The Galaxie 500/XL was one of the first of the "think young" products ordained by newly named Ford Division general manager Lee Iacocca, and it couldn't have come along at a more propitious time.
Ford was playing the cubic-inch game, too, offering the big Lincoln 430 V-8 as a Thunderbird option from 1959 and a new 390 unit as the top standard-car powerplant for 1961. But with the T-Bird in the lineup and selling so well, division planners saw no need to inject any extra pizazz into the full-size Fords.
This partly reflected the profit-oriented product philosophy of division chief Robert S. McNamara, who wasn't eager to put bucket seats and high style into family models that sold for $1,000 or so less than a Thunderbird. Accordingly, the 1960-1961 standards were fully restyled and bigger than any Fords in history, but their larger engines were only mildly tuned and there wasn't much to excite enthusiasts.
About the only item of interest, in fact, was the Starliner, a smooth hardtop coupe with a sloping semi-fastback roofline that made it stand out from other Galaxie models with their T-Bird-inspired square-edged tops.
While the slipperier shape paid off in long-distance NASCAR events, the Starliner's connection with stock-car racing was tenuous at best, mainly because Ford jockeys -- ostensibly running without direct factory support at the time -- favored the blockier but lighter Tudor sedans.
And with buyers increasingly attracted to the "T-Bird look" Galaxies, the Starliner wouldn't last long. It was dropped for 1962 after two years and about 98,000 sales.
The Galaxie was intended to overcome the blocky 1962 models' inferior aerodynamics on the supertracks and thus boost top speed.
But better things were just around the corner. The same year that the Monza shook up the compact market, McNamara moved up to a short stint as Ford Motor Company president before moving to Washington as Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy administration. Replacing him at Ford Division was Lee Iacocca, a savvy salesman and an avid "car guy."
The Monza confirmed something Iacocca already knew from Ford's own market research, namely that "think young" products would be increasingly important to sales success in the 1960s. Then came the Super Sport, which cast a performance image over the entire Chevy line that hadn't been seen since 1957. It gave Chevy a distinct image edge with performance-conscious buyers over Ford, which had been viewed as the leader in low-cost performance for some 30 years.
Learn what sales tactics Iacocca used to entice buyers on the next page.
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