Eric English
February 10, 2014

You're looking at the way it was, and the way some say it still should be. Of course, we're talking about stock car racing, and the evolution from what was once a motorsport based on production vehicles to a racing genre that has next to nothing in common with the cars sold at your local dealer showroom. We'll pass on the debate as to the merits of NASCAR's current state of affairs, but suffice it to say that the '65 Holman Moody Galaxie seen here is a warrior from a completely different era.

Back in the 1960s, the stock cars raced in NASCAR and USAC series were not really that different than what was being sold to the public. Take Ken Epsman's fantastic Ford spread before you—1 of just 15 '65 Galaxies to be prepped for racing that year in Holman Moody's Charlotte, North Carolina, digs. Notice the stock sheetmetal, floorpans, and more. You can't see the factory-based frame and suspension at all four corners, but it's all there, with key racing mods of course. And again, under the hood is a modified production piece—in this case, a 427 Medium Riser, which replaced the 427 Low Riser as a mid-'65 production revision.

If ever there was a car that epitomizes the "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" mantra, this Galaxie may be it. FoMoCo dominated the 1965 NASCAR season like no other, while full-size Ford sales reached close to one million units—a better number than any of the 1960-64 model years. The Blue Oval piled up a staggering 48 NASCAR victories in 1965, with Holman Moody factory drivers, Ned Jarrett and Dick Hutcherson, placing 1-2 in the driver's championship—Jarrett with 13 wins and Hutcherson with 9. Admittedly, the overwhelming winning percentage was partly due to Chrysler boycotting the first half of the season due to rules affecting the 426 Hemi, but no matter. Utter domination was a great way to introduce a car that was brand new from the ground up—exactly the case for the 1965 Galaxie.

When introduced in the fall of 1964, the '65 fullsize Fords (Customs, Galaxies, LTDs, and more) were a major departure from the past. Sharply creased bodylines and vertically stacked headlights were just the start, as underneath was an all new frame and coil spring suspension at all four corners. Ford advertising of the day touted the quietness of the new arrangement, tested as superior to that of a Rolls Royce at 60 mph. That surely wasn't a solid-lifter 427 car that Ford was comparing to the Rolls, but they did tout the 427 model as the "Velvet Brute." Print advertising explained it as follows, "This one is a paradox. Up front there's big muscle—427 cubic inches…the portrait of Brute Force. And when you get it rolling, don't look for a Brute Force ride. It's firm, but it's velvety firm. Controlled, but supple." Perhaps you're cracking up over Dearborn's cornball verbiage, but there's little doubt that a 427 Galaxie was an awesome piece.

Beyond the abundant changes in the Galaxie production line, 1965 witnessed meaningful changes in stock car evolution as well. Stock car historian Dr. John Craft explained that legitimate fire systems began to appear for the first time, and race rubber evolved substantially just over the course of the season—losing height and gaining width. As an aside, the front suspension and geometry of the new Galaxie was so good, it became the standard for many race teams of all makes and models, well into the 1990s.

The inside of Epsman’s Galaxie is all business, and a very authentic time capsule. Some teams ran a stock Galaxie driver seat, while others opted for this style unit with crude but effective bolstering. The large sandcast gauge housing is a particularly rare piece, with Craft saying he’s probably seen five during his many years of documenting and relating NASCAR history.

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As mentioned previously, Ken Epsman is the current owner of this great piece of stock car history, and he's not content to simply stare at it as a museum piece. Instead, Epsman is active in the Historic Stock Car Racing Series (HSCRS), and has run the Galaxie at various west coast track events at the likes of Sonoma Raceway, Laguna Seca, and Thunderhill. It's interesting to note that stock cars of this era, and actually well into the mid-1970s, ran massive drum brakes for stopping power. That said, Epsman pointed out that other than the occasional road course event, there wasn't much reason for the stockers to slow at an impressive rate, and they don't. For that reason, event organizers wisely keep the drum brake cars in a separate run group from the later disc brake stock cars. Craft explained that a typical road course setup of the era, such as a Galaxie prepared for Riverside, would likely run 3.5x11-inch drums at all corners, whereas a super speedway car would have 3x11-inch fronts and 2.5x 11-inch rears to save weight. This '65, prepped and maintained by McGee Motorsports in Sonoma, California, runs the 3.5-inch wide fronts with 3-inch rears.

The 427 Medium Riser seen here was built to period specs by T.O.E. Performance Products. On top is Ford’s “Sidewinder” single-4 intake and 750 Holley with LeMans–style bowls, with cool air fed from the cowl through a specially fabricated Holman Moody air cleaner. Incidentally, 1965 was the first year which Ford teams ran tube headers rather than cast iron exhaust manifolds, according to stock car historian Dr. John Craft.

When Epsman bought his Galaxie from fellow enthusiast Ted Thomas in 2008, it had already been restored by Kim Haynes, but was lacking a drivetrain. To remedy the situation, Epsman had Tony Oddo build a period-correct 427 featuring a standard bore Robert Pond block, and original Ford Medium Riser heads. The engine belts out a dyno-proven 490 horsepower and more than 500 lb-ft of torque, which is put in play via a close-ratio Top Loader four-speed—need we say that the latter is factory derived as well?

After spending time around a great historic stocker such as Epsman's Galaxie, one really can't help but reminisce and pine for the good old days of production-based race cars. Product identification and brand loyalty fed the passions of countless enthusiasts in a way that is clearly absent today, and seems to have done a pretty good job of generating sales for the big domestic manufacturers. Of course, there's no turning back the clock, so the best we can do is admire the smattering of vintage machines that still exist. We're particularly appreciative of cars that were restored to run with zeal, and for enthusiasts like Epsman who are committed to putting them to good use. Be sure to check out the HSCRS schedule at www.hscrs.com, and take in an event if you ever get the chance. Guaranteed, you won't be disappointed!

The Details
Ken Epsman's '65 Holman Moody Galaxie
Engine
427ci FE V-8
Robert Pond C5AE-H 427 side-oiler block
Ford forged steel 427, 3.78-inch stroke
Crower connecting rods
JE forged aluminum pistons
Crower solid lifter camshaft, 0.575-inch lift, 245/252 degrees duration at 0.050
Ford 427 medium-riser cylinder heads, 2.19-inch intake/1.73-inch exhaust valves
Ford 427 "Sidewinder" intake manifold
Holley 750-cfm carburetor with Le Mans bowls
Fiberglass wrapped stock fuel tank, ½-inch fuel lines, Carter mechanical pump
Transmission
Ford Top Loader four-speed, close-ratio, big input/output shaft
Hurst shifter with stock Ford handle
McLeod clutch and pressure plate
Rearend
Full-floating 9-inch
Nodular iron case
4.56:1 gears
Detroit Locker differential
31-spline Speedway Engineering axles
Exhaust
1¾-inch Hooker headers
3-inch side-exit exhaust
Suspension
Front: Holman Moody modified '65 Galaxie rear steer, Monroe shocks, 1-inch swaybar
Rear: Holman Moody modified '65 Galaxie coil spring, three-link with Watt's link, Monroe shocks
Brakes
3.5x11-inch front drums
3.0x11-inch rear drums
Wheels
15x10-inch steel double center
Tires
Hoosier T.D. S, 26.5x9.5-15