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Hot Rod 3-Pack: 1963 1/2 Ford Galaxies

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 7/8/2020 Tim Bernsau,Hot Rod Archives
a car parked on the side of a road: 001-1963-FORD-GALAXIE-THREE-PACK © Hot Rod Archives 001-1963-FORD-GALAXIE-THREE-PACK

Three Favorites from Ford's Greatest High-Performance Full-Size

The branch of the hot-rodding family tree known as street cruisers has continued to grow in popularity in the 10-15 years because rodders started paying serious attention to full-sized 1950s and 1960s cars. Ford Galaxies are one of our favorite candidates for that category. To narrow it down further, the 1963 1/2 mid-year models just might be our favorite Galaxies. Here's a trio of our favorite 1963 1/2 Galaxies from recent years. Each one represents a different approach to hot rodding. Which one is your favorite?

The Owner-Built Driver

The street rods that Dave Lane builds for his FastLane Rod Shop customers regularly win prestigious awards at the biggest shows, but his personal 1963 1/2 Ford Galaxie was built on a real-world budget. Lane said he decided to build the Galaxie the way he would have if he had been a rodder in the early '60s. His goal back then, as now, would be to build a sleeper—mostly stock looking on the outside, but with a few out-of-sight surprises.

Exterior modifications were limited to removing some trim pieces and chroming some others. The Corinthian White paint is a factory color. The blackwall radial tires are beefier than '60s tires but aren't radically oversized and look relatively mild mounted on 15-inch wheels. The lowered stance, achieved with RideTech shocks and other contemporary suspension parts, is a subtle hint that there might be something more to this car.

"Something more" would be the 625-hp all-aluminum 427 FE-type engine, built by Randy Pond Motorsports. The 8-stack EFI set-up resembles '60s injection but features modern Holley HP EFI electronics and hidden injectors.

Inside is as (relatively) mild as the exterior, with a floor shifter and Rotunda tach providing clues that this cruiser belongs to a hot rodder. Dave Lane had his owner-built 1963 1/2 Galaxie in the Hot Rod Industry Alliance display on Hot Rod Alley at the 2014 SEMA Show, where we (and a million other people) shot our photos. Read the full story here.

The Sensational Show-Stopper

After winning a Street Rodder Top 100 award at the 2018 Street Rod Nationals, Bruce and Judy Ricks brought their dark green 1963 1/2 Galaxie 500 to the Shades of the Past Hot Rods Roundup, where it won Best Street Cruiser in the Triple Crown of Rodding competition. A few months later, it earned Ford's "Best of Show" for Outstanding Achievement Design Award at the SEMA Show.

When purchased from collector/racer George Poteet, this was a stocker with a bench seat and 220-hp 352-inch Ford FE engine. That started to change as soon as Steve Cook Creations started to work. As with Dave Lane's Galaxie, the outward appearance remains unmodified, right down to '60s-style Diamond Back redline tires on 15-inch steelies. The big change was made under the hood, with a 622-hp 496-inch FE built by Craft Performance Engines.

The factory frame was kept, and the suspension was beefed up with Fatman Fabrications drop spindles and tubular control arms in front, a Kugel Komponents 9-inch with 4.10:1 gears and locker differential in the rear, and RideTech adjustable shocks all around.

The bench seat was replaced by Galaxie 500 XL buckets, upholstered in leather by Sculpt Garage. Other modern amenities include Vintage Air A/C, a Kicker stereo, and Dakota Digital gauges in a 1963 Mercury dash.

Their car has been a stunning success on the show circuit, but the Ricks had more in mind for their 1963 1/2 Galaxie than collecting trophies. It's not really a Street Cruiser if it doesn't cruise on the street—and that's exactly what it does. Read the full story here.

The Restored Iconic Race Car

Street cruiser 1963 1/2 Galaxies like Dave Lane's and Bruce and Judy Ricks' owe their existence to Ford's race-built Galaxies, like John Karelius' authentic Galaxie 500 Lightweight factory drag car.

The aerodynamic "Sports Hardtop" fastback roof and the new 425-hp 427 engine were part of Ford's efforts to keep a competitive edge in NASCAR racing. But the mid-year Galaxie wasn't just about winning on circle tracks. Ford wanted to win drag races too, and he built 200 Galaxie 500 Lightweights to compete in NHRA's Super Stock class.

In order to reduce weight, these cars featured a fiberglass hood and decklid, glass fenders, aluminum bumpers, and plexiglass side windows. The factory bench seat was replaced with lightweight buckets. The armrests, radio, clock, heater, and carpet were deleted.

The 427s were topped with dual Holley four-barrel carbs and backed by a Borg-Warner T10 four-speed transmission. The Ford 9-inch rearends were packed with 4.11:1 gears. Firestone front tires and Firestone Dragster cheater slicks were mounted on 15-inch steel wheels. All the Galaxie Lightweights wore Corinthian White paint.

Les Ritchey was one of the best-known drivers achieving Super Stock success in Ford's Lightweights. John Karelius is Ritchey's nephew and the owner of one of these rare Lightweights. He found the original-condition car in Arizona, but he discovered that it had raced on the East Coast in the '60s. Karelius brought the rare Galaxie to California, where it was restored to original condition at Kugel Komponents. The full story was written by Richard Truesdell for the June 2017 issue of Muscle Car Review magazine. Read the full story here.


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