Automotive History: The Involvement of the 1963 Ford in American Society

1963 Ford Galaxie-01

Quite a few cars have made a lasting impression on society, such as the ’57 Chevrolet and ’65 Mustang.  These are cars that for whatever reasons have remained in the collective consciousness in the United States and beyond.

Given the vast variety of cars available from each manufacturer every year, it is odd that more have not captivated the same degree of attention.  There are certainly cars that possess the eye-popping qualities, such as chrome laden GM models, and those more unfortunate specimens such as the ’62 Dodge.

One factor of success is being in the right place at the right time.  The full-sized ’63 Ford is a car I would use as an example of being in the right place; read on and you shall recognize why I hesitate to say each example was there at the right time.  Fasten your seatbelt because we will be covering quite a wide spectrum.


The first Daytona 500 took place in 1959, as part of the ever expanding NASCAR series.


In 1963, DeWayne “Tiny” Lund, went to Daytona, Florida, looking for a car to race.  At age 33, Lund had had limited success as a race car driver, but he remained optimistic.  Lund was certainly one who qualifies for being in the right place at the right time.  Marvin Panch, a friend of Lund’s, was injured in trial runs for another race also being held at Daytona.  Lund witnessed Panch’s collision and was one of the first responders to help extricate Panch from his burning Maserati.  At the hospital, knowing he would be unable to race in the Daytona 500, Panch asked Lund to take his place.


“Tiny” Lund, at 6’5″ and 270 pounds, was up to the task.  Taking the lead late in the race, his team used the strategy of skipping a fuel stop to advance to the lead.  Despite running out of fuel in the final lap, Lund coasted his ’63 Ford Galaxie 500 across the finish line for the biggest win of his racing career.

Here are some highlights.


It seems a sizable portion of the internet has dedicated itself to the events, and suspected conspiracies, surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.  Perpetuating any arguments about these events is fodder for other websites; this is to examine the cars used during this period fifty years ago.


The fatal events on that cold November day in Dallas, Texas, were not limited to the President.  Police Officer J.D. Tippit was murdered on East 10th Street while on patrol.

tippits car

Tippit, 39, was an 11 year veteran of the Dallas Police Department who had earlier won a bronze star during his time in the United States Army’s 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  While on patrol in his 1963 Ford, Tippit encountered a person meeting the description of someone wanted in connection with the shooting of the President less than an hour earlier.

After a brief discussion, Tippit exited the car.  As he approached the front of this Ford, the person fired across the hood shooting Tippit three times in the chest.

tippits car 2

There in an abundance of information available about the details of Tippit’s murder, with scant information available about the patrol car itself.  Deeper probing revealed this Ford, marked as Unit 10, was back on patrol with another officer later that day.  At a later and unidentified time, the ’63 Ford patrol car was involved in a crash and was subsequently scrapped.

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When Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald a few days later, the car seen backing into the immediate chaos in the Dallas Police Department garage is a ’63 Ford.


Despite the sad events in November of 1963, there were still a number of positive things happening.  One of them was a television show entering into its fourth season in late 1963, a television show that can still be found in syndication on a variety of networks.

The Andy Griffith Show was a chronicle of the small southern town of Mayberry in the 1960’s.  It is likely certain themes from Mayberry strike a chord in all of us, which explains the success of the show to this day.  While the characters all had a familiar element to them, my favorite part of the show was the cars used in the background.

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Each season of The Andy Griffith Show had a Ford as Andy’s patrol car.  Mayberry was either very flush with resources, or was able to get a good value on trade.  It’s always easy to identify the year of production with this show.

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Tapping into Google reveals a phenomenal number of people who have painted their early to mid-1960’s Galaxie as a Mayberry replica.  Your author had a very clean ’62 Galaxie that he sold to a gentleman from Hayfield, Minnesota, who was intent on doing the same thing.

The production company was provided a new Ford each year for production of the show.  When filming for the season was over, the car was repainted in its factory color and sold as a regular used car.  The whereabouts of the cars used in the production of the show are not known.


The ’63 Ford, like all other cars, aged to the point where it was attractive for use in movies.  One such movie of note is the 1972 Sam Peckinpah film The Getaway.

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Steve McQueen’s character is paroled from prison after a crooked politician has influenced the parole board.  In exchange for his freedom, McQueen’s character must assist with the robbery of a bank.  McQueen’s character is picked up at the prison by his accomplice wife, Ali MacGraw, in her blue ’63 Ford Galaxie 500.

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After fulfilling their end of the deal with a robbery botched by others, these two are on the run and ultimately use many getaway cars.  This blue Galaxie is up to bat first, gets the most vigorous workout, and is the most memorable.

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The chase in this film begins immediately after the first bank robbery.  How many cars can drive through someones front porch,

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make it all the way across,

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and escape a hellish inferno?  None of the other cars they used received such a workout.  Judging by the absence of an engine call-out on the front fender, this car had a 5.8 liter, 352 CID V8 at best.  The Getaway would ultimately be the eighth highest grossing film in the United States for 1972.

The involvement of the ’63 Ford went beyond that found in current events and entertainment.  There were other factors that give it a special status.

Ford’s full-sized models for 1963 were re-skinned models on a platform that began in 1960.  Engine displacement and power output had been steadily increasing each year from the spiced version of the 352 that had been the top engine for 1960.  The 1963 models were notable for the introduction of two engines whose cubic inch displacement would be numbers that are still fondly remembered today.

ford 289

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The 289 V8 was introduced into the full-sized Ford option chart in the middle of model year 1963.  While the 260 had started the year as the replacement for the old 292, the 289 soon took over the duties of being the base V8.  The 289 would continue to power full-sized Ford automobiles for several more years and would also be prime motivational power for the Fairlane, Mustang, and Falcon.

The demise of the 289 was due to the creation of the also well known 302 cubic inch V8.


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Model year 1963 brought another new engine to the scene – the 427 cubic inch V8.  The previous 406 carried over briefly to the ’63 model year, yet it was doing Ford no favors when used in various racing competitions.  Soon after introduction of the ’63 models, the 406 was unceremoniously dropped in favor of the 427.

The 427 was the engine that powered “Tiny” Lund’s Ford that won the Daytona 500 that year.  At first blush it would appear that it was a bored and stroked 406.  However the changes went far beyond just the obvious, with aluminum pistons and stronger connecting rods being only two of the changes made.  In street form, this engine was rated at 410 horsepower with the single four barrel carburetor and 425 horsepower with the dual four barrel carburetors.

The February 1964 issue of Car Craft magazine tested a 410 horsepower Galaxie whose engine had been prepared by Holman-Moody.  With the 3.50:1 rear axle ratio, the 427 Galaxie sprinted to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds with a terminal speed of 105 miles per hour – and did so on skinny bias-ply tires.

1963 Ford Galaxie 500 Factory Lightweight

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In quarter-mile drag races, Ford realized the Galaxie was too rotund to be as competitive as it could be.  In an effort to overcome this challenge, a run of 200 lightweight Galaxie 500s were produced.  All were equipped with the 427 and a T-10 four-speed with an aluminum case.  The use of aluminum continued to both bumpers while fiberglass was used on the hood, truck lid, and both inner and outer fenders.  The frame was lightened and the car was devoid of excesses such as sound deadening, armrests, and reverse lights.  All but one were painted white with a red interior.

As the 1960’s progressed, the 427 would continue to be offered in full-sized Ford and Mercury cars although they are rare.  There was even a very limited production overhead cam 427 that was used for racing purposes – might that have been the spiritual predecessor to Ford’s later 4.6 liter overhead cam V8?

The desire to win races prompted more than just the introduction of the 427.  In addition to the less than anticipated performance of the 406, the aerodynamic qualities of the ’62 Galaxie two-door were abysmal.  The sloped roof Starliner had been used in racing for 1960 and 1961, but went away for 1962.  The 1963 model year saw continued use of the two-door in racing (as seen at the top of the page), but results still weren’t ideal.

1963 Ford-a09

Bring in the Sports Hardtop.  The Sports Hardtop Galaxie is what “Tiny” Lund piloted to victory at Daytona.  Ford took a regular Galaxie two-door hardtop body and by changing the roofline, the improved aerodynamics made it a much more formidable opponent on the racetrack.  So much more, that a Sports Hardtop Galaxie required 100 fewer horsepower to maintain 160 miles per hour than did a ’62 Galaxie.  This body style was wildly popular upon its introduction and the Sports Hardtop even outsold the bread-and-butter four-door sedan in some trim levels for 1964.

While some of the more obvious mid-year changes to the Ford line in 1963 may have been racing induced, not everything in the Ford lineup revolved around racing.  There was still the need to make drivers happy and comfortable.  In that regard, Ford delivered and they perhaps foretold the direction of automobiles fifty years later.

1963 Ford Brochure-12

In an effort to inject more luxury, Ford expanded their XL lineup from its 1962 introduction.  Equipped with bucket seats and a floor mounted gear selector, it was previously available only on convertible and two-door hardtop models.  For 1963, Ford expanded the XL lineup to include a four-door hardtop (seen in middle of ad above).  While equipping a four-door with bucket seats and a floor mounted gear selector is currently the norm, might the ’63 Galaxie four-door in XL trim be one of the first four-door cars ever built with a console, bucket seats, and floor shift?

Ford’s line of full-sized cars in 1963 were not extraordinary in the manner one would typically think.  But due to being in the right place, often at the right time, these cars certainly have achieved a higher degree of immortality than many other cars from the same year.