Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
Jack Hazelgren's 1963 Galaxie Lightweight
Jack Hazelgren's '63 Galaxie Lightweight Offers Unexpected Pleasure
When we saw this Wimbledon White '63 Galaxie at a Utah car show four years ago, it got our attention. It was a striking, slippery, stylish fastback massaged to perfection in Ford's design studios five decades ago. The '631/2 Galaxie fastback symbolized a new mindset at Ford that spring. The Galaxie's fastback roofline was the brainchild of Ford Division General Manager Lee Iacocca, who wanted more sportiness in all Ford car lines. The Falcon also got a fastback roofline and a sporty name--Sprint}. Iacocca infused a totally new image into the Ford Division lineup called Total Performance. Showroom floors quaked; so did the racing world.
Closer inspection of this slippery Galaxie revealed the legendary crossed checkered flags and a portension of things to come--SOHC. This was a 427 Galaxie fastback born of Ford's new, aggressive attitude and the Total Performance era. When Jack hopped in the car and spun its FE big-block, it had a decidedly different sound beneath the teardrop hood. There was the whiz of timing chains and the chatter of 16 rocker arms. Jack goosed the throttle, and we felt a rush of adrenaline. We had discovered not only a lightweight Galaxie, but also one fitted with a N.O.S. 427 SOHC big-block screamer that had just roared up from the '60s.
Jack is passionate about old Ford factory drag racers, but that's getting ahead of ourselves. Jack's love of vintage Fords dates back to when these cars were new, and it has never faded. A friend of his purchased a '63 Galaxie XL convertible in 1986, and Jack fell in love with '63 Fords all over again. He just had to have one. Today, he has five of them--all in various forms with 390s and 427s. Jack found this '63 lightweight in Hemming's Motor News in August 1999. He traded a '97 Camaro SS LT4, plus some cash, to get his hands on this Galaxie lightweight. Jack's find wasn't your typical glass Galaxie. It was fitted with the rare 427 SOHC hemi-head big-block designed and built for NASCAR competition in the mid-'60s.
When NASCAR told Ford it could not compete with an overhead cam engine, Ford wound up with dozens of 427-inch cammers on its hands. Many of them wound up in drag racers. Others were installed in boats. Still others were installed in street drivers. This is one of the crate engines that went undiscovered for many years. When it was discovered, it was knocked down and thoroughly inspected before assembly and fire-up. Jack tells us he removed the original sodium-filled valves and opted for Manley stopcocks instead. When he spun the cammer on the dyno, it made 675 hp at 7,500 rpm. It's a scream still heard high in the stratosphere over Utah.
You couldn't imagine anything less than an adequate drivetrain behind a 700-horse FE big-block. Ford's Top Loader four-speed channels the ponies into a "N" case 9-inch Detroit Locker, sporting 4.11:1 gears for good measure. Jack built his cammer glasser much as you might have expected in the '60s: factory drum brakes at all four corners, American Torq-Thrust D wheels, Mickey Thompson tires, N.O.S. factory Autolite shock absorbers, a 17-inch steering wheel, lightweight bucket seats, and only the necessary instrumentation. The sun tach takes us on a time trip back to the smell of burning rubber and Sunoco 260.
Of course, the centerpiece of this ride is its beating heart from the Total Performance era. The FE-series, 427ci, single overhead cam big-block was born in 1964 for NASCAR competition. It was a corporate act of desperation because Ford was getting clobbered on the superspeedways by Chrysler power. The FE's architecture made it challenging to fit with hemispherical cylinder heads as Chrysler had done with its 426ci RB-block. Because Ford had experience with overhead cam technology in its high-revving Indy small-blocks, it seemed logical to apply this thinking to the FE big-block. What Ford didn't know was NASCAR's Bill France wasn't having any part of overhead cam power on his speedways. Ford would quickly learn there would be no SOHC racing, so they took their corporate ball and went home.
What made the 427 SOHC revolutionary at the time was the technology practiced by Ford engineers. The SOHC's bottom end wasn't much different than we find with the wedge variants. Outside of oil distribution to the unusual heads, the block is virtually the same. Down under is a 7.5-quart oil pan. The crank was a steel forging for obvious reasons. Where the SOHC differed greatly was in its hemispherical crossflow heads with 2.250-inch intake and 1.90-inch exhaust valves. The head gaskets certainly were unique with an asbestos/steel combination designed for extreme pressures and heat. Rocker arms were little more than a cast-iron construction supported by needle-bearing fulcrums. These engines were quite sophisticated for their day--fitted with dual timing chains that looped from the crank sprocket to the single overhead cams above. Chain slack could be adjusted via a single idler. Screw-in freeze plugs were incorporated due to the high cooling system pressures. Ford opted for a transistorized, dual-point ignition system for added measure to keep the fire lit at high rpm.
The most remarkable part of the 427 SOHC story is how quickly Ford went from concept to running test mules--just 90 days. When Ford took its cammer to the dyno labs in Dearborn, it witnessed more than 600 hp at 7,000 rpm with more than 500 lb-ft of torque.
And this brings us back to Jack, who fires his 427 SOHC once a month to keep the oil circulating, and parts nice and limber. For Jack, listening to the SOHC enables him to live a dream most of us will never experience. Because Jack lives out in the country, he's able to spin the twin cams as aggressively as he desires. We will leave the rest to your imagination, and Jack to the business of door slamming.