The odds of seeing a cool car parked by a CA surfing beach is always a bit higher than average. We’ve been staying in a friend’s guest house on a hill overlooking Half Moon Bay, without cell phone reception or any internet; very relaxing to unplug it all. But the surfing is good around Half Moon Bay, and this nice ’64 Galaxie “fastback” coupe was a nice change from the Priuses to either side of it.
In 1964, Ford’s big cars were at the end of a body/frame cycle that started in 1960. Each year thereafter, either the upper or the lower half of the sheet metal got some significant changes, along with the two ends, of course (someone will undoubtedly point out an exception to that). The rather unsuccessful 1960 model gave way to a more palatable if uninspired 1961. The 1962 (check out the funny photo-chopped ad) got heavier lower-half sheet metal that made it look a lot more grounded than the rather flighty and delicate ’61.
As I’ve pointed out more than once around here, I’m not a big fan of Ford big-car styling during much of, well, pretty much forever after about 1950. Sorry, but Ford’s strength lay elsewhere, just not in their big cars. But in my book, the ’63 big Ford is the best of the bunch. It may seem a subtle difference to some of you, but the ’64 got heavier looking again, compared to the ’63, just as the ’62 did to the ’61. Ford was dithering, or maybe its all in my head.
When I say I’m not a big Ford fan, I need to qualify that inasmuch as I see plenty of redeeming qualities in this fairly handsome car, and the ’64 Chevy wasn’t exactly a fresh and exciting face by then either. And I appreciate the Galaxy’s solid, chunky demeanor, and its nicely swept roofline. I’m much more accommodating about Fords than I was in 1964, when I was an acolyte of the Church of St. Mark of Excellence.
Seeing this car brings back vivid memories of a test by “Uncle Tom” McCahill of an identical looking ’64 Galaxie 500 coupe. His tester had the 300 hp 390 FE V8, and he called it “a bomb”; in the good way, I assume. This 500 is lacking those distinctive “Thunderbird 390 V8″ emblems, so it probably has Ford’s excellent new-for-’64 289 V8 lost somewhere under that hood. That is, if it doesn’t have that lack-luster 352 FE there. The high-revving and free-breathing 289 probably wasn’t any slower than that stone of a 352, even if it was rated some 50 hp less.
If you were ambitious, engine-wise, you could check the order box for the legendary “side-oiler” 427, which came in 410 hp (one four-barrel carb) or 425 hp (two four-barrel carbs) versions. These engines were loosely based on the 390 FE design, but shared nary a component with them. Specially cast blocks, forged cranks, wild cams, and deep-breathing cams made them unruly and rough-idling on the street, but had made them the terror of NASCAR until the Hemi showed up. Ford’s “total performance” era was in full swing, and soon the 427 would powering the GT Mk II and IV at Le Mans, as well as creating a legend in the Cobra.
It’s fun watching the surfers during stormy winter weather, and about an hour later, the sunset gave a super show, turning the sky into shades of molten gold, red, and purple.