- Number 154 of only 212 built
- 1,483 original miles
- Correct 427/425-hp R-code engine
- Fiberglass front fenders and trunk lid
- Heater, radio and armrest delete
- Special lightweight interior components
- Bostrom lightweight bucket seats
- Rubber floor mat
- No seam sealer or sound deadener throughout body panels
- Aluminum front and rear bumpers and brackets
- Four correct 15-inch Kelsey-Hayes wheels, disclaimer in glovebox
|Vehicle:||1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight|
|Number Produced:||212 (1963)|
|Original List Price:||$4,197|
|Tune Up Cost:||$300|
|Distributor Caps:||$15.97 (non-OEM)|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tab attached to the top right side (weld flange) of the dash panel in the engine compartment|
|Engine Number Location:||Casting number on front of block, toward passenger’s side|
|Club Info:||Ford Galaxie Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1963 Chevrolet Impala Z11, 1963 Pontiac Catalina Super Duty “Swiss Cheese,” 1963 Plymouth Savoy Max Wedge III|
This car, Lot S137, sold for $237,600, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s massive Indianapolis auction on May 16, 2015.
When Raymond Loewy was working for Studebaker in the late ’40s and early ’50s, he had a sign on the wall of his studio that said: “Weight Is The Enemy.” His message to his designers was that American cars were too big and too inefficient.
Loewy’s idea didn’t hit home with the Big Three until they became actively involved in drag racing a decade later. Attempting to break the laws of physics with ever-larger engines and more raw horsepower worked fine at first, but when the organizing bodies placed engine-displacement limits for “stock” automobiles at 7 liters (427 ci), the limits of engine design were quickly met. How else to gain an advantage at the drag strip?
The Mopar guys had the advantage first — actually by default. Chrysler made the decision to downsize their full-sized cars for 1962, down to a slim, trim 116-inch wheelbase that in a few years would be considered “mid-sized” or “intermediate.” What turned out to be a disaster in the showrooms — America wasn’t ready for smaller family cars — was a big advantage on the drag strip. The Dodge 330 and Plymouth Savoy Super Stock racers had competitive horsepower out of their 413 Wedge engines, but their small size combined with their unibody construction gave them a decided weight advantage. And Ford, Pontiac, and Chevy now knew who the enemy was: weight.
General Motors countered with the Catalina Super Duty and the Chevy Bel Air Z11. Ford began working on their lightweight Galaxie in late ’62, and ultimately 11 were built. Ford intended to race the cars in Super Stock competition, but the NHRA felt they were not stock vehicles and moved them to the Factory Experimental class, where they were uncompetitive against the highly modified vehicles they were forced to race.
Built to win
Much of what was learned in ’62 was transferred to a full-blown effort the next year. Initially, 50 special Galaxie 500 fastbacks were ordered under option AS-225-39D. These cars had a special bill-of-materials for assembly on Ford’s Norfolk line: Corinthian White 63B Special hard-top Tudor sedan, 289 V8 engine, standard 3-speed manual gearbox, and the lighter chassis from the base 300 model. No seam sealer or sound deadener was added in the body shop. The cars were delivered with radio, heater and carpeting delete, with thin rubber mats covering the floor.
From the assembly line, they were sent to Ford’s favorite sub-contractor for drag racers, Andy Hotton’s Dearborn Steel Tubing, for conversion into the lightweight racers. This included fiberglass front fenders and hood, aluminum front and rear bumpers and brackets, and lightweight Bostrom bucket seats. Later cars also got fiberglass doors and inner fender wells. Even the sun visors were thin cardboard. Police Interceptor brakes, heavy-duty suspension and Kelsey-Hayes 15-inch wheels were all part of the package, which added $1,414.15 to the Galaxie’s price.
The real magic was in Ford’s new 427 R-code engine. It featured an increase in displacement from 406 ci in ’62 and was now right on the 7-liter limit. Twin Holley 4-bbl carbs atop a “High-Riser” manifold were used for Super/Stock competition, the same on a “Low-Riser” for A/Stock. Horsepower was rated at (wink, wink) 425. This was the same basic engine that would win Le Mans in ’66 and ’67, and in single 4-bbl form, earn NASCAR championships in ’63, ’65 and ’68. Fitted to an aluminum BorgWarner T10 4-speed manual with an R.C. Industries bellhousing, it formed a potent powertrain for the lightweight cars.
Upping the game
Ultimately, 212 lightweight Galaxies were built in 1963, all but one in Corinthian White with Red interiors. They were fast, too. Les Ritchey did a 12.29 at 117.3 quarter with an early car, and Gaspar “Gas” Ronda did 12.07 @ 118.04 with a Galaxie with all the lightweight goodies. Hot Rod magazine observed that while a standard Galaxie fastback weighed 4,150 pounds, “the special lightweight model tips the scales at just 3,480 pounds ready to drag.”
Unfortunately for Ford, the competition didn’t rest, either. The small Mopars packed 426 Max Wedge III power and were faster than ever after their own aluminum diet. The Z11 Chevy Impalas had their real fine 409s bored to 427 ci and were given a similar lightweight treatment. And at Pontiac, their big 421-powered Super Duty Catalina went on the most extreme weight reduction program, with so many holes bored in the frame they earned the “Swiss Cheese” nickname.
Light on weight, heavy on price
For collectors, any of the lightweight drag racers are quite valuable today. Just 14 of the “Swiss Cheese” Pontiacs were built before and (don’t tell anyone) a few months after the GM racing ban in January 1963. The few “Swiss Cheese” cars that remain have sold for as much as $462,000 at auction. The Z11 Impalas are almost as rare (23 built), and almost as legendary, and have topped $325,000. But at 212 Galaxie Lightweights built, and an estimated 150 still in existence, the lack of rarity hurts their values, with most selling in the mid-$100k range.
But not this Ford, which may be the most authentic ’63 Galaxie Lightweight there is. It was sold only twice, and both times through the same dealer. The dealer who sold it new bought the Galaxie back from the original owner and then sold it to Danny Hill, who had the Lightweight in his large collection for over 20 years.
It has just 1,483 miles on the odometer, and since these cars were much too fragile for regular street use, we can assume most of these miles came a quarter-mile at a time. The only thing that could be missing is the provenance of a major race victory or top-flight driver, but that didn’t seem to hurt the price at all.
At $237,600, this makes this the highest price of any ’63 Galaxie Lightweight sold at auction by far, but to me it’s worth every penny. And compared with its GM competition, it’s still a bargain. I’d call that an exceptional sale for Mr. Hill, yet well bought by the new owner.
(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.