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.

Subsequent efforts to further improve the 427 FE resulted in a number of changes, including side oiler, medium, and high rise intake versions of this engine. In 19631/2, a High Riser version of the 427 FE was also available with a cylinder head and matching intake that used a taller port for higher rpm operation. The Medium Riser version of this engine wasn't available until 1965. The exotic SOHC 427, however, was an altogether different engine which supposedly never made its way into a production street vehicle. These engines were never run in NASCAR either, but they did find their way into a number of Ford A/FX and B/FX drag cars which won at the 1965 Winternationals.

Of course, all of this development was in an effort to keep pace with Mopar's 426 Hemi, which breathed much better than Ford's 427 wedge head design due to larger valves and the semi-hemispherical combustion chamber. Insiders at the time admitted that the Hemi made more horsepower, but that was negated somewhat by the fact that the engine was so much heavier than Ford's 427 FE.

In the case of the '64 lightweight replica pictured here, this car has all the most visible things that differentiated the lightweights from other Galaxies. The Corinthian white paint and red vinyl interior all go well with the fiberglass tear top hood, which was originally designed to provide clearance for the high riser 427. A closer look, however, shows the original radio, console, and heater, which were not found on the factory race cars.

This particular Galaxie, which was originally born with a 390 FE and a Top Loader four-speed, is still plenty potent as it pulled nearly 500 hp on the chassis dyno, thanks in part to a few engine tweaks and the 920 cfm worth of tri-power carburetion from Powerhouse Machine in Taunton, Massachusetts. With front disc brakes and a big car ride, this Galaxie provides plenty of comfort, looks, and power that's unequaled by most other street machines.

To illustrate just how much all this meant, Ames and his significant other exchanged their wedding vows with this car in the background and then celebrated by going to a car show to kick off their honeymoon. Despite all the hours he has invested, Ames still gives a nod to the car's former owner for getting the project started and to his wife for her part as well. As many classic restomods are, it was a collective effort that's done its job by marking a place in time.

The Details
Stace Ames' '64 Galaxie two-door
Engine

  • Ford Hi-Riser 427 C4AE casting
  • 4.23-inch bore
  • 3.78-inch stroke
  • Hi-Riser 427 heads with 2.195-inch intake and 1.733-inch exhaust valves
  • Aftermarket tri-power intake manifold with three two-barrel Holley carburetors
  • Solid lifter cam
  • Mallory Unilite ignition with MSD wires
  • 490 hp/475 lb-ft torque

Transmission

  • Top Loader four-speed
  • Close ratio gear set
  • 31-spline output shaft

Rearend

  • 9-inch housing
  • Detroit Locker differential
  • 3.88 gears

Exhaust

  • Crites long-tube headers
  • 2 1/2-inch diameter dual exhaust
  • Flowmaster mufflers

Suspension

  • Front: Independent front A-arm, heavy-duty stock coil spring, rubber-bushed rollbar with OE-style shocks, power steering
  • Rear: Heavy-duty leaf spring suspension, OE-style shocks

Brakes

  • Front: Stainless Steel Brakes disc, 11.25-inch rotor, two-piston caliper
  • Rear: 11-inch OE-style rear drum

Wheels

  • Front: American Racing 200S with Gun Metal center, 15x7
  • Rear: American Racing 200S with Gun Metal center, 15x7

Tires

  • Front: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P225/70R15
  • Rear: BFGoodrich Radial T/A, P275/60R15

Interior

  • Stock red vinyl interior with bucket seats, deep loop pile carpeting, stock console, 120-mph speedometer, deluxe AM radio and aftermarket gauges

Exterior

  • Stock '64 Galaxie semi-fastback body with 119-inch wheelbase, Corinthian white with Crites fiberglass A/FX hood