½ year" model, was called the "Sports Roof" or "Fastback" (it shared this feature with the in 1963½ Falcon). Galaxie buyers showed their preference as the new SportsRoof models handily outsold the "boxtop" square-roof models. The SportsRoof was available in both Galaxie 500, and Galaxie 500/XL trim. As to be expected, sister Mercury also received the SportsRoof in Monterey, Montclair, and Park Lane models. A base-model Galaxie was offered for 1963 only, badged as the Ford 300. The "Swing-away" steering wheel became optional.

 

Midway through the 1963 model year, Ford replaced the outdated 292 Y-Block v8 with the new small block 260 and 289 V8s that would later become the optional V8s in The Fairlane, Falcon Sprint, and Mustang. Ford continued to offer the FE series 352, and 3 versions of the 390 V8 (Regular, High performance, and Police). Five different transmissions were offered in 1963. A 3-speed manual column shift was standard on all models except the 406 V8, which required the heavier duty Borg-Warner 4-speed manual. A three speed manual with overdrive was optional, but rarely ordered. The two speed Ford-O-Matic was common with the 6 cylinder and small block V-8s, while the majority of big blocks (352 and 390) were ordered with the 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. The availability of several different rear end ratios, along with 5 transmissions, and 8 different engines, led to a huge number of different driveline combinations for 1963. The most produced combination for the Galaxie and Galaxie 500 was the 352 V8, with Cruise-O-Matic, and the highway friendly 3.0 rear end ratio.

 

For the performance oriented things were a little different. Partway through this year and in limited quantities there became available Ford's new racing "secret weapon", the 427, replacing the 406. It was intended to meet NHRA and NASCAR 7-liter maximum engine size rules. This engine was rated at a conservative 425 hp (317 kW) with 2 x 4 barrel Holley carburetors and a solid lifter camshaft. Ford also made available aluminum cylinder heads as a dealer option. The 1963½ was still overweight, however. To be competitive in drag racing Ford produced 212 (around 170 from Ford Norfolk, about 20 from Ford Los Angeles) lightweight versions of the "R" code 427, in the Galaxie 500 Sport Special Tudor Fastback. Available only in Corinthian White with red vinyl interior, and with a list price of about US$4,200 (when a base Ford 300 went for US$2,324, and XL Fastback was US$3,268), these cars came stock with Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed, 4.11:1 rear axle, heavy-duty suspension and brakes, and were fitted with a fiberglass hood (a flat piece at first, late in '63 the popular blister hood also used on the Thunderbolt), trunk, front fenders, and fender aprons, as well as aluminum bumpers and mounting brackets, transmission cases, and bellhousing. Hood springs, heater, trunk lining and mat, spare wheel and tire (and mounting bracket), trunk lid torsion bar, jack, lug wrench, one horn (of the stock two), armrests, rear ashtrays, courtesy lights, and dome light were removed to reduce weight. The first 20 cars had functional fiberglass doors, which shaved 25 lb (11 kg); these were deleted because of Ford's concern for safety if used on the highway. The cars had all sound deadening removed, lightweight seats and floormats, and no options. Contrary to myth, they were not factory equipped with cold-air induction, as the Thunderbolt would be. In addition, they were built on the 45 lb (20 kg)-lighter Ford 300 chassis, originally intended for a smaller-displacement V8. In all, the 427s were 375 lb (170 kg) lighter than before (425 lb (193 kg) with the fiberglass doors).

 

The first two lightweight Galaxies, using 289 cu in (5 l) bodies, were assembled at Wayne, Michigan, late in January 1963, to be tested at the 1963 Winternats. They were delivered to Tasca Ford (East Providence, Rhode Island) and Bob Ford (Dearborn, Michigan). Bill Lawton's Tasca Galaxie turned the best performance, with a 12.50 pass at 116.60 mph (187.65 km/h). It was not enough against the 1963 Chevrolet Impala Z-11s in Limited Production/Stock, however. Three more were assembled from parts and tested at Ford's Experimental Car Garage in Dearborn. One of the next two, the last Winternationals test cars, was prepared by Bill Stroppe in Long Beach, California, for Les Ritchey; it was featured in the July 1963 issue of Hot Rod. For all their efforts, Ford discovered the Galaxies were still too heavy, and the project was abandoned. Some of these cars competed in England, Australia and South Africa after being modified by Holman and Moody who fitted them with disc brakes and other circuit racing components. Jack Sears won the British Touring Championship in 1963 and the racing Galaxies were also driven by Sir Jack Brabham, Graham Hill and other notable drivers of the period. The heavy Galaxies suffered from persistent brake failure that led to a number of crashes, and in late 1963 started using the 12-inch disc brakes from the Ford GT40 program. By this time the Lotus Cortinas were being developed and the big Galaxie became uncompetitive. Some of these race cars survive in England and in Australia where they compete in Historic Touring Car racing. A new 260 cu in (4.3 l) V8, derived from the 1962 Fairlane engine, replaced the Y-block 292 cu in (4.8 l) as the entry level V8. Later in the year, the 260 was replaced with an enlarged version displacing 289 cubic inches.

 

Model year 1964 was the fourth and final year of this body style. Interior trim was much altered, and the exterior featured a more sculpted look which was actually designed to make the car more aerodynamic for NASCAR. The formal-roof "boxtop" style was replaced by a slanted-roof design for all non-wagon or convertible models, including sedans. Ford's quality control, spotty when the first Galaxie was introduced, was now as good as it ever was, and many 1964 Fords passed the 100,000-mile (160,000 km) mark intact. The 1964 models gained an enviable reputation as durable, comfortable cars that offered decent handling and road-ability at a reasonable price, so it is no wonder they sold so well. Of the XL models, the 1964 hardtop coupe takes the prize for the most produced. The base 300 was replaced by a line of Custom and Custom 500 models. The 289 continued as the base V8 and was standard in the XL series. XL models got new thin-shell bucket seats with chrome trim. They were designed to cradle the driver better than the previous style, and Federal regulations now required lap-style safety belts for both front outboard occupants.

 

Under the hood, the 427 cu in (7.0 l) engine carried on the high performance duties. Ford again took the 427-equipped Galaxie to the racetracks in serious fashion in 1964, building 50 lightweight fiberglass-equipped cars just for the purpose of drag racing. These competed with success in North America but were still too heavy and Ford introduced the lightweight Fairlane Thunderbolt which used the 427 engine and was immediately competitive. The 427 was the powerplant of the dominant Ford GT40 Mk II.

 

Late in the year Ford introduced their new engine challenger, the SOHC427 "Cammer". Though not documented, it is believed a few may have found their way onto the street. This engine was only available to racers through the dealer network or from the manufacturer; none were ever factory installed. Rated at over 600 hp (450 kW), this is possibly the most powerful engine ever fitted to a production car by an American manufacturer. NASCAR changed the rules, however, requiring thousands—rather than hundreds—of production examples in service to qualify for the next season and Ford decided against producing the Cammer in that quantity. Fears of liability concerns and the bad publicity possibilities in giving the public a car that dangerously powerful are often cited as reasons, but it might simply have been that Ford doubted that an engine so unsuited to street use could sell in such numbers.

 

It should be noted that the Ford Country Squire station wagon, while wearing "Country Squire" badging for many years, was actually part of the Galaxie 500 line. Some Country Squires had "Galaxie 500" badging on the glovebox indicating the series name. These wagons featured the same tinware as Galaxie 500s inside and out, and were a step up from the base-model Country Sedan.

 

1965–1968

 

The 1965 Galaxie was an all-new design, featuring vertically stacked dual headlights in what was becoming the fashionable style in a car somewhat taller and bulkier than the previous year's. The new top-of-the-line designation this year was the Galaxie 500 LTD. Engine choices were the same as 1964, except for an all-new 240 cu in (3.9 L) six-cylinder and 1965 289 cu in (4.7 L) engine replacing the 50s-era 223 "Mileage-Maker" six and the 352 being equipped with dual exhausts and a four-barrel carburetor.

 

Suspension on the 1965 models was dramatically redesigned. Replacing the former leaf-spring rear suspension was a new three-link system, featuring all coils. Not only did the ride improve, but handling also got a boost, and this system was used for NASCAR in the full-size class. Interiors were like the 1964 models, but a new instrument panel and two-way key system were introduced.

 

A new model was introduced for 1966; the Galaxie 500 7 Litre, fitted with a new engine, the 428 cu in (7.0 L) Thunderbird V8. As the name suggests, this engine was also available on the Ford Thunderbird and was a response to a demand for a more docile, tractable engine than the racing-built 427. The 1966 body style was introduced in Brazil (Ford do Brasil) as a 1967 model; it had the same external dimensions throughout its lifetime until Brazilian production ceased in 1983. In response to safety concerns, U.S. Government regulations for 1966 required seat belts front and rear to be fitted to all new cars sold domestically. The Galaxie 500 would be the #3-selling convertible in the U.S. in 1966, with 27,454 sold; it was beaten by the Mustang (at 72,119, by more than 2:1) and by the Impala at 38,000. A parking brake light on the dashboard and an AM/FM radio was optional.

 

In 1967, the 7 Litre model no longer carried the Galaxie name; it was to be the last year of it being separately identified. That identification was mainly trim such as horn ring and dashboard markings as well as the "Q" in the Vehicle Identification Number. The 7 Litre in 1967 was basically a trim and performance option on the XL model. Little else changed, except for trim and the styling; the same engines were avaialable, from the 240 cu. inch six-cylinder to the 428 cu. inch V8. Modifications to the styling included adding a major bend in the center of the grille and making the model less "boxy" than the 1966 model. The 1967 LTD dropped the Galaxie name, a harbinger of changes to come. An 8-track tape cartridge player became an option. Back-up lights were standard.

 

In 1967 all Fords, including the Galaxie, featured a large, padded hub in the center of the plastic steering wheel, along with an energy-absorbing steering column, padded interior surfaces, recessed controls on the instrument panel, and front outboard shoulder belt anchors. Another safety related change was the introduction of the dual brake master cylinder used on all subsequent Galaxies (and other Ford models).

 

The 1968 model had a new grille with headlights arranged horizontally, although the body was essentially the same car from the windshield back. The 'long hood, short deck' style was followed too, as was the new trend for concealed headlights on the XL and LTD. One other change for 1968 was that the base V8 engine increased from 289 to 302 cu in (4.9 L). Standard equipment included courtesy lights, a cigarette lighter, a suspended gas pedal, and padded front seat backs.

 

The 1968 models featured additional safety features, including side marker lights and shoulder belts on cars built after December 1, 1967. The 1967 model's large steering wheel hub was replaced by a soft "bar" spoke that ran though the diameter of the wheel (and like the 1967 style, was used throughout the Ford Motor Company line). A plastic horn ring was also featured.

 

1969–1974

 

The 1969 model was built on a new platform with a 121-inch (3,100 mm) wheelbase. It was the end for the 427 and 428 engines. Replacing the FE series-based 427 and 428 engines was the new 429 cu in (7.0 L) "ThunderJet" that was introduced in the 1968 Ford Thunderbird; it was part of the new Ford 385 engine series. Power, at 360 hp (270 kW) for the dual-exhaust 4-barrel version, was higher than the 428's 345 hp (257 kW)and lower than the racing-bred 427's final rating of 390 hp (290 kW); there was also a single-exhaust 2-barrel version with 320 hp (240 kW) available. The dashboard was built as a pod around the driver rather than traditionally extending across both sides. The XL and Galaxie 500 Sportsroof had rear sail panels to simulate a fastback roofline. The rear trim panel below the tail lights was used to distinguish the different trim levels. The Country Squire was, perhaps, the pinnacle of design for that wagon with the concealed headlights.

 

Headrests were featured on 1969 model cars built after January 1, 1968. It was not until 1969 that a station wagon was actually marketed under the Galaxie name. From 1955 to 1968 full-size Ford wagons were treated as a separate model series and were listed as Ranch Wagon, Country Sedan, and Country Squire. For the 1969 model year the Ranch Wagon became the Custom Ranch Wagon, the Country Sedan the Galaxie Country Sedan and the Country Squire was marketed as the LTD Country Squire.

 

Galaxies for model year 1970 were pretty much the same as the 1969 models, except for minor trim changes. A new Government-required ignition lock was located on the right side of the steering column. Model year 1970 was the last year for the XL, but Galaxie 500 hardtop coupes were also available in both formal-roof and SportsRoof body styles.

 

A complete redesign was offered for 1971. This included a horizontal wrap around front bumper with a massive vertical center section much in the vein of concurrent Pontiacs. Taillights lost the traditional "rocket" exhaust theme in favor of horizontal lights and trimmed center section. Rooflines were squared off and had a "formal" air. The XL was dropped, as were concealed headlight covers for the LTD. The convertible was moved to the LTD series in 1971 and lasted through 1972.

 

Models for 1972 were similar but the lower bumper continued across the center grille section and the rear bumper was enlarged with inset taillamps. This was also the final year for the 240 cu in (3.9 L) six-cylinder engine.

 

The 1973 model was marginally shorter than previous models, but had a heavier, bulker appearance. Three towing packages were optional, each with increasing towing capacity. For law men, the Police Interceptor package was available.

 

The 1974 model year was essentially a repeat of 1973, but it was the last year for the Galaxie 500 name. Ford elected to consolidate most of its full-size models under the popular LTD name for 1975. Power front disc brakes were standard.

 

The LTD stayed on as the top full-size model.

 

Approximately 7,850,000 full-size Fords and Mercurys were sold over 1969-1978. This makes it the second best selling Ford automobile platform after the Ford Model T.

 

Production Numbers

 

Model Year

Galaxie Production

Total Series Production

1959

464,336

733,714

1960

289,268

461,092

1961

349,665

486,284

1962

446,195

575,846

1963

648,010

774,382

1964

593,533

923,232

1965

564,008

978,429

1966

597,002

1,034,930

1967

426,941

877,127

1968

448,376

920,247

1969

421,197

998,796

1970

351,938

850,315

1971

322,351

917,856

1972

269,199

832,273

1973

233,554

941,054

1974

117,801

519,916

 

Total Series Production include Custom, Custom 500, Seven Litre, Station Wagon, LTD, and all Galaxie models. Galaxie Production includes Galaxie, Galaxie 500, Galaxie 500XL, XL, and Galaxie 500 LTD when LTD was not a separate model (until 1967).

 

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