Ford’s support of competition is mirrored in the growing appreciation amongst enthusiasts for the Cortina GT and, by those who have been intrigued by the saloon-car exploits of Jack Sears and company, for the big Ford Galaxie.
I have expressed previously my opinion that the Galaxie is one of Canada’s better automobiles, a view endorsed after spending the August Bank Holiday motoring in the latest 6.4-litre version of this popular big Ford.
The Ford Galaxies raced by Sears and other intrepid drivers in today’s saloon-car races use the 7-litre engine developing 410 b.h.p. in production guise, but in the crowded holiday traffic the 300 b.h.p. at 4,600 r.p.m. developed by the smaller 390-cu. in. V8 engine, in a car measuring 17½ ft x 6 ft. 8 in., seemed enough to be going on with.
Not that this great Galaxie is in any way complicated to control— the reverse, in fact. Immediately after getting out of a compact 1½-litre French car I drove this gleaming Super Enamel “Diamond Lustre” blue Galaxie 500 through thick London traffic without a qualm. Although there seem to be acres of bonnet ahead of one, so long that up sudden steep rises the forward view momentarily disappears, sights on each side of it enable the car’s width to be judged easily, while two-pedal control by grace of the smoothly operating Ford Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission with torque converter makes driving simplicity personified, especially as the Bendix power-assisted steering, geared 4-turns lock-to-lock plus 1/3 of a turn of free play, is literally one-finger light, but vague in comparison with Citroen or Mercedes-Benz power-steering.
I am not for a moment suggesting that an American (or Canadian) automobile is a substitute for the better British and Continental cars where driving skill, implying the need for good road-holding and braking, is to be exercised and enjoyed. But if luxury means quiet running and very real performance effortlessly unleashed, together with a comfortable ride and an uncramped interior, such vehicles are not to be despised and, when disc brakes form part of their otherwise all-embracing specifications, they will, I suggest, constitute something of a menace to our luxury, high-performance car sales.
The fact is that the Ford Galaxie runs very easily indeed to high cruising speeds, its enormous power delivered so smoothly and quietly that the spasmodic (admittedly rather loud) clicks of its self-winding electric clock can be clearly heard above the mechanical clamour—I seem to have said something similar, somewhere, in a slightly different context!
For the aforesaid holiday week-end we loaded the enormous luggage boot with a fantastic number of suitcases, goods and chattels, and although all this falls well behind the back axle, it had not the slightest adverse effect on cornering, nor did the Whitewall Firestone Deluxe Champion tubeless gum-dipped 8.00 x 14 tyres deign to notice it. We then climbed in and enjoyed entirely tireless (in the fatigue sense) motoring to our destination. I did not subject this 6.4-litre Ford to performance testing. Its speed is really a matter of the sort of road conditions encountered. But I do know that the very similar 2-door Galaxie 500 convertible used by the Sales Manager of Lincoln Cars Ltd. of Brentford, who sell these Fords in Britain, will do a genuine 120 m.p.h. and accelerate from 0 to 50 m.p.h. in 7.7 sec., will go from rest to 100 m.p.h. in 28½ sec., and cover a s.s. ¼-mile in the commendably short time of 16.6 sec.
This is performance of a very high order, even allowing for the generous swept-volume of the engine, yet, as you kick-down on the accelerator for overtaking, the power required to produce it is delivered so smoothly that there is no sense of projectile-like pick-up, or of roaring past lesser cars like a very quick sports car. Only the excellent journey times and the needle of the petrol gauge falling relentlessly, show how fast the Galaxie has been travelling. . . .
As I have implied, the action of the Cruise-O-Matic transmission is as near perfection as makes no matter. The power steering is insensitive, yet firm enough not to give rise to qualms, and the power brakes are sudden but as reassuring as well-shielded as 11 in. drum brakes with more than two tons of motor car to bring to rest can be. The suspension copes easily with rough roads, but naturally the road-holding is poor by European standards. However, roll on corners is well controlled and the big leaf-spring suspended back axle does not tramp. A series of bumps will set up a pitching motion, which, however, is immediately damped out. For a car of this sort, handling is of a high standard.
Within, the Ford Galaxie exudes practicability and comfort, and the body is free from rattles. The wide bench seats eschew armrests and are comfortable in rather park-bench style, and sensibly upholstered in metallic-blue leathercloth of cheerful and unusual pattern. Clearly, more thought has been given to this upholstery’s contribution to a cheerful yet durable interior than is the case with most British and European cars. The carpets are durable, too, the massive doors hung on unashamedly solid hinges. The facia, a trifle flamboyant to our eyes, has a 120-m.p.h. arc-dial speedometer with radiating lines connecting with the m.p.h. recordings, odometer with tenths, steady-reading fuel gauge, a thermometer, and simple knobs for fresh-air ventilation (two), lamps selection, variable-speed wipers and cigar-lighter, all very clearly labelled, supplemented by the usual warning lights in twin ovals below the speedometer dial. The cranked gear selector to standard L, D1, D2, N, R and P locations is on the left and a very precise r.h. stalk with short movements operates the turn-indicators. The pull-out hand-brake is under the facia on the right, clearly labelled BRAKE.
Externally, this Ford Galaxie 500 with its small dual headlamps, knurled rear lamps and hub trims, and impressive length and breadth, is an eye-catcher. Within it has sober, sensible features, like the sill door-locks, huge illuminated lockable cubby-hole, the interior door handles above the arm-rests but pulling up to release the doors and thus immune from mistaken usage (unless really grabbed at in a panic—I prefer remote door handles, myself), the very neat, clear labelling of the elaborate MagicAire heater and defroster unit, and the tiny crank handles which firmly close the ¼-lights of the front doors, given four turns. The window winding handles work nicely, there is a flush-fitting facia ash-tray, and coat-hooks. The big metallic steering wheel carries a 2/3rds hornring. Equipment includes Carlite tempered safety glass and a heavy-duty Power Punch battery. All in all this high-performance version of the popular Ford Galaxie 500 is a very interesting possession. At the English price of £2,154 7s. 11d. it can be fairly termed an inexpensive combination of status symbol, luxury transport and very-high-performance car. Power costs money, but the overall consumption of premium petrol while it was in my hands averaged 14.2 m.p.g. and a quart of oil was required after 600 miles.
As I have said, Ford’s interest in competition motoring is reflected in its 1964 products. The Galaxie I tested, one of a “Family of Fine Ford Products,” as discreet labels on the doorsills of the body proclaimed, carried the chequered-flags motif indicating the 390 cu. in. engine and the catalogue referred to the “solid, silent total performance won in 500s like Riverside, Daytona and Atlanta,” those hard-fought 500-mile “stock-” or, to us, saloon-car races, from which the latest Ford Galaxie range derives its “500” designation.
The Ford Galaxie 500, built by Ford of Canada Ltd. at Oakville, Ontario, is available as a 4-door saloon for less than £2,000, inclusive of p.t., with the 195-b.h.p. engine, and as a power-top convertible and 9-passenger station wagon with blackwall tyres and electrically-operated tailgate window, with the 300 b.h.p. engine, for £2,243 16s. 2d. and £2,371 1s. 0d., respectively. If you are looking for practical yet highly individual transport, without the highest standards of road-holding and braking, one of these could end your search. In the Galaxie’s favour is a 36,000mile or 3-year period between chassis greasing and 6,000 miles or six months between normal oil changes. There are various intriguing extras available, such as the swing-away steering wheel for cosy attainment to the driving seat, which intrigued Pat Moss when it was shown on a Ford Thunderbird at Earls Court in 1962.- W. B.