1963 Ford Galaxie 500XL – A Racing Star From The Past

- in Cars

The Galaxie 500’s racing heritage is part of its name: the 500 comes from the 500-mile NASCAR races in which Ford was finding success.

It was the fast oval stock-car tracks that prompted not just the introduction of the 427cu in engine (hitting the 7.0-litre limit imposed for stock cars and the NHRA’s Factory Stock rules,) but also that fastback body, aimed at reducing drag and enabling a higher top speed. To allow more radical states of tune to last right through a race, the 427 was redesigned with an improved oil supply to the crankshaft and cross-bolted main bearing caps for added rigidity.

1963 Ford Galaxie 500 XL racecar
These ‘side-oiler’ engines proved extremely competitive, even with the Galaxie’s considerable mass to drag around, giving Ford its most successful NASCAR season ever in 1963, with the Daytona 500 among the 23 wins it scored. In 1964, Ford surpassed even this record and won 30 races.

1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight
Though being a Ford, it wasn’t expensive. Despite reputedly being made on the Mercury line (where the upper-crust Galaxie equivalent, the Marauder, was also assembled) for a more careful production, the 500XL fastback only retailed at $3268. It’s no surprise 33,870 of them were sold, even with a close-on $500 hike in price over the regular 500 V8 fastback, a screaming bargain at $2783. Little wonder they cracked the 1 00,000 sales mark for non-XL Galaxie fastbacks in ’63, despite the mid-year introduction.

1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight interior
What did the extra half-grand buy you? The most obvious difference was the bucket seat and console interior, and to be fair such a thing was scarce in ’63 if you weren’t buying an out-and-out sports car. Those eye-catching mouldings that swept around the sides of each seat gave it something of an aeronautical look that was reinforced by the symmetrical circular dials either side of the speedo’.

What sets them apart these days, if we’re talking about values and collectability, is of course the engine option. A pretty healthy 4895 examples of the Galaxie were ordered with the 427cu in FE big-block V8 that Ford needed to sell for homologation purposes on track. It’s thought that most of these Q-code (410bhp) and R-code (425hp, twin four- barrel) cars were 500s and 500XL fastbacks, but the real top dog was the rare factory lightweight.

Ford Galaxy 500 XL NASCAR double win1963 Daytona
Daytona 500, February 24th, 1963, winner Tiny Lund and Fred Lorenzen side-by-side in Galaxies 500 XL
Daytona 500, February 24th, 1963, winner Tiny Lund and Fred Lorenzen side-by-side in Galaxies 500 XL[/caption]Ford decided in 1963 to build 200 (actually they builded 212) fastbacks with various glass-fibre panels, the 427 engine in NASCAR tune, aluminum bumpers, lightweight Bostrum bucket seats and a minimalist interior. They were very much a track-focused weapon, rather than the luxury muscle machine that the 500XL became, but thanks to the kudos now associated with rarity, you’d need at least $100,000 to own one today.

1963 Riverside 500 NASCAR winner Dan Gurney with Ford Galaxy 500 XL
Riverside 500, January 20, 1963, Dan Gurney winner in Ford Galaxie 500 XL
Riverside 500, January 20, 1963, Dan Gurney winner in Ford Galaxie 500 XL[/caption]Dan Gurney began his ownership of NASCAR with Galaxie 500 at Riverside in January 20, 1963. Riverside International Raceway no longer exists, but this great short film shows all the action in 1963 at the historic facility. Enjoy.

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