Jim Smart
November 1, 2004

Ford's 427 FE-Series big-block is legendary in execution and performance. This legendary status wasn't achieved easily, nor was it free. There were lots of 400-plus cubic inch big-blocks at the time. Pontiac had the 421. Chevrolet brought us the 409. Cadillac was inching toward 500 ci. Oldsmobile wielded stump-pulling torque and horsepower via its middle-block "Rocket" V-8s.

Ford could count on a lot of intense competition from Detroit in 1963. The heat was hot in Motown and expected to get hotter. Ford also had healthy competition from the shores of Europe, especially Italy. In order to hand the competition its ass on a smoking skillet, Ford would have to burn a lot of midnight oil, enlist only the best talent and experience, and develop products that could win in the global motorsports arena. Thus, Ford's Total Performance program was born.

Henry Ford II, very determined to beat Enzo Ferrari at LeMans, pulled out all the stops in Dearborn. Call it ego or perhaps a form of insanity only HFII understood. No one will ever know for sure. But we do know the result-three consecutive LeMans wins in 1966, 1967, and 1968, with two of those wins performed with the 427ci FE-Series Ford big-blocks. Europe learned it wasn't just dumb luck for Ford. It was dogged, bloody, raw determination-and a man named Carroll Shelby.

When the '63 model year began in the fall of 1962, those big Galaxies enjoyed quite a line-up of optional big-block V-8s: the 352, the 390, and the 406. The 406 made lots of power, but it struggled staying together at high rpm in NASCAR competition. That heavy crank, spinning at 7,500 rpm, just shook the main caps loose. You can imagine the result. Ford needed answers-fast. The result was the cross-bolted FE block, which actually debuted during the '62 model year as the 406. The four-two-seven would ultimately be ready for anything.

Our point about Ford's Total Performance program of 1963 is simple-no Ford left behind. This '63 Galaxie 500 convertible is a product of Ford's coyote-persistent determination in the early '60s. The Galaxie was slippery and futuristic. The interior could accommodate most of the State of Delaware. That large trunk could swallow the rest of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Large and comfortable to be sure. Striking? You bet! When you spin the vintage Autolite starter and hear the soft clatter of mechanical lifters, it eliminates all doubt about what's beneath the bonnet. Ford's R-code 427 FE-Series big-block has twin Holley 4160 four-barrel carburetors on top of an aluminum manifold. Inside this one-a 428 crank that brings the displacement to 454 ci. Owner Jim Murray wanted it that way. With the 428's stroke and the 427's big bores, this FE comes alive in ways you've never imagined, with spine-decalcifying torque and insulting intrusion to anyone's ego sporting anything less.

Jim found this car in Hemmings Motor News in 1999, just waiting for a buyer in Mooresville, North Carolina. Unless you just arrived from Mars, Mooresville needs no introduction. It is the cradle of NASCAR racing. There's a stock car race shop on every corner. So it comes as no surprise you would find a car like this in Mooresville. When Jim arrived in town, he was introduced to this Rangoon Red convertible, clad in the original paint with an odometer reading of 29,000 miles. Purchased new by a college professor in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the car was never driven much. Later on, it found a new home in North Carolina and then was destined to follow Jim home to Nebraska.

When Jim got the car home, he decided to freshen up the 427, which had suffered from sitting. The gaskets had become hard. Rings and bearings were corroded. It needed a breath of fresh air. Those cast-iron headers are Jet Hot coated to reduce underhood heat and resist corrosion.

Behind the 427 is Ford's Top Loader four-speed, which was born in 1963 for the same reason the cross-bolt, side-oiler block was-durability. The Top Loader was engineered to take the pounding Borg-Warner's T-10 was never designed to take. The big 9-inch Ford rearend out back has 3.50:1 gears and 31-spline axles. Tough? You kiddin'?

Jim's message for all of us is this: have fun and enjoy the Fords you are able to afford. Jim's constructive modifications are bolt-on in nature and easily reversed if the need arises. Meanwhile, Jim will cruise the Great Plains remembering the halcyon days of Ford's Total Performance era.