Born in the 1930s on dry lake beds in the California deserts, drag racing really took off in the 1960s, when Ford, GM and Chrysler got involved. The automakers’ passion to compete resulted in all kinds of performance options for just about everything that came off the assembly line back then.
Ford adopted “Total Performance” as its corporate mantra back as early as 1961, and dove into Indy, NASCAR and drag racing with full force. The company, with ambitious racing plans for 1963 that involved making the Galaxie even more competitive than it already was, announced a limited-production “special lightweight performance vehicle” to be offered to drag racers nationwide. Just 200 were built, all based on the production Galaxie with a more aerodynamic semi-fastback roofline, and all dressed in Corinthian White with red interiors.
At the heart of the new Galaxie was Ford’s legendary 427ci V8 engine, equipped with an aluminum low-riser manifold sporting factory cast-iron high-performance headers and two Holley 4-barrel carburetors, and factory-rated at 425hp. Because of the engine’s immense 480 ft/lbs of torque, an aluminum safety bellhousing was installed in front of a Ford Toploader close-ratio 4-speed manual transmission. Bringing the car to a halt were Police Interceptor brakes.
But the Blue Oval knew that, to be more competitive, the car had to lose a lot of weight. To accomplish this, fiberglass was used for the hood, front fenders, decklid and inner fender liners. Aluminum front and rear bumpers and brackets, as well as a lightweight frame, were put into play. The hood springs, the trunk’s counterbalancing spring, trunk mat, spare tire and jack were all jettisoned. Inside, the radio, heather, defroster, door panel armrests, factory rubber mat flooring, sound-deadening and seam sealing were all eighty-sixed. The front bench seat was replace with a pair of lightweight bucket seats. The result was a vehicle some 425 pounds lighter than a fully equipped Ford Galaxie 500 XL hardtop.
This example, with just over 400 miles on the odometer, is currently owned by someone who has Ford and drag racing in his DNA: the nephew of Ford Drag Racing legend Les Ritchey, one of the original Ford Drag Team members, along with Dick Brannan, Mickey Thompson and other well-known names. Ritchey’s nephew even witnessed him taking the S/S Class at the Drag Racing Nationals in Indianapolis in 1963, driving his 1963-1/2 Galaxie 427 Lightweight.
Discovered in an Arizona collection of old drag cars, the current owner authenticated the Galaxie and then took it with him to California, where it was meticulously restored. Since its restoration, the car has been shown at a number of events in Southern California. It is unquestionably a rare example of Ford drag racing history.
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