October 25, 2006

At the beginning of the '63 model year, Ford had a vanilla image with new-car buyers. Under the direction of Robert McNamara, president of Ford Motor Company at the time, the corporation was all about practical, reliable transportation. There just wasn't much in the way of passion-inducing testosterone. McNamara, one of Henry Ford II's post-war whiz kids, would later move on to become President John F. Kennedy's Secretary of Defense. The Falcon was McNamara's brainchild-affordable, practical transportation for the masses. And because of that, Ford sold a lot of them.

While McNamara pushed Falcons and other Ford nameplates, a rising young executive had other ideas about what Ford needed to do to sell even more cars-Lee Iacocca. Wonderfully persistent, determined, savvy Iacocca saw potential in the youth market-post-war baby boomers coming of age who weren't the least bit interested in practical transportation. They were interested in exciting transportation and a sporty image. Young people didn't want grandpa cars; they wanted cool cars-ones that made a statement.

At the dawning of the '60s, Ford cars lacked the kind of zest young people were seeking. As a result, Ford sales weren't reaching potential. Young people were buying British sports cars and sporty domestic cars like Corvair Spiders with bucket seats. They weren't buying Fords. Iacocca noticed.

When McNamara left Ford to join the Kennedy administration, Iacocca, then new Ford division general manager and vice president, was finally free to move on his ideas. First, he gave instructions to pump up the horsepower. Powertrain engineers responded with the 406-a big-bore FE-series big-block born of 390 architecture. To make the 406 more competitive in racing, Ford engineers gave it cross-bolted main caps to withstand high revs. As the '63 model year unfolded, Iacocca examined all of the carlines and engines, looking at what could be done to infuse adrenaline into the lineup.

Iacocca looked at the '61 Starliner with its fastback roofline born of the need for speed in NASCAR competition. It was an attractive automobile that was not only slippery, it was exciting. His attention then turned to the '63 Galaxie and Falcon, both with formal rooflines and mainstream personas. With Iacocca's direction, Ford stylists went to work on a midyear '63 revision-fastback rooflines for Falcon and Galaxie. During the spring of 1963, Ford Division added two fresh body styles to the option sheet.

The Iacocca-inspired Total Performance campaign at Ford led to new public awareness that would have the Number Two automaker more involved in racing and a more aggressive attitude on the street. In addition to fastback rooflines, Ford added Falcon Sprint and Galaxie XL to each carline. What's more, Iacocca called for exciting engines-the super big-bore, high-revving 427ci big-block for big Fords and the solid-lifter 289 High Performance small-block for Fairlanes. Ford salesmen now had something to rock, roll, and sell with.

Lightweight fiberglass-paneled Galaxies would catch notice in NHRA competition (still not fast enough to beat the Mopars, however). A year later, an aggressive Ford dealer from the Northeast, Bob Tasca, would get Iacocca's attention with a 427 Fairlane Ford would call Thunderbolt.The masses watched in utter shock as Thunderbolt Fairlanes cleaned house from coast-to-coast, spanking everything from Plymouth to Chevrolet. The 'Bolt was a rabid dog to be reckoned with, gaining Ford new respect.

Before you is a solid reminder of Ford's Total Performance campaign with a twist. This is Greg Cook's '63 1/2 Galaxie 500 fastback-originally a 390ci big-block factory ride assembled at Ford's Norfolk, Virginia assembly plant-super cool, smooth, quiet full-size transportation for anything from a single guy to a growing family. The '63 1/2 Galaxie fastback was a refreshing sight for anyone thinking about a big Ford that spring. Notchback Galaxies were still available and good-looking in their own right. But the fastback was a dreamy metaphor for letting your hair down underneath a huge backlite between elongated quarter-panels. That's just the way it was done in 1963.

With the midyear Galaxie fastback also came a 427ci FE-series big-block with plenty of bore and short, high-rpm stroke. It was a 7,000-rpm screamer that started making real power around six grand. We're afraid Greg's Galaxie isn't one of those R-code monsters ready to go racing. It was more a freeway cruiser ready for a weekend getaway and Monday morning commute. Thousands of them did this for many years before retirement to salvage yards, barns, and backyards. When Greg found his Galaxie, it was that mild 390 stocker we were talking about earlier-a terrific platform on which to build nasty street/strip power.

When Greg set out to build his Galaxie, he wasn't thinking about FE big-block power because it didn't make economic sense for him. It costs a whole lot more to build an FE stroker than it does a 429/460-based 385-series fat-block. Greg's plan was to crack a 10-second e.t. on the 1,320 with this thing. Excuse us? This is a 4,500-pound automobile. Ten seconds at well in excess of 135 mph? That takes a mind-bending amount of torque-then horsepower as vehicle speed increases-to crack this kind of elapsed time. What does it take to get there aside from a lot of power, just the right gearing, and driving skill? What's more-Greg wanted something he could legally register and drive on the street without getting into trouble. He didn't stop there with his goals, either. He wanted a trophy-winning battlewagon dressed to impress. It does.

So how did Greg achieve all these things without losing anything? It takes a lot of car-building savvy to build a big Ford that can do just about everything all at the same time, and do it well. He was asking his Ford to do a lot, and with older technology.

Because Greg calls Gettysburg Pennsylvania, home, it puts him within spittin' distance of just about every automotive event you can think of for hundreds of miles. If he wants to visit the New England Dragway deep in the Northeast or Englishtown in New Jersey for a weekend of drag racing he can. In the middle of hot August heat and humidity, Detroit's Woodward Dream Cruise beckons, and Greg goes just to cruise Woodward. He can haul his slippery fastback Galaxie to drag racing events, go racing, and crack a 9.89 at 135 mph. Sound absurd? Greg tells us he's done it several times. He also reminds us he has taken the car to the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals and come home to neighboring Gettysburg with a trophy. That means it goes, shows, and wins just about every way imaginable.

So how does anyone blast through the traps at over 130 mph and hit the streets to do a little cruising? For one thing, Greg did most of the work himself, which means he has a special intimacy with the car that no one else has. He started with a '71 vintage {{{Lincoln}}} 460 block and punched it 0.080-inch oversize. We are the first to admit this makes us nervous. Eighty over in a stock block, but Greg managed to pull it off. We will call this one pure luck, and perhaps a sonic-checked block.

Greg went with a Scat 4.500-inch stroker crank in 4340 steel, Eagle H-beam rods (big 6.800-inch Chevy rods), JE 13.5:1 custom pistons, Childs & Albert rings, a Comp Cams roller hydraulic bumpstick with a lot of lift, aluminum Cobra Jet heads ported right in Greg's own shop, a Victor Jr. manifold, a 1,050-cfm Dominator, and more.

Would you believe Greg channels the poop through a custom-built Performance Automatic C4? He does. The C4 is generally accepted as a small-block automatic transmission, however, it makes a terrific racing automatic because there's less mass to spin inside. This means more power available to propel a classic Galaxie. An N-case Ford with 4.30 Detroit Locker gears and 31-spline axles do the rest.

Greg likes that people think this is a 12-second street/strip drag car. He enjoys watching their eyes when he produces timeslips of under 10 seconds at over 130 mph. He has exceeded expectations by infusing a lot of displacement into old Lincoln iron. This is not only 557ci, it is also all about how Greg has configured bore and stroke. These are big bores at nearly 4 1/2 inches. Coupled with a 411/42-inch stroke and long big-block Chevy rods, there's plenty of mechanical advantage going on here. Deep lungfuls of displacement along with plenty of dwell time at each end of the bores is where power is born. This gives Greg a huge air/fuel charge, and brute leverage that come with stroke. Because he doesn't have to turn the heavy, cumbersome guts of a C6 or Turbo 400 transmission, this frees up a lot of power to shave a second or two off those e.t.'s.

Because we were at the Carlisle All-Ford Nationals when we shot this Galaxie, Greg never had a chance to show us the car's 1,320 performance. But we love this Galaxie's Total Performance demeanor-like it just rolled off a trailer from a '63-'64 NHRA Super Stock event long ago. On the surface, it's so retro with its teardrop fiberglass hood and slippery roofline. And because it's clad in a factory color, Greg hasn't deviated from the original persona that makes these super-long Galaxies so terrific.

Greg's Galaxie Quick Facts
Best 60-Foot Time: 1.32 seconds
Best Quarter-Mile Time: 9.94 at 134.32
Best Eighth-Mile Time: 6.29 at 108.42
Cruised 25 miles each way at 65-70 mph on the Southfield Freeway in Detroit, to and from the hotel during Woodward Dream CruiseIdles at 900 rpm
Conversations can be held in a normal tone of voice at cruise power
Greg runs 94-octane Sunoco on the street
For racing, he runs Torco 110-octane
Idles in traffic without overheating and never fouls a spark plug
Trailered to the track and to long-distance eventsGreg was expecting 10-second times-he got 9s

The Details
'6311/42 Galaxie Fastback
Owner: Greg Cook, Gettysburg, PA

Engine
557ci 385-series big-block V-8
D1VE Lincoln two-bolt main block
4.440-inch bore, 4.500-inch stroke
4340 Scat steel crankshaft
Eagle 6.8-inch Chevy H-beam rods
JE forged pistons - 13.5:1 compression
Ported Edelbrock Cobra Jet heads
Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake
Holley 1,050-cfm Dominator
5,000-cfm cooling fan and custom shroud
Comp Cams mechanical roller camshaft - .728/.728-inch lift, 268/276 duration
Milodon oil pan and pick-up
MSD ignition
760 hp at 6,000 rpm

Transmission
Performance Automatic race-prepared C4

Rearend
N-Case 9-inch
4.30 gears
Detroit Locker
31-spline axles

Exhaust
Crites 2-inch tube headers with 311/42-inch collectors
DynoMax Max Flo Pro Series mufflers

Suspension
Front: Stock with Competition Engineering
components for drag racing
Rear: Coilover shocks and ladder bar

Brakes
Front: Aerospace disc
Rear: Stock drum

Wheels
Front: Weld Pro Stars, 15x5-inch
Rear: Weld Pro Stars, 15x10-inch

Tires
Front: Mickey Thompson Sportsman, 15x6
Rear: Mickey Thompson ET Street, 30x13.5x15

InteriorStock Turquoise with rollcage, Auto Meter
instrumentation

Exterior
PPG basecoat/clearcoat Peacock Turquoise,
teardrop fiberglass hood, trunk lid, and bumpers