Rod Short
May 13, 2010

Surfing on eBay can dig up a lot of memories for people, many of which can take you back quickly to another place and time. That's what Stace Ames found one night when he happened across this ultra-clean '64 Galaxie 500. The more that he looked at it, the more his thoughts stayed with the car and the era that it came from. A couple of hours' drive up to New Hampshire where the car was confirmed that it was everything he thought it was. It had to be his.

"I bought it from an older gentleman who was selling it to make room for a Mustang," Ames said. "I bought the car, but was never able to find out much about the history of the car. He was killed in that very same Mustang just two days after I got the car."

The car was ultra-clean in many ways, but also more than a little dirty after sitting in storage for what appeared to be a long time. Ames got the car home and, as every new classic car owner should, became intimate with every nook, cranny, bolt, and crevice as he brought it up to his standards. It was an exhausting job, but it gave him the opportunity to revisit another place and time in his mind while the work was going on.

Long before the Vietnam War and social unrest that marked the '60s, Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford, and Plymouth were battling on the oval tracks and dragstrips to better position themselves for the discretionary dollars of the up and coming baby boomer generation. The competition was so intense that newer, bigger, and more powerful engines came out nearly every year.

As part of the trend, Ford introduced its 390 FE series engine, which was a replacement for the 352, in 1961. As Ford's performance engine program evolved after the AMA ban, the 406 debuted the following year. Testing continued as Ford engineers worked to find an engine combination for NASCAR that was both powerful and durable. In 1963, the 427 FE engine was released, measuring just one cubic inch under the 7-liter displacement limit that the NASCAR rules makers had imposed. The on-track results in NASCAR were dramatic. After winning just six races in 1962, Fords grabbed the Top 5 finishing spots for 1963, their win total for the year. In 1964, they won a whopping 55 percent of the 62 NASCAR events held that year and all but seven of the 55 races in 1965.

On the dragstrip, however, the results were nowhere near as pronounced. Factory involvement from Chevrolet and Pontiac essentially ended in 1963, but the big Ford Galaxies and Mercury Marauders were having trouble keeping up with Dodge and Plymouth cars on the quarter-mile. The Mopars benefitted from lighter unibody construction, smaller frontal surface areas and shorter wheelbases for better weight transfer. Lightweight versions of the big Galaxies with fiberglass body components and aluminum bumpers helped minimize the weight disadvantage, but the Mopars countered with lightweights of their own.

To remain competitive against the Mopars, however, the clear answer was to go with a smaller, lighter body style, which is exactly what Ford did with the Ford Thunderbolt and Mercury Comet in 1964. Although a handful of lightweight Falcons and Mustangs were also built, these were the cars that led the way with Ford's "Total Performance" program. That change paid immediate benefits as Gas Ronda won the 1964 season opener in a 427 FE Thunderbolt at the NHRA Winternationals, while Butch Leal won the U.S. Nationals.

That didn't mean that big-block 427 Galaxies were gone, however. In order to keep that combination legal for NASCAR, Ford was required to produce a limited number of these cars for the street. As a result, two versions of these big-block Galaxies were produced, mostly with a fastback roofline for better aerodynamics on the high banks. The Q-code "Thunderbird High Performance" option carried a 410hp version of the 427 FE, while the R-code "Thunderbird Super High Performance" was rated at 425 hp at approximately 6,000 rpm. The less powerful Q-code used a single four-barrel carb, while the R-code came with dual four-barrel carbs. Both of these side oiler engines were Low Riser versions, utilizing a 4.23-inch bore with a 3.78-inch stroke and 11.5:1 pistons. These early street 427s used the same heads, cam, and exhaust from the 406 and had a reputation for being very strong and durable engines for the street.