By 1962 Ford's quality control program, begun in 1959 and helped by the 1962 Ford racing program, was showing results. Since 1946 Ford had its good and not so good years. Some years bodies were improved, some years engines were better, some years had better interiors, better chrome plating, or better paint.
1962 Ford models continued the company's upward
climb in quality, thanks in part to its racing program.
But no Ford was as good in as many respects as the 1961. The 1962 models had even better overall quality control, and the 1963 and 1964 Fords were better still. During these years Ford was learning a lot from the missile industry to drive bugs out of its products and make its cars reliable in every aspect.
A second facet of Ford's quality control program was its racing research. Contrary to popular belief, Ford did not race in these years simply to sell cars. During the early Sixties, Ford was seriously committed to pushing its cars around the tracks until the wheels literally fell off. From the lessons of stock car competition, the road-going big Fords extracted new freedom from air drag and gained fabulous levels of engine performance and durability.
Ford and Pontiac slugged it out on the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) superspeedway circuit in 1962, with Ford gaining a slight edge in the eight major races at the Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, and Atlanta speedways (four wins to three for Pontiac, and one for Chevrolet).
But that wasn't the whole picture. Pontiac dominated the NASCAR Grand National season with 22 victories; Ford took only six wins out of 52 races entered, its worst year in NASCAR since 1955. Ford's major problems were nonaerodynamic Galaxie roofline styling and cracks in early 406 blocks. (Redesigned blocks brought out later in the racing season proved much worthier.)
Certainly the drivers were not to blame. Ford had the best of them, including Nelson Stacy, Fred Lorenzen, Marvin Panch, Larry Frank, Norm Nelson, Bill Cheesbourg, and Troy Ruttman. The real bottom line was that the 1962 Ford Galaxie with the 406 was simply no match for the Pontiac 421. In an attempt to even the score a bit, Ford came up with a bolt-on "Starlift" fastback roof for convertibles that bore some resemblance to the slipperier Starliner hardtop roof of 1960-1961.
For reasons so complex it would take another article to explain them, NASCAR disallowed the Starlifts after they were used in one race. These roofs are now a rare item, and any 1962 convertible so equipped is a real find. (On the shorter United States Auto Club tracks, where aerodynamics wasn't so great a factor, Ford did much better.)
Similarly, in the drags, Pontiacs and Chevrolets cleaned Ford clocks. For Ford fans, 1962 was a racing season best forgotten. But help was on the way on all fronts.
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