1963 Ford

The 1963 Fords arrived with the 406-cubic-inch engine still available at 385 or 405 horsepower. But after the first of the year, it was replaced by the new 427. It was not a completely new engine, but a 406 bored out by one-tenth of an inch. (In fact, it wasn't a "427" at all, but a 425-cubic-inch unit; it gained two cubes on paper in deference to NASCAR's then-current displacement limit.) But it did have cross-bolted main bearing caps, a new side gallery oiling system, a forged steel crank, wedge-shaped combustion chambers, big valves, and solid lifters. The compression ratio stood at 11.5:1.

1963 Ford Galaxie slantback
The "slantback" was a new body style
for the 1963 Ford Galaxie line.

This engine was rated at 410 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor or 425 with two Holley four-barrels atop its aluminum manifold. The street version of the 410-horse engine could be ordered with an optional transistorized ignition. Like the 406 before it, the 427 was available only with a four-speed manual transmission.

The powerful and durable 427 hit the tracks in tandem with another new item -- a sloping "slantback" hardtop roof design that reduced the drag from the more formal Thunderbird-inspired style. It's long been contended that this semi-fastback design was created primarily for racing purposes. "Not so," says Joe Oros, who was Ford Division Chief Stylist during this period.

Regardless of the motivations behind its design and engineering efforts. Ford had its most illustrious NASCAR season to date in 1963. Dan Gurney won the inaugural event in January the Riverside 500. From there, Fords captured every race of 500 miles or more: the Daytona 500, with Tiny Lund at the wheel; the Atlanta 500 and the Charlotte World 600, with Fred Lorenzen aboard; and the Southern 500, with new Ford convert Fireball Roberts in the chair. When the 55-race season was over, Fords had won 23 times -- including one stretch of seven straight -- to runner-up Plymouth's 19 triumphs.

"Total Performance," Ford's advertising claim for 1963, was a bit harder to find at the nation's dragstrips. A special dual-quad 427 with a wilder cam and 12.0:1 compression ratio was hatched, as was a fleet of 50 lightweight Galaxie slantbacks pared down to 3,425 pounds.

Although capable of ETs in the low 12-second range, the Fords still were heavier and slower than their rivals, and were shut out of the National Hot Rod Association championship picture. Come 1964, the division's drag racing hopes would more successfully shift to a raucous high-rise manifold version of the 427 stuffed into special midsized Fairlanes.

Ford's more typical customers found plenty new in 1963, as well. Galaxie outer skins were thoroughly restyled with some side sculpturing, highlighted by a prominent car-length beltline crease, replacing the slab-sided look of 1962. A concave grille returned, but now it bore a floating Ford crest that doubled as the hood release latch.

The signature taillights moved up above the bumpers and lent their roundness to the top of the rear quarter panels. Galaxie 500s and XLs featured a bold bi-level side chrome treatment, seven hash marks on each rear fender, and a rear panel that reprised the front grille design. The instrument panel was completely redesigned for the first time since 1960.

1963 Ford Galaxie
Taillights were moved up above the bumpers
as part of styling tweaks for the 1963 Galaxie.

There was a big shakeup in the model lines. A new stripped-down 300 series added two- and four-door sedans for under $2,400. Meanwhile, the low-end Ranch Wagon disappeared. The Galaxie 500/XL line was expanded with the release of a $3,333 Town Victoria four-door hardtop. Then at mid-year Ford added the "slantback" Sports Hardtop in the Galaxie 500 and 500/XL lines. Despite its late arrival, 134,370 copies of the "1963 1/2 Sports Hardtop were produced (including 100,500 as Galaxie 500s) to 79,446 of the formal hardtops.

While the 223-cubic-inch six remained the standard engine for all but XLs, there were eleven V-8s offered, just not all at the same time. At the opposite end of the spectrum from the two 427s was a 260-cubic-inch replacement for the 292. In the spring a 289 supplanted the 260. These two were the standard XL engines. The 352 was still available, as was the 390, rated at 300 or 330 horsepower, each with a four-barrel carburetor.

Fordomatic was offered only with the six and small V-8s. The 352 and 390s could be had with Cruise-O-Matic, the four-speed Borg-Warner gearbox, or a new three-speed manual transmission with full synchronization that made low a performance gear.

New to the option list was the Swing-Away steering wheel. Major lubrication intervals were upped to 36,000 miles from 30,000 miles.

In the April 1963 issue of Motor Trend, Jim Wright clocked an XL convertible with a 300-horsepower 390 and Cruise-O-Matic at 9.8 seconds to 60 mph with a top speed of 107. He was especially impressed with Ford's improved, firmer suspension.

A rising tide of Ford sales shored up production of full-sized cars, of which 845,292 units were made, up 140,517 from 1962.

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