Is bigger better? Americans think so. Let's take a look at the Ford Galaxie...

America’s oversized saloons were the ultimate status symbols until the 1960s; much like plus-size SUVs are today. When the oil crisis hit during the 1970s, buyers started ditching the gas-guzzling V8s, leaving the smaller Valiant six and a few others to fly the flag. Ford’s flagship of the ‘60s was the Galaxie. The name was chosen by the marketing team following intrigue around the developing space race.

Packaging

Our first test of a Galaxie was in July 1962 with more rounded styling, dual horizontal headlamps and large round taillamps. From 1965, a more squared-off body took over with headlamps vertically stacked and the taillamps changed to vertical rectangles. In all the tests, there was only one photograph of the boot and the image quality was too poor to publish. Perhaps it was so large as to be beyond the scope of the photographer’s lens? The picture does show the rather ridiculous centre placing of the 15-inch spare wheel but that mattered little as there was more than enough space for everything, possibly even a kitchen sink. At 906 litres, the measured volume is twice the size of modern notchback boots.

Powertrain

The engine capacity of the Thunderbird V8 increased over the years from 352 cubic-inches (5,7 litres) to 390 cubic-inches (6,5 litres); both larger than the V8 used in the Fairlane which was a 5,0-litre V8. Early models produced 165 kW of power and later ones between 205 and 210 kW depending on the carburettor specs. The compression ratio also increased from 8,0 to 9,5 to 1.

The early cars’ automatic transmissions were just two-speeders although 100 km/h in first was possible. Gearboxes later switched to three speeds (compared with today’s 10-speed boxes used on some Fords). Carburetion went one stage further, starting with a dual-barrel, switching to a four-barrel in 1965, before returning to the smaller carburettor in 1966. According to our tests, this smaller carburettor resulted in higher consumption at speeds below 100 km/h but it was more economical at higher velocities.

Suspension and steering

Just about everything (from the new model on) was power assisted: brakes, steering and windows. Earlier models will no doubt have some wiring issues and may require motor checks and repairs. Springing was tuned for supreme comfort.

Which one to get

This depends on taste: curves or square; vertical or horizontal headlamps, or completely hidden (1968). The engines are not highly stressed but pistons, rings and valve stems will wear. A compression check will indicate condition. Although we spotted a two-door in the classifieds, these are rare and expensive. The 1966 LTD model had a black vinyl roof which gives the appearance of a removable hardtop.

Availability and prices

Classic American cars used to be afFORDable to South Africans but lately, prices seem to be closely linked to dollar values. If you can find one below R100 000, consider yourself lucky. Around 700 units were sold a year, dropping to just 75 in 1969. 

Interesting facts

I noticed in the 1965 test spec box the steering type was listed as Saginaw integral so I looked it up. The steering manufacturer got its name from the city Saginaw in Michigan, not far from the motoring hub of Detroit. First known for small-arms manufacturing during World War Two, the company used recirculating balls with hydraulic power assistance for the large cars. When other manufacturers made use of the same principle, the location description was dropped.


The 1966 Galaxie LTD was fitted with ancillary butyl airbags inside the rear coil springs. These were inflated via a nozzle in the boot with recommended pressures of 4,0 psi for light loads and up to 12 psi for heavier loads. Owners appreciated these but Ford dropped them within 12 months for undisclosed reasons.



FAST FACTS

Model: Ford Galaxie 500 AT
0 to 100 km/h: 10,1 seconds
Top speed: 174 km/h
Fuel index: 17,5 L/100 km (at 100 km/h)
Price: R3 995
CAR test: August 1965 (four others from 1962-‘68)
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