The 1964 Fords played to great critical and popular acclaim. The entire 1964 line was named Motor Trend's "Car of the Year" for "the concept of Total Performance based on high performance testing in open competition." The full-sized cars received another reskinning and enough refinements to make them arguably the finest Fords of the Sixties.
A more aerodynamic Ford Galaxie came
out of the model shuffle for 1964.
Exteriors were inspired by a number of aerodynamically styled show cars of the period, particularly the Torino, which became a model in its own right in 1968. Joe Oros, Ford's chief stylist in this era, recalls that one year Ford and Mercury "changed hats"; that is, the design slated to become the Ford was made the Mercury and the planned Mercury became a Ford. Oros is not certain of the year, but 1964 is the likeliest possibility.
Taillights remained round, but were sunk into a sharply edged rear cove. Oros and stylist John Foster have pointed out how difficult it was to retain the round taillights, yet make them look different every year. In 1965 Ford gave up, going to rectangular taillights for their full-sized cars (save for the low-priced Customs, which sported a round lens in a rectangular bezel). Thus a major Ford styling theme dating back to 1952 finally was retired.
The low-rent 300 of 1963 became the Custom series for 1964, with the base Galaxie of recent years rechristened the Custom 500. Galaxie 500 and XL notch-back two-door hardtops were stricken from the catalog, and four-door hardtops adopted the look of the successful Sports Hardtop roofline. Even the back windows on sedans -- such as the two-door Galaxie 500, which made its final appearance in the line -- took on a racier rake.
Engines remained unchanged except for the 352, which picked up a four-barrel carb and an additional 30 horsepower. Cruise-O-Matic was now the standard transmission on the XLs, and Fordomatic was no longer available on any full-sized Ford.
Motor Trend tested two models, a Galaxie 500/XL four-door hardtop with a 390, and a two-door hardtop with a 427. The four-door stormed over tight, twisting mountain roads at high speed, and never once did the four-barrel carburetor cough or flood, even during maximum-effort cornering.
Acceleration was strong all the way up to a top speed of 108 mph, with no flat spots along the way. The 0-60 time was a respectable 9.3 seconds. Economy was nothing to call your mother about, averaging 11.4 mpg on premium fuel over 1,500 miles of varied-condition driving. MT's 427-powered two-door, unencumbered by power options, raced to 60 in a brisk 7.4 seconds.
On the tracks, the year started out like 1963, with Gurney repeating as Riverside 500 champion and Fords placing second, third, and fifth. But the top-five sweep in the 1963 Daytona 500 was reversed in 1964 by plain bad luck and the controversial arrival of the 426-cubic-inch Hemi in Chrysler products.
Plymouths took the first three slots. Ford's racing honchos balked and asked to be allowed to run an experimental overhead-camshaft engine. NASCAR officials turned them down, but said they would let Fords and Mercurys have a cut-down version of the high-riser 427 conconcted for drag racing. (The intake manifold on that engine was so tall that lightweight Galaxies and Fairlane Thunderbolts for the strip required a teardrop-shaped hood bubble to clear the air cleaner.)
The 1964 Ford Galaxie would be the last of a breed.
Ford bounced back at the Atlanta 500, with Fred Lorenzen taking the checkered flag. He won the Rebel 300 at Darlington and a total of eight races that year, but not the World 600 at Charlotte, a scene of disaster for Ford.
Early in the race, Galaxie pilots Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett tangled and spun on the backstretch. Fireball Roberts lost control trying to avoid them, and struck the wall, his lavender No. 22 Ford flipping over in flames. Jarrett clambered from his own burning car and helped his rival struggle free of the inferno, but the critically burned Roberts -- one of NASCAR's greats -- died six weeks later.
Still, when the final count was in. Ford had won 30 Grand Nationals, more than twice as many as second place Dodge, and more than Ford had ever won before. Jarrett alone visited the winner's circle 15 times, mostly on short tracks.
Total Galaxie and Custom production for 1964 was 923,232, up sharply over 1963. The most popular Ford of any kind that year was the Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop, with 206,998 units produced.
It seemed Ford had saved the best for last in the generation of cars that debuted in 1960. The 1965-1966 Fords were faster cars on the tracks, but not better cars all around. Other than engines, 1965 Fords were about as much like the 1964 models as an Alfred Hitchcock thriller was like a James Bond fantasy. Times change, tastes change, and in the mid-Sixties, things were changing fast.
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