The Ford Galaxie is the stuff of legend. As a Ford, it’s in illustrious company alongside the Model T, Mustang, and F-series as the manufacturer’s most unforgettable cars. Two races inspired the creation and the naming of the Ford Galaxie.
The Galaxy Space Race
The first was the international space race that captured so much of the world’s attention during the 1950s and 1960s. They chose ‘Galaxie’ to capture the spirit of space travel, with the marketing team deciding on a unique ‘ie’ spelling instead of a ‘y’. There is, however, a Ford ‘Galaxy’, but if you’re familiar with both, you’ll understand that these are two very different beasts!
The Chevy Rivalry
The second was the ongoing rivalry with Chevrolet. The all-conquering Chevy Impala was a massive success and dominated the full-size car market segment, outselling the Ford Fairlane and others in droves. However, the introduction of the Galaxie would put Ford back in the top spot.
Full-size, front-engine, rear-wheel drive. Giant, round rocket-booster-looking tail lights. Stainless steel and chrome everywhere. A powerful engine – Y-Block V8 and 300-horses at your disposal. Purchasing a top-of-the-line Ford Galaxie in 1959 would have been the closest thing to being in an actual rocket for mere mortals!
Today, the Ford Galaxie is an absolute classic. Cars that have had full restoration or are in naturally excellent condition can go for a fortune, and they are highly sought-after collectibles. Like all legends, the Ford Galaxie has a remarkable history, so buckle up and let’s go for a drive!
A Star Is Born – The First Generation Ford Galaxie in 1959
As mentioned, the Galaxie was introduced as a direct competitor to the Chevy Impala, which had been in production for two years when the Galaxie launched in 1959. In late 1958, when the 1959 Ford range was announced, the Fairlane 500 was the top-trim option.
The Galaxie was introduced as an even higher-tier during 1959, displacing the Fairlane. It was a stroke of genius from Ford. From a marketing, engineering, and design perspective, it paid off very well.
From the aforementioned space-rocket lights and shiny metal features to the highly futuristic and slick interior, the car was a modern marvel, and people fell head over heels in love with it.
Plenty of Options With the Ford Galaxie
To enjoy a sunny day or gaze at the stars in your rocket ship, there were two top-down options: the Sunliner, a soft-top convertible, or the Skyliner retractable hardtop. You could also choose from a two-door sedan, a four-door sedan, a two-door hardtop, and a four-door hardtop.
It was as impressive under the trunk. Customers had an engine choice between one straight-six, three Y-block V8s, and two FE series V8 models. The transmission options included a two-speed automatic transmission, a three-speed auto, or a three-speed manual trans.
This absolute legend was only available in 1959 as a few things had to change to bring the Ford Galaxie in line with the swinging 60s!
Onwards And Upwards – The Second Generation Ford Galaxie 1960 – 1964
Upwards, or more appropriately sideways too! The 1960 – 1964 model year Ford Galaxie was bigger. With a 119-inch wheelbase, 213-inch overall length, and 81.5 inches wide, it was 6 inches wider and longer than its predecessor.
The engine was upgraded too. The 272-ci Y-block 289 made way for a small block Windsor 308 ci V8 engine, and new V8s were introduced to the top range models.
They looked a little different – While remaining spectacularly space-like, the broader and longer shape gave it a slightly more contemporary and robust look. The changes were well-received, though, reflected in its popularity on the market.
Upgrades and Updating
In 1961, some more noticeable aesthetic changes occurred, particularly the large circular lights returning to the back end, something that the 1960 version changed. The 1960 Galaxie also came with huge horizontal fin tails made smaller for the 1961 overhaul. Other 1961 changes included a drastically altered front end and a few other minor interior adjustments.
1962 saw some significant changes to the rear deck, and the taillights were positioned very close to the bumper. In addition, the slant on the back of the quarter panels of the rear deck changed the look, and the 1962 version didn’t have the same straight-edge rear deck style. By 1962, all full-size Fords were Galaxie models.
The 1963 and 1964 versions saw slight changes to the rear deck and taillights, but most body styles remained the same. The second generation remained a bestseller too and warmly embraced the public. There were five different transmission options, including a standard 3-speed manual column shift and a heavy-duty 4-speed manual transmission on the 406 V8 models.
The 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Convertible
The 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Convertible turned a lot of heads back in the 1960s. With a 0-60 acceleration of 15 seconds and a top speed of 95 mph, the Galaxie Convertible was a great summer driver.
The convertible featured rear-wheel drive, manual 3-speed gearbox, 15 miles per gallon, and 138 horsepower.
The Legend Continues – Third Generation Ford Galaxie 1965 – 1968
The mid-sixties saw further upgrades and changes to the legendary Ford Galaxie. The competition was heating up with the release of the Pontiac GTO in 1963. But the Galaxie didn’t waver. The 1965 high-performance 427 Galaxie clocked a 14-second quarter-mile with a top speed of 145 mph.
Trends in car design moved towards vertically stacked headlights, and the Galaxie did the same. It was also when the extra-legendary Galaxie 500 LTD and Galaxie 500 XL came to being.
The 1966 Galaxie featured a new engine, and the interior received a new gauge cluster. In addition, the car’s suspension system was overhauled, which made a massive difference to the handling and the ride in general.
A dual brake master cylinder system was introduced in 1967, and in 1968 the vertically stacked headlight went back to a horizontal formation.
The Final Bow – Fourth Generation Ford Galaxie 1969 – 1974
The last generation of the legendary Ford Galaxie was a strong finish. The car was made slightly longer by an inch, and there were some upgraded engine options – 240 (six-cylinder), 302 V8, 351 V8, 390 V8, 400 V8, 429 V8, and a 460 V8.
The 1969 Galaxie came with a new chassis and a 121-inch wheelbase, with hideaway headlights still available on some models.
There wasn’t much that changed during the last five years of the Ford Galaxie. But then, as its final run came to a close, Ford started focusing on the LTD as the premier full-size option, and the Galaxie would gracefully bow out and become the stuff of legend in 1974.
The Ford Galaxie Fastback
One of the most underrated rigs of the 1960s is without a doubt, the Ford Galaxie Fastback.
This incredible car listed on auto website Bring A Trailer for $8,000 and sold over a year ago. That’s a whole lot of car for 8 grand! The gold over gold fastback featured a three-speed transmission, 390-CI FE V8 engine, hideaway headlights, and only 49,000 miles on the odometer.
The 1964 Ford Galaxie Station Wagon
If you’re a station wagon fan, which I know there are a few, I’m sure you love the 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Country Sedan Station Wagon. The incredible lines and amazing design on this Galaxie station wagon have “time-capsule” all over it.
The Galaxie station wagon was newly designed in 1963, and by 1964, families all over the country were looking forward to their next long road trip in a comfortable station wagon.
Many people can still remember taking road trips in the family station wagon. They were large enough to haul almost anything, including dogs, kids, gear, some families even rigged TV’s behind the front seat for the kids!
7 Amazing Galaxie Facts
Let’s take a look at seven incredible Ford Galaxie facts, figures, and notable achievements.
1 – The Stock Racing Legend
The Ford Galaxie didn’t only impress on roads; it also made quite an impact on the racetrack. The 1962 and 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight was a formidable Super Stock racer, and it had a fascinating back story.
With its heavy frame, the Ford 406 couldn’t compete with the lighter Dodge like Plymouth’s new Max Wedge 413, which put out 410 horsepower in a much more lightweight frame. This prompted legendary racer Les Ritchey, to speak to the Ford team and mention the heavy frame’s limitations on their racing prospects.
At that stage, in 1962, Ritchey was well known in racing circles, having prepared Gas Ronda’s engines and being the owner of a Performance Associates shop in southern California. Ritchey was convinced that Ford could be a serious contender in Super Stock racing due to Dick Brannon’s success with his modified Galaxie.
Ford engineers listened and sent 11 Galaxie Club Sedans to Dearborn Steel Tubing to create their leaner and meaner Super Stock racers. Phil Bonner drove the first of the lightweight Galaxies in 1962, the foundation for future racing success.
Ready for the Racetrack
The lightweight Galaxies had a unique lightweight frame and thinner window glass. Other weight loss factors included:
- Fiberglass hood
- Fibreglass front fenders
- Fiberglass trunk lid
- Aluminum inner fender panels
- An aluminum front bumper and bumper brackets
- Lightweight bucket seats
- Battery moved to the trunk
1962 didn’t quite work out as planned for the lightweight Galaxy due to an NHRA ruling, and they were moved to the Factory Experimental A/FX class. It affected their race record, but in 1963 everything changed. By then, their Super Stock program was highly developed, and Ford racers started winning, including a victory in the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Ned Jarrett, who raced the Ford Galaxie over many NASCAR seasons, won an impressive 13 races in 1965, including Ford’s first NASCAR championship.
2 – Inspiration Via Rivalry
We briefly mentioned this earlier, but the intense rivalry between Ford and Chevrolet is an essential part of the development of the Galaxie and must be discussed in depth.
Post World War 2, the car market changed, and as development and manufacturing boomed, both Ford and Chevy launched substantial advertising campaigns. These campaigns resulted in increased sales and the mid-1950s ‘car wars’.
The battle was on a few fronts – The aesthetics, the engines, and of course, the marketing and advertising campaigns that tried to get the message across to the public.
During this period, many hits and misses were, most notoriously, Ford’s attempt to manufacture a futuristic, high-end vehicle that cost them around 400 million dollars. The car was a colossal failure, but Ford took it on the chin and continued trying to push the envelope.
While Chevy dominated most of the 1950s in sales, the Ford Galaxie was a massive success in 1959. This sparked a new era for Ford, who dominated throughout the 1960s. In response to the Chevy Impala, which was dominated by the full-size Galaxies in sales. The Galaxie success gave Ford both a financial victory and a confidence boost.
3 – The Space Race
Many things defined the 50s and 60s, and the space race was one of the most dominant. The United States and The Soviet Union battled it out to see who could reach new firsts and set a precedent for space exploration.
Amidst all this interest in things intergalactic, Ford made the savvy move to create a car inspired by the aesthetics and essence of rocket ships. The Ford Galaxy captured the zeitgeist of an era, and it sparked the imagination of the public who fell in love with it.
4 – International Appeal
Like most cars of that era, the Galaxie was produced and launched in the US for the North American market.
Assembly occurred in various states, including Louisville, Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, Michigan, etc.
It was, however, also produced and marketed internationally, including assembly in Australia for their market and in Brazil for the Latin American market.
It was a huge success both in the US and these international markets, indicative of its universal appeal.
The Ford Galaxie wasn’t a muscle car. It never wanted to belong to the muscle car era. As a comfortable, full-sized large car with plenty of power and sleek design in the U.S. and worldwide, the Ford Galaxie was destined to be in a class of its own.
5 – The Ford Galaxie 500XL
While Ford’s early 1960s was a prosperous period due to the Galaxie, there was serious competition. The Chevrolet Impala Super Sport and the Plymouth Sport Fury, both V8-powered and very attractive, were poised to take the market share crown of the Galaxie.
That is until the Galaxie 500XL was released in 1963. A car that did everything better than its rivals, including marketing, was one of a few models tagged as ‘The Lively Ones.’ The marketing team’s response when asked what XL stood for? Xtra Lively!
6 – The Galaxie LTD
We briefly mentioned the LTD earlier as the successor of the Galaxie in the 70s, but it started as a Galaxie model. In 1965, the highest trim level of the Ford Galaxie was known as the Galaxie 500 LTD.
It would eventually become its model in 1966 when the Galaxie nameplate was dropped. During its time, the LTD was the largest (in size) car produced by Ford, and it had all the luxurious options and features available.
7 – The Ford Galaxie 7 Liter
Coming in perfectly at number 7 is the 1966 Galaxie 500 7-Liter model. Ford made adjustments to their frames and suspension in 1964, creating a smoother and more silent ride.
To celebrate this manufacturing improvement, Ford Motor Company released the Galaxie 500s with a 7-liter in 1966. A large and impressive vehicle that was smooth, quiet, and came standard with a 7-Liter Ford Thunderbird V8 engine.
The Legendary Ford Galaxie
The amazing run of the Ford Galaxie ended in 1974. By this time, Ford had perfected the model to include a 2-door Hardtop 351 V-8 Cruise-O-Matic transmission with a top speed of 111 mph.
1974 Ford Galaxie values today range from $5,000 to $8,000. It was a great family car. Tough, dependable, spacious, and sturdy. Ford eventually moved on from the Galaxie but it’s place in automobile history will live on.
READ More about amazing classic cars that won’t be soon forgotten –