Once performance buyers started shifting to the smaller factory hot rods, so did the racers. The big Fords were still fighting most of the division's drag and stockcar battles when the XL arrived, but by 1966 or so the torch had passed to the intermediate Fairlane and the Mustang ponycar.
Significantly, the big Fords were starting to be outclassed on the dragstrips as early as 1962, mainly by that year's smaller, lighter, and thus faster new "standard" models from Dodge and Plymouth.
The story was quite different in late-model stock-car racing, where the full-size Fords wrote a great victory record from 1963 through 1965. They dominated ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) competition for several seasons, and scored numerous firsts in events sanctioned by USAC and other bodies. But their most memorable moments came on the NASCAR Grand National circuit.
Having the biggest and most powerful engine was the name of the game for the 1962 NASCAR season, and Ford vied for power supremacy with a slew of rivals. The cubic-inch count was 426 for Chrysler, 421 for Pontiac, 413 for Dodge and Plymouth, 409 for Chevrolet, and 406 for Ford and sister Mercury. Aerodynamics became a critical factor as the season progressed, and the square-roofed Galaxies had a rough time of it, especially against the "slantback" Chevys and Pontiacs.
Ford tried to get around the problem with the "Starlift," a bolt-on hardtop for the Galaxie convertible in the image of the recently departed Starliner. It was ostensibly to be a regular production option, but NASCAR vetoed it after only one race.
Ford managed only six Grand Nationals for the year, its lowest total since the division first seriously entered the NASCAR lists in 1955. Pontiac set the pace with 22 wins, followed by Chevrolet's 14 and Plymouth's 11.
Ford fought back for 1963 with the new 427 V-8 and "fastback" Sports Hardtop. It was a winning combination. Dan Gurney kicked things off by taking the Motor Trend 500 at Riverside, California, then Tiny Lund wrote a storybook finish to the Daytona 500 in February.
Tiny Lund with his 1963 slantback.
Due to a GM edict early in the year, the Chevy and Pontiac teams were forced to disband, and most owners and drivers chose up sides among the opposition. When the smoke cleared, Pontiac had tallied four wins, Chevy eight, and Plymouth 19. But Ford had 23, a high for both the season and the make. Moreover, the big Galaxies were in the winner's circle at every 500-mile event.
Learn about the challenges Ford faced in racing on the next and final page.
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