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1962-1970 Ford XL

1964 Ford XL

Ford re-skinned its full-size platform one last time for 1964, the year when the "Total Performance" theme came to dominate division advertising.

The new styling for the Ford XL was marked by a fiat-face grille, reshaped rear fenders and back panel, and heavy, convex bodyside sculpturing. Formal-look rooflines were dropped in favor of slant-roof models, which reduced XL offerings to three.

Inside, the XL's bucket seats were replaced by a new thin-shell design that did a better job of holding occupants in place, and minor trim was revised. Powertrain selections settled down.

1964 Galaxie 500/XL convertible
The factory's portraits of the 1964 Galaxie 500/XL convertible.

The 289 returned as standard, followed by an extra-cost 352 V-8 with four-barrel carb instead of the previous two-barrel instrument. Then came the 300-horsepower 390 and the pair of 427s. As in 1963 and like the 406s before them, the latter could only be had with four-speed manual, which was now being built by Ford instead of Borg-Warner.

Unlike the past two years, there were no mid-season changes anywhere in the big-Ford line for 1964, but it didn't matter: the public loved these cars. So did the press.

Mechanix Illustrated magazine's veteran tester Tom McCahill got a hold of a 390-equipped XL hardtop and, with his usual color, declared "it corners like a snake in a rat hole."

Motor Trend magazine gave its Car of the Year award to Ford's entire 1964 crop, partly because the sportier offerings delivered on the promises implied by that "Total Performance" ad theme. After testing an XL hardtop sedan, MT said "[it] impressed us as a big, solid, comfortable family car yet still slanted toward the sporty set."

Author Tim Howley called the 1964 evolutionary, but noted that the XL was now nearly perfect. Though mechanical specs were basically the same as for 1963, "styling had been carefully dictated by the aerodynamics of racing. Even the body panels were designed to be lighter . . ."

Because of a strong quality control effort begun in 1961, this year's XL and other big Fords wore like iron. According to Howley, "With that kind of quality, all too many of them were driven for 10 years or 200,000 miles and they just don't show their age. Rare is the low-mileage 1964 XL, as this was not the kind of car you bought to put in your garage."

1964 XL ragtop in Skylight Blue
A restored 1964 XL ragtop in Skylight Blue.

That's not hard to understand when you look at the 1964 XL's performance. One contemporary magazine test matched 390- and 427-cid models, clocking the milder car at 9.3 seconds in the 0-60 mph dash, which was fair going. The 427 did it in 7.4 seconds. For a two-ton full-size car that could only be described as luxurious, that's nothing short of remarkable.

What goes up must come down, and for Ford this became true for the XL. Read about how the car declined in popularity on the next page.

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