Vintage Road Test: 1963 Ford Galaxie 427 NASCAR Stock Car – “Wild Bursts of Speed…Unbelievable Massive Four-Wheel Drifts”

Don’t let the title fool you: the Ford 427 V8 with a single four-barrel carb may have been rated at 410 hp by the factory, but by the time Holman and Moody had done their magic, it was cranking out closer to 500 hp at 6500 rpm. Fred Lorenzen’s whole car got the H-M treatment, which netted him the biggest pile of earnings of the 1963 season.

Car Life decided to test it, and of course had Lorenzen do the driving. Yes, it was fast. And there’s a slew of clever details and mods that it took to keep one of these “stock” beasts going for 500 miles at 150+ mph, like a power steering pump attached to the differential housing to circulate its oil through a cooler.

Fred Lorenzen and his H-M Ford were red hot in 1963, and Car Life decided to find out just why. They took the Galaxie to Riverside Raceway and Lorenzen show it the spurs. How fast was it? 0-140 mph in 22 seconds. Top speed? An easy 155 mph with the 3.50 rear end gears for Riverside, but it would go faster with lower 3.25 gearing for the speedways like Daytona. And it even acquitted itself pretty well at the drag strip, despite the gearing being all wrong: 14.2 sec. @105 mph. Lorenzen also did some exhibition drag racing at the time, so it’s not like he didn’t know how to get the big Ford down the strip as fast as it could.

The Galaxie started life with the 410 hp version of the 427 (dual carbs were banned at NASCAR), the B-W T-10 4-speed transmission, and every heavy duty part that Ford had on tap for extreme use including some extra tough front spindles. Then the car was totally stripped and disassembled at the H-M shops. A roll cage was added to the body, which also contributes to the car’s structural rigidity as well as safety. All the frame and body weld joints were rewelded with a continuous bead, rather than the factory spot welds.

The stiff rear springs are mounted with lowering blocks, and there are stabilizer bars front and rear.

Springs rates are variable from side to side, depending on the track, as are tire pressures. At Daytona, tire pressures for the Goodyear “gumball” 8.20-15 tires are 60 psi right front, 55 right rear, 45 left rear, and 40 left front. At Riverside, pressures were 50 on the fronts and 40 on the rear. The wheels are 8.5″ wide, and have a double plate center section to prevent failure at the hubs. The tires are designed to last the length of a full race.

The engine is of course blueprinted and clearances increased for reduced friction. The rear axle is a full-floating unit, and has an oil cooling system that is pumped by a (stock!) power steering pump, circulating the oil through a radiator in the trunk that has an electric fan.

Every possible nut is secured with safety wire. Doors are bolted shut, and anything flammable is removed. The H-M treatment added some $6000 ($60k adjusted) to the $3200 price of the truly stock car that rolled off Ford’s assembly line with all the right options. That’s a bit less than $100k in today’s dollars for what was the #1 money-winning car in the 1963 season.

Lorenzen took the straights with “wild, strong bursts of speed” and flung the big Ford through the curves in “unbelievable massive four-wheel drifts”. Cornering was deemed “brisk and clean”. Not quite like a stock ’63 Galaxie, it seems.

Related CC reading:

Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 406 – “Total Performance” Started Here

Vintage Car Life Road Test: 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 427 – This One Takes Olympic-Sized Muscles To Drive