Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

1962-1970 Ford XL

1963 Ford XL

Dearborn reasoned that if two XLs were good, three would be better. Accordingly, a hardtop sedan was added to the XL subseries in the 1963 lineup of "Super Torque" full-size Fords, which were fully re-skinned on the 1960-1962 inner body. All models retained the existing perimeter chassis introduced for 1960, but suspension was modified for a better ride.

The coil-spring front end acquired more built-in "give" with a setup called "Compliance Link" that allowed the lower A-arms to pivot. At the rear, the forward mounts for the longitudinal multi-leaf springs were also changed.

1963 XL convertible
This 1963 XL convertible had an optional hood ornament, rear fender skirts, and spinner wire wheel covers.

The new styling brought overall length up by 0.6 inch to 209.3 inches, width swelled by 0.8 inch to an even 80, and weights were up slightly, the XL two-door hardtop tipping the scales at 3,670 pounds, a gain of 75.

Badges were still the XL's main exterior distinction, though newly standardized spinner wheel covers made it a touch more recognizable at a glance. Except for a revised instrument cluster, interiors were mostly the same as before.

That didn't especially please Motor Trend magazine, which noted in its XL convertible test that "the bucket seats were a little harder than we're used to and the seat bottom doesn't extend out far enough to support our upper legs."

Two important powertrain changes were made for the Ford XL in 1963. One was arguably a retrograde step, as the 292 was laid to rest at the start of the model year and replaced by the Fairlane's small-block 260 V-8.

Rated at 164 horsepower and bolted to the two-speed Fordomatic now standard for the XL, it made the big bucket-seat Ford anything but a "lively one." Still, most went out the door with the 390 and Cruise-O-Matic.

Auto Sports magazine gave its final annual "Award for Excellence" to this year's XL. Summarizing its experience with the hardtop coupe, the editors concluded in their November 1962 issue: "After a close study of the new models, it is our opinion that the 1963 Ford Galaxie 500/XL with [the] 406 Super High Performance engine is the outstanding example of its breed and adheres closest to the concept of pleasure through high performance motoring."

The mid-1963 XL Sports Hardtop -- a Galaxie 500 version was also offered.
The mid-1963 XL Sports Hardtop -- a Galaxie 500 version was also offered.

But Ford was preparing something much hotter. Rumors that the cubic-inch race would soon reach 500 were abounding throughout Detroit. Ford had been working a 483, but the competition sanctioning bodies put a lid on such doings with a seven-liter displacement limit. That worked out to around 427 cubes, which is precisely what Ford got by boring out the 406 by 0.1 inch.

Once again there were two versions: a single four-barrel unit rated at 410 horsepower, and a multi-carb setup -- this time with dual quads -- at 425. Less publicized was a welcome switch in the XL's base powerteam, now the 195-horsepower 289 linked to Cruise-O-Matic.

Mid-1963 also brought a new body style in both Galaxie 500 and 500/XL trim, the two-door Sports Hardtop. Designed with an eye to aerodynamics on the high-speed stock-car ovals, it boasted a one-inch lower roofline with sloped-down C-pillars. The press called it a "fastback," though "slantback" was closer to the truth. It was just what the racers had been clamoring for since the Starliner's demise, and it mated perfectly with the XL concept.

Both Sports models were priced identically with their formal-roof equivalents, and there was no contest among XL buyers. The new style scored 33,870 sales despite its late start. That compares to 29,713 of the square-roof two-doors, 18,551 convertibles, and 12,596 hardtop sedans. The grand total of 94,730 XLs represented a healthy 11.2 percent of 1963 big-Ford volume. Both figures would turn out to be all-time XL records.

In 1964, Ford hit its stride with a new version of the XL. Read about the public's love affair with the car on the next page.

For more information on cars, see: