1965 Ford XL

After 1964, the big Ford XL started to decline in popularity. Though full-size Ford production rose 9.2 percent for model year 1964, XL volume eased by nearly seven percent. The explanation lies in the advent of the big-inch, high-power intermediates we'd come to call "muscle cars," the first of which arrived this year with Pontiac's GTO and the Oldsmobile 4-4-2, both option packages.

Then too, Ford siphoned off a few XL sales with its new Mustang, the first of the sporty compact "ponycars," introduced in April. The switch was on to smaller, less costly enthusiast's cars. However, there was one 1964 record: The two-door hardtop garnered 58,306 orders to become the single most popular big XL before or since.

Ford billed its 1965 full-size cars as "all-new," and it wasn't kidding. They were the most extensively changed Fords since 1949, different in every way except for drivetrains and the 119-inch wheelbase. Styling was more angular and less aggressive, with smoother body sides, a cleaner "face," and a crisper, lighter appearance.

1965 Ford Full Size
The full-size 1965s were the most changed Fords since 1949.

Underneath was a beefed-up front suspension with a design so good it's still the basis for many of today's NASCAR Grand National stockers, and the rear suspension was modernized with coil springs and three-link geometry.

Weight dropped by more than 100 pounds model-for-model and width slimmed by over two inches, though overall length stayed about the same. In all, it was a sensible, well-executed package of restrained good taste.

An overlooked fact about the big 1965 Ford is that, despite its more sober appearance, it carried the division to its best-ever year in NASCAR competition. Ford won 48 of the scheduled 55 events with its full-size model, which was quite an achievement considering that a rules dispute kept the factory Dodge and Plymouth teams out for most of the season and that those and other makes were now represented by intermediates.

Still, racing wasn't uppermost in Ford's big-car planning for 1965, and this year's XL reflected the market shift to smaller hot cars. Cancellation of the hardtop sedan again left the subseries with just convertible and hardtop coupe. The latter's roofline continued the slantback theme, which contributed to Ford's victory streak on the supertracks but was only incidental in the showroom.

Aside from the changes shared with its linemates, the XL was pretty much the same as before, but it was now upstaged for the first time by a new line leader, the limousine-like Galaxie 500 LTD. Offered as a two- and four-door hardtop with plush bench-seat interiors, the LTD was promoted as being "quieter than a Rolls-Royce."

1965 Ford XL hardtop coupe.
A 1965 Ford XL hardtop coupe.

The XL, on the other hand, was hardly promoted at all. The result was predictable. Though prices stayed virtually the same, XL output plummeted 57 percent for 1965, down to 37,990 units and a mere 3.9 percent of total big-Ford production. By contrast, the LTD saw nearly three times that volume, a significant 105,726 units.

Meantime, Chrysler Corporation turned its "standard" 1962-1964 Dodge and Plymouth into intermediates this year, mostly by a simple name change. Available with bucket seats and engines up to 426 cubes, the "new" Dodge Coronet and Plymouth Belvedere only swelled the ranks of sporty intermediates.

Despite the trend to hot middle-weights and lower-priced luxury biggies, there was still a place for full-size performance machines. And indeed, there was a lot to be said for buying a 427 Ford XL in 1965.

Car Life magazine tested a big-block hardtop. Despite a broken shock and other suspension problems and with no special engine prep or trick tires, it managed 4.8 seconds in the 0-60 mph run and an average 14.9 seconds at 97 mph in the standing quarter-mile-real "stoplight drag" stuff. Top speed: a thrilling 136 mph.

Hot Rod played with a similar mount, did a bit of tweaking, and rocketed through the quarter in 14.43 seconds at 108.04 mph: "The [427] Galaxie 500/XL is a reliable, fast car that will attract attention wherever those in the know hear that wicked idle. At a going price of $4725 as equipped, it isn't cheap, but then quality and performance never are."

As the market changed, so did Ford. Read about how they adjusted the XL on the next page.

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