Surfside Classic CA Vacation Edition: 1964 Ford Galaxie 500

Paul Niedermeyer
by Paul Niedermeyer

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.

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Paul Niedermeyer
Paul Niedermeyer

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  • Wonderwar Wonderwar on Mar 03, 2010

    had a 64 galaxie 500 xl, gorgeous interior buckets console 4 speed blue with white interior, black rugs dash and package tray came with a record player for 45s, paid 800 bucks in 1970, it was mint had a 427 side oiler that was a service block from the previous police interceptor 390 with 3 2 barrels the side oiler came out in 1966, the other earlier 427s had lifter galley first oil delivery wonder where that big block blue beauty ended up after i sold it

  • Edco Edco on Apr 06, 2010

    Paul, The 1964 Ford Galaxy was the Motor Trend Car of the Year. Check it out. I agree with you about the 62, 63 bodies being sleeker. I think the 62/63 Fords had a bunch of major stock car wins with guys like Parnelli Jones and Richard Petty driving.

  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.
  • Tassos Under incompetent, affirmative action hire Mary Barra, GM has been shooting itself in the foot on a daily basis.Whether the Malibu cancellation has been one of these shootings is NOT obvious at all.GM should be run as a PROFITABLE BUSINESS and NOT as an outfit that satisfies everybody and his mother in law's pet preferences.IF the Malibu was UNPROFITABLE, it SHOULD be canceled.More generally, if its SEGMENT is Unprofitable, and HALF the makers cancel their midsize sedans, not only will it lead to the SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST ones, but the survivors will obviously be more profitable if the LOSERS were kept being produced and the SMALL PIE of midsize sedans would yield slim pickings for every participant.SO NO, I APPROVE of the demise of the unprofitable Malibu, and hope Nissan does the same to the Altima, Hyundai with the SOnata, Mazda with the Mazda 6, and as many others as it takes to make the REMAINING players, like the Excellent, sporty Accord and the Bulletproof Reliable, cheap to maintain CAMRY, more profitable and affordable.
  • GregLocock Car companies can only really sell cars that people who are new car buyers will pay a profitable price for. As it turns out fewer and fewer new car buyers want sedans. Large sedans can be nice to drive, certainly, but the number of new car buyers (the only ones that matter in this discussion) are prepared to sacrifice steering and handling for more obvious things like passenger and cargo space, or even some attempt at off roading. We know US new car buyers don't really care about handling because they fell for FWD in large cars.
  • Slavuta Why is everybody sweating? Like sedans? - go buy one. Better - 2. Let CRV/RAV rust on the dealer lot. I have 3 sedans on the driveway. My neighbor - 2. Neighbors on each of our other side - 8 SUVs.
  • Theflyersfan With sedans, especially, I wonder how many of those sales are to rental fleets. With the exception of the Civic and Accord, there are still rows of sedans mixed in with the RAV4s at every airport rental lot. I doubt the breakdown in sales is publicly published, so who knows... GM isn't out of the sedan business - Cadillac exists and I can't believe I'm typing this but they are actually decent - and I think they are making a huge mistake, especially if there's an extended oil price hike (cough...Iran...cough) and people want smaller and hybrids. But if one is only tied to the quarterly shareholder reports and not trends and the big picture, bad decisions like this get made.