My 9-year-old son was very agitated as I loaded the car. He said "Dad, you can replace any one of the others-this is unique"


Built by tobacco heir Zachary Reynolds, the "Tobacco King" 1964 Ford Galaxie was as wild an example of a Rocket Drag Axle-equipped car as one could ask for.

Playboy, pilot, ham radio enthusiast, and all-around enfant terrible, Reynolds wanted a car that would terrorize everyone with its appearance, before slamming their senses with a prodigious detonation of Rocket Axle power. The "Tobacco King" certainly fulfilled that mission.

Documented in the 1967 Turbonique product catalog, the Raven Black Galaxie's original 390 V8 engine was replaced with a 425-horsepower 427 Ford big-block fitted with a rare Latham axial flow supercharger fed by four Carter one-barrel side-draft carburetors. That alone would have been enough for most street racers, but not for Reynolds, who had the differential replaced with an 850-horsepower Turbonique turbine Rocket Drag Axle.

The rest of the car was modified to handle the colossal acceleration, with the frame reinforced and suspension beefed up to handle the torque delivered through the rear axle housing, and ground clearance increased to accommodate the huge turbine housing that shot its rocket exhaust out from underneath the rear bumper.

The car's visual impact is stunning. From the front, it looks every bit the mid-'60s A/FX racer of the Thunderbolt variety, with dropped suspension, dump tubes, and unpolished American Torq Thrust wheels. The picture is completed by the rear view, where the black Simpson chutepack and twin large-diameter tailpipes draw the eyes down to the rocket axle.

Inside, the Galaxie 500 Hard Tops instruments include gauges to monitor engine rpm, supercharger boost, and the rocket axle. The radio beneath the dash speaks to Reynolds's passion as a ham operator.

Zachary Reynolds put a total of only 3,611 miles on the car before his death in a 1979 plane crash in North Carolina, after which the car was placed in storage. It is accompanied by early registrations, the owner's manual, a Turbonique product catalog with photos, Latham Supercharger literature, and Zach's personal notebook. Completely original, it is in superb condition inside and out.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1964 Ford Galaxie 500
Years Produced:1964
Number Produced:206,996 2-dr hard tops (out of 505,397 Galaxie 500s)
Original List Price:$2,763 (plus the irreplaceable hi-po extras)
Tune Up Cost:$120
Distributor Caps:$12
Club Info:Ford Galaxie Club of America, PO Box 429 Valley Springs, AR 72682-0429
Investment Grade:B-

The Zachary Reynolds “Tobacco King” rocket 1964 Galaxie 500 was declared sold at $376,000 at Dana Mecum’s Spring Classic in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 17, 2008. However, it was bought back by the consignor, who purposefully bid after his own $375,000 reserve was met, and he made no secret of this.

Aftermarket performance products of the 1960s have entered something of a renaissance. I can personally attest to this, as I had a Judson supercharger fitted to my 1962 Chevrolet Corvair Monza convertible shortly after I restored it. (That was probably a direct result of all of the time I spent looking through the back pages of Car & Driver when I was supposed to be studying algebra in high school.)

Prior to that, my aqua Corvair with a Powerslide automatic drew little interest. With the Judson fitted, guys who usually wouldn’t cross the street were magically drawn to it. Granted, the setup never ran well; it either idled great and ran poorly or wouldn’t idle but ran great. However, the three times I showed it before the impeller blades let go, it got three first place in class and People’s Choice awards-at all three shows. There’s definitely something about a 1960s vintage aftermarket supercharger that draws people, zombie-like, to it. So imagine the attraction with a rocket engine added to the mix.

It takes something unique to create a buzz

In an auction full of Hemis, LS6 Chevelles, Boss 429s, and even a ZL1 1969 Camaro, it takes something unique to create a buzz. In this case, it was the Turbonique. Not only did it have the swagger of the most bad-ass car on the grounds, but it’s also a 1964 time capsule of cost-is-no-object aftermarket performance.

This Galaxie 500 started out with a 300-hp 390 (changed to a 427) with an automatic transmission. The Rocket Axle required the indirect connection of the torque converter in the driveline to prevent damage to the engine when ignited. Only a handful of Turbonique Rocket Axles have survived into the 21st century, and this was the only one ever to be fitted to a street-legal car when the company was in business.

Today, the rocket motor could still be fired up, but since having a regular supply of Thermolene fuel will lead to an interview with Homeland Security, most owners readjust the jetting and metering to use hydrogen peroxide as an alternative fuel.

The Latham blower is as unique as the Rocket Axle. The decade from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s can be considered the golden age of supercharging. Paxtons were OE in Studebakers, Packards, Fords, and even in the final year of Kaisers. Aftermarket manufacturers like Latham, Judson, and Schrock sold kits to fit anything from Chrysler Hemis to VW Beetles.

There were two aspects of this car’s originality that struck me. First was the faint interior smell of a new 1964 Ford. Not musty, no mothballs, but an actual new ’60s car. I also noticed some scrapes in the bottom of the front bumper.

These can be traced to the undercarriage photos in the 1967 Turbonique catalog. The Tobacco King’s car was hung in the air by a crane for the photos-suspended by cables slung through the front suspension. That’s where the scrapes in the chrome came from.

Aside from occasionally “burping” the rocket on the street, Reynolds apparently ran the car at Farmington Dragway, but there is no record of its times. However, Turbonique recorded 9.66 and 148 mph in November 1966 in “Captain” Jack McClure’s 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle at the Tampa Dragway while running the same rocket system, and this car has water injection to improve the fuel burn.

Zach Reynolds was perhaps one of the wealthiest pack rats of all time. Not only did he retain the original 390-ci motor from the car, which was offered with it, but he kept detailed records in a binder that dated from his high school days. After he got his kicks with the car, he just parked it.

Decided to sell it “in a weak moment”

The family did nothing with the Galaxie 500 Hard Top until 1995, when it was sold to one of their friends. That second owner sold it to the current consignor “in a weak moment” two years ago. The consignor had only exhibited it once before the auction, at Fords at Carlisle, shortly after he bought it. The subsequent lack of use made him decide to sell it in his own “weak moment.”

Shortly after consigning the car, he started to regret the decision. On the day before the car crossed the block, he told me, “What finally did it for me was when I was loading the car to bring it here, my nine-year-old son, who was very agitated, asked why I was selling it. I told him that we didn’t use the car, and that we had other collector cars. He said ‘Dad, you can replace any one of those. This one is unique, you can’t.’ That did it.”

When it crossed the block, there were three players on it, one who was willing to bid up to the $375,000 reserve. When the consignor made his only bid at $376,000, the other bidder neglected to go any further. Thus, the consignor bought his car back, and paid Mecum both the buyer’s and seller’s premiums of $22,560 each. Factoring the consignment fee of $1,500 before the sale, this comes to $46,620, not including the cost of promotional material the consignor prepared and gave away, so we are looking at nearly $50,000 to make a change of ownership not happen.

The consignor was forthright about his desire to bring the car back home. The buzz created by the car at the event no doubt pleased Mecum, but they most surely would have preferred the car go to a new owner, no matter how transparently this sale occurred.

The other by-product of the publicity was that it generated quite a stir in the “Old School” performance community. The story filtered down to the man who helped build the car in 1966. He made the trip from North Carolina to see the car for the first time in 41 years and gave the owner spare parts for the rocket motor. He also had plenty of stories to further enlighten him about the 500’s history.

Saturday night, the consignor said he felt the fees paid to buy the car back were well spent. One could argue that he paid $50,000 for an appraisal. I personally feel that if he really wanted to sell lot S139, it would have taken closer to $500,000 to get the deal done

As it sits now, the next person to face the prospect of selling it likely won’t; the grown-up nine-year-old will recall the day he told his dad it was irreplaceable.

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