Ford Galaxie is First Produced
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 1962, all full-size Fords wore the Galaxie badge, with "500" and "500/XL" denoting the higher series. 1965 saw the introduction of the Galaxie 500/LTD, followed by 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 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, albeit somewhat tamer than its Chevrolet and Plymouth competitors.
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 appeared, did another mass-market model with a rear seat appear in this category.
Factory-built cars underwent their first major restyle for 1959. A fixture also was the previous year's 352 V8, still developing 300 horsepower.
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. 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 '60 featured "half-moon" lenses turned downward. The "A" pillar now swept forward instead of backward, making entering and exiting the car, more convenient.
For 1961, the bodywork was redone again, although the underpinnings were the same as 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 Fairlane moved to a new intermediate and Custom was temporarily retired. New top-line Galaxie 500 (two-door hardtop, four-door sedan and hardtop, and "Sunliner" convertible) and Galaxie 500/XL (two-door hardtop and convertible) models were also introduced; the 292 V8 was standard on the 500/XL. Performance was not ignored either, with an even larger 406 CID (6.7 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 cubic-inch "Mileage Maker" 6-cylinder engine was still available for the more budget-minded driver. Tailfins were gone, giving the '62s a more rounded, softer rear end look. Taillights were set lower into the rear panel, and were partially sunken into the newly-sculped rear bumper.
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; 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 was called the "Sports Roof" or "Fastback". 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.
While not much changed for the everyday buyer, for the performance oriented, things were a little different; for partway through this year and in limited quantities there became available Ford's new racing secret weapon, the 427, replacing the 406. This engine was rated at a conservative 425 hp with 2 x 4 barrel carburetors and a solid lifter camshaft. Ford also made available aluminum cylinder heads as a dealer option. To be competitive in drag racing Ford produced 212 lightweight versions of the "R" code 427. These cars had a fiberglass hood, trunk, and fenders, and aluminum bumpers and mounting brackets, transmission cases and bellhousing. Hood springs were removed to reduce weight. The first 20 cars had fiberglass doors but 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. 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, David 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" disc brakes off 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 289 cubic-inch V8, derived from the 1962 Fairlane's V8 engine, replaced the Y-block 292 as the entry level V8.
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 the 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 '64 Fords passed the 100,000 mile mark intact. The '64s gained an enviable reputation as durable, comfortable cars that offered decent handling and roadability at a reasonable price, so it is no wonder they sold so well. Of the XL models, the '64 hardtop coupe takes the prize for the most produced. The base Ford 300 model was replaced by a line of Custom and Custom 500 models.
Under the hood, the 427 CID (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 SOHC 427 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 (447 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.
1959 saw the introduction of the Galaxie name in Ford's model lineup. That year, the Galaxie range of six models were simply upscale versions of Ford's long-running Ford Fairlane. In keeping with the era, the '59 Galaxie was a chrome- and stainless-bedecked, two-tone glitzy beauty of a vehicle, the very image of late-50s American automobile excess.
Among the models was the Skyliner Retractable, 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 for only for '57, '58, & '59. Recently, power retractable hardtops have 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.