1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL 390 Coupe
It’s seldom one comes across such a rare car in South Africa…on offer is one of two ’64 Galaxie Coupe’s notorious in SA. Now we all have seen the legendary Sarel van der Merwe charging hard at the front of the pack in the Big Red, a fully race-converted mean machine with all the go faster bits. For almost a decade, the Big Red has led the field across RSA’s racetracks, much to the delight of cheering crowds. It’s been a truly awesome spectacle to witness as such, a behemoth of a land yacht which crushes all the sporty classic race cars of that age.
The Galaxie is a big vehicle, make no mistake, known as the premium full-size in Ford’s range of cars at the time – the big brother- the Fairlane. It is renowned for transporting people in the fifties, sixties and seventies in serious style with living room comfort, and all whilst having a big lump of a motor up front so cruising speeds were more than adequate. Put your foot down and the machine lurches forward with urgency whilst the V8 rumbles to the tunes of our petrol head’s hearts. The 4-doors are what we know because they were aplenty. The story of this Galaxie, however, is a little different and very special!
In the late sixties a gentleman and his wife were making their way from Durban on holiday all the way back to Pretoria where he lived on a small holding. He stopped at what seemed to be a random BP gas station. Upon closer inspection, he noticed something big, red and shiny glaring at him from behind some shop windows. Walking up, his heart fluttered as he saw his dream car! The road going car was raced at the Kyalami 9hr in 1963 by Paul Hawkins and Jack Sears. Now the race car didn’t finish the race due to a blown head gasket, but it sure won the hearts of many in the crowd. Earlier that year, the winner of the 1963 Daytona 500 was, you guessed it, a Ford Galaxie 500XL Coupe so the Galaxie was already immortalized in history and went on to further become a legend in racing history. Before his eyes, lay a big beautiful Galaxie Coupe, his dream car! When the gentleman enquired if the shop owner was present, he was told no by virtue, that this was one of many gas stations he owned. Mesmerized, the gentleman left his details just in case the owner ever was willing to sell. And just like that, he set off to complete the arduous journey home. Nearly a year later, the illusive phone call came and without any convincing at all, he rushed back towards Durban to meet the owner. Upon arrival, the gentleman was able to now have a proper close inspection…and this is where it gets even better. The Galaxie Coupe was XL Model, which stood for “Xtra Lively.” Great! The slanted roof line was designed for Nascar, so there was more aerodynamic with less lift and this model had been specced with the premier vinyl roof trim. Then he opened the driver’s door…the full luxury interior was opted for which included power windows, a 3-speed heater defroster, radio – but there was a nice twist. The front row of seats was not a bench but two thin-shell bucket seats with chrome trim and the rear had the same layout so effectively it was a 2 plus 2 sports car. Unique too, was the option of a 4-speed manual box and low and behold, this Galaxie had this too. So, what was under the hood? Ford’s most notable engine choice at the time – the Thunderbird 390 big block motor!!! All the right combo’s! So, this Galaxie has performance, style and luxury all wrapped up in a 60’s era red suit. Stunning! And ultra-rare worldwide with these options that had been listed. Race pedigree with creature comforts, this owner clearly knew how to spec a car!
The XL Galaxie shape went on to be Ford’s best seller of any XL’s produced in any year and this 64 shape is considered to be the most attractive Galaxie ever built.
A deal was struck, and the gentleman returned home the proud owner of an ultra-rare, 1964 Ford Galaxie 500XL Coupe. This became his holiday vehicle which he only used for long road trips throughout South Africa. Needless to say, the Big Red not only won his heart, but that of his wife and many admirers along the travels. Then disaster struck. The Gentleman contracted a disease which stripped him of his ability to drive a manual car and subsequently, not being able to drive at all. Big Red was parked in his garage, placed on stilts, covered and lay in dark in the hope that one day, just one day, he may be able to drive it again. No such luck and after a long 22yrs, he succumbed to fact that he was never to drive again. Not fair! But still having a loving affinity for his big red, he made the decision that someone else should still get to enjoy the big old Galaxie. The thing is though, this Galaxie didn’t look old…the interior looked almost new which is remarkable for a 56yr old car, but when you consider the caring life it led with 22yrs hidden away, it makes sense. With only 59 000 miles, Big Red hasn’t even covered 100 000 kilometers…that’s less than 2000 kilo’s a year. So, this is where we came in, on the hunt for a clean Galaxie and we catch a glimpse of it when looking at another classic also hidden in his garage. Well, they call it love at first sight and we know because our hearts were fluttering, short of breath and almost dropping to our knees – we knew we weren’t leaving without this piece of history. Again, another deal was done on big red and the behemoth was sent to Cape Town where we recommissioned Big Red to live once again! And boy, does he live!! In original paint still, we did a complete once over, changed all the fluids, the battery and some essentials, and boom, Big Red fired to life!! We are pleased to say that even on initial test runs, we only stopped when the gas ran out as the fuel gauge doesn’t work…and that’s the thing, everything works, even down the original radio which tunes straight in. The car itself feels like a character. We imported some special 18inch Riddler wheels and adorned them with some fat rubber to give Big Red some new boots and an even sportier look, but don’t despair, the original wheels are still intact and in storage. Then we replaced the exhaust (which was bit tired) with a Powerflow to give it some extra oomph and deep burly sound, but not too loud, as this is a head turner cruiser, not some real racer. Then we decided the engine bay could do with a spruce up as it was literally the only area of the car that didn’t look close to new, so we pulled the motor out, refreshed it with some performance mods, including a light cam for a lumpy idle that we all love and sprayed the engine bay and replaced all the lines. It now looks amazing and the Thunderbird tappet covers shine in all their glory now! With a 56yr old car, one can always do more, but we choose to stop there to show off the original patina this car still holds…even the chrome work is impressively in good condition. A few breakfast runs, car shows, road rallies, and a magazine appearance later, it’s now time for Big Red next custodian to take over and it will be a privilege for whoever makes the choice, but make sure that you too are as infatuated with Big Red as all the previous caring owners who have had the honour to drive this exclusive rare beast from the sixties when stuff was just so damn cool!
There are plenty of SA Ford Collectors out there…many will have the collectable Mustang’s, Capri Perana’s , Shelby Cobra’s powered by Ford and the like of special models, but NO-ONE will have one of these Galaxie’s!!