When an automaker goes racing, you can bet the reason involves profits -- usually the need to boost profits. The value of competition success as a sales tool has been proven countless times since the dawn of automotive history, and the phrase "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" has long been accepted as an article of faith among motor marketers the world over.
The big Ford XL benefited as much from a racing "connection" as any production car, though there was often less to it than many people thought.
The state of the racing art had reached a high level of sophistication when the Ford XL bowed in the spring of 1962. To be competitive in any arena, a racing car had to have far more than what the usual assembly line could provide. Thus, the stock cars that ran under the auspices of NASCAR, USAC (United States Auto Club), and other organizations weren't "stock" at all but purpose-built from the ground up.
Lightness was the key in drag racing. Chevy, Pontiac, and other makes obliged their quarter-mile campaigners with special fiberglass, aluminum, and Plexiglas body panels to lower weight and thus elapsed times. Though these pieces were customarily sold through dealers, it wasn't long before they started appearing on special lightweight, factory-built drag versions of the full-size models that most hopefuls ran at the time.
Ned Jarrett in his 1964 at Daytona.
Ford's standard-bearers made no attempt to emulate the top-line XL in crafting their stockers or dragsters. Neither did the factory once it officially returned to racing. The stock cars usually wore "generic" exteriors with no identifying trim, but they could not be considered XLs. If anything, they were more likely based on the low-line Galaxie two-door sedan, favored for its lighter pillared construction. Drag-racing Fords in the Stock and Super Stock classes generally wore Galaxie 500 trim.
This lack of a direct visual tie-in probably had little effect on XL sales. In fact, potential customers who also followed racing were probably more attracted to the XL than other big Fords simply because of its sportier trim and buckets-and-console cockpit. If it also happened to resemble the car that had just won last Sunday's big event, so much the better.
Read about how Ford vied for power supremacy with its racing rivals on the next page.
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