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

The three top-dog racing-oriented V8s in the classic mid-sixties performance era were of course the Chevy big blocks, the Chrysler 426 hemi and the Ford 427. The Ford was something of the underdog, given that it was stuck with somewhat smaller valves and ports than the other too. It was the final crowning culmination of the FE family of V8s, and acquitted itself quite well despite its age, especially in endurance racing (Le Mans) and in the Cobra 427.

It was available as an option on full size Fords from 1963 through 1967, and although I don’t have the numbers to verify it, anecdotally-speaking, it was a rare sight. One of the reasons was that it only came in a hard-core version with mechanical lifters and other goodies (unlike the mild versions of the big block Chevys), and power steering was not available, at least in 1965. That and the very stiff clutch required serious muscle to drive it, making it less than pleasant or suitable for normal driving (one tester had to pull over in stop-and-go traffic as his left knee just gave out).  But if you really wanted a plush LTD 4-door sedan with a 427 and the mandatory 4-speed manual, manual steering and truck-like clutch, you were welcome to it.

CL suggests that if Ford wants to keep using equine names for its cars, it should call the 427 Galaxie “Percheron”, after the powerful draft horses. That seems somewhat more suitable to the 428 that came along a year later, with its massive low end torque, as the 427 rather preferred high speeds than pulling heavy wagons.

One thing Ford did right was to require certain mandatory options along with the 427, which only came in the dual-quad 425 hp version in 1965. These included a stiffer convertible frame, HD suspension, shocks and brakes, and a few other mission-appropriate parts. Ford’s excellent “top loader” four-speed manual was also required; given the 427’s 480 ft.lbs. of torque, one could use just 2nd and 4th, or 1st and 4th, or any other feasible combination. This was the reality with these big powerful engines and 4-speed manuals.

The big mechanical-linkage clutch had a plate pressure of 2100 lb. per, almost double that of the one used behind a 289.

But it never slipped, except on purpose to facilitate maximum take-offs, which required the right balance of revs and clutch feathering to avoid a full-on burnout or bogging the engine down.

The results at the track were good, given that this was a genuine stock car: 0-60 in a quick 4.8 seconds (all in 1st gear), and a best 1/4 mile time of 14.9 sec. @97 mph. That was significantly quicker to 60 than the ’66 Hemi Plymouth we posted here recently, but then it had to shift once due to a lower axle ratio. The 1/4 mile times were about the same, but then the hemi was known to be just getting going at the end of the 1/4 mile.

But there’s more to life than a drag strip, and on the road, the Ford showed some vices, despite its 136 mph top speed. Its handling, even withe the HD suspension, was marred by heavy understeer; plowing, actually, in sharp, slow turns. Jacking up the front tire pressures to 32 psi while leaving the rears at 26 helped some, but the Galaxie was just not a genuine high speed road car that inspired confidence. Maybe it was a Percheron after all.

And we haven’t gotten to the steering yet, which as previously mentioned was only available in a very slow (30.9:1) manual ratio, with almost 6 turns lock-to-lock. “It imposes a penalty on the driver in that the power and speed potential of the car can get him into trouble a lot faster than he can steer out of it.”

At least the brakes were reasonably ok for an all-drum system; CL wishes the disc brakes from the Thunderbird could be swapped in, but different spindles made that unfeasible. The ride, although stiffer than the standard suspension, was decent, and “ a whole lot more comforting to the driver’s peace of mind.”

The lack of a tachometer, even one buried in the front of the console, was a serious omission along with other engine gauges. After all, this is a genuine performance engine with a 6000 rpm redline.

CL points out that the omission of a tach may seem like a minor item, but it was representative of the limitations of this package: why didn’t Ford put a bit more effort to create a genuine all-round performance car to go along with the terrific engine? Quick power steering, disc brakes, hydraulic clutch actuation, and a tach and engine gauges could/would have resulted in a true “Total Performance” car; instead it was clearly something that only hard-core racers were going to be interested in muscling around.