By on December 31, 2009

surfer's ford

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. CC SM 75 001 800

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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51 Comments on “Surfside Classic CA Vacation Edition: 1964 Ford Galaxie 500...”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    The 1950s were the era of wild exuberance in American automoblile styling. For some reason, after the wild tail fin years, the Big three pulled way back and produced some fairly bland boxes. The were some exceptions like the Sting Ray, the Avanti, and the Riviera, but the mainstream stuff went vanilla.

  • avatar

    My brother owned one of these for a few years. He drove it from the Maine coast to New York City with only the parking brake working. I don’t know why that’s important, but I’m just free-associating tonight…

  • avatar

    I also think the ’63 is the best-looking of the 1960-64 era large Fords.  BTW, it’s “Galaxie” not “Galaxy.”

  • avatar

    I personally always liked the 61 full sized Fords best out of the five body years. For some reason, I just like the way the chrome trim on the side was doubled as the door pull, as it did on the 61-63 T-birds. Those little details are what I noticed and liked on those 61’s. Even with dad’s was a  plain-jane, straight six, three-on-the-tree simpleton Country Sedan, that poor wagon had trouble pulling into our rather level driveway.

  • avatar

    “Because the Cadillac that’s sittin’ in the back
    It isn’t me
    Oh, no, no, no it isn’t me
    I’m more at home in my Galaxie”
    -Shannon Hoon

    • 0 avatar

      I owned a 1963 Galaxie that belonged to Shannon Hoon. It was in the shop being prepped for restoration when he died. I drove it for a while but didn’t have the money to properly care for it. I ended up selling it to the manager of a top-flite body shop in Chicago who restored it to better than new.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I have to agree on one thing-that 63 fastback big Ford was a clean looking car but writing off every year after 1950…

    Personally, I thought that Ford had a nice evolution in style over the course of the 50s-the 52-54 Ford was ahead of the Chevy in terms of a contemporary early 50s Detroit look.

    The 55-56 Ford was clearly a solid alternative to the legendary 55-56
    shoebox Chevy at the  time-you could argue that the Crown Vicky and the bubbletop were actually far more innovative than the shoeboxes from GM.

    Ford lost a little ground in 57 and 58 to the fin guys from Mopar, but that retractable hardtop  gave them an odd advantage in complicated technology.

    Disagree completely on the 60-this refugee from the 50s fin era was always underrated in my opinion.They’ve certainly caught the attention of the cusomizing world.     

    As for the 61 and 62,they were bulkier looking than the Chevy but then the 63 fastback came along.

    To end on a mid-60s note-the vertical headlights in 65 really said welcome to the second half of the decade.The roofline had more of a sweep than the 65 Plymouth but this time Chevy set the style for the rest of the decade.

    But all in all, the big Ford set or matched styling trends over much  of that 1950-64 era  

    • 0 avatar

      Big, full-size Fords are about as inoffensive and non-polarizing as you can get from Detroit. They’re not bad designs, just not terribly exciting, either. The ’55-’57 were probably the best of the lot (supposedly actually outselling the now-classic shoebox Chevy).

      I’m not sure that a better array of engines would have helped matters much, either. Sure, the rare 427 side-oiler was a monster, but who could find (let alone afford) one? Most people just did the best they could with the stodgy 352/390 which were easy meat for nearly any comparable GM or Mopar product. That is, until the CobraJet came along, but its fame resulted more from being installed in Fairlanes, Torinos, and Mustangs.

      My favorites are the plain-Jane, cop-car Ford sedans of the late sixties & early seventies. Although the high-flying 440 Dodge Polara got all the glory, the Ford sedans looked better (in a utilitarian way) and, frankly, were likely more reliable in day-to-day, non-pursuit duty. Think Gene Hackman in The French Connection (and I’m not talking about the LeMans in the chase scene, either).

      Still be cool to see a CC on a 1969-70 Mercury Marauder X-100, though…

  • avatar

    The first cars I remember my parents owning were a ’63 Beetle (Dad’s) and a ’64 Galaxie 500 wagon (strippo, button hubcaps, 289, dealer AC, mom’s). I like the ’65 Galaxie 500 better; my Grandma had a ’65 352 4-door that despite that engine’s bulk and whatnot would lay plentiful strips of old bias-ply tire. That it had 4-wheel drum brakes without power assist made it… interesting to drive. Oh, and the first time I drove it ca. 1979 or so, it was getting dark so I turned on the lights. Well, Grams never turned them on as she only drove in the morning, so all the lamps blew up as soon as I snicked that knob all the way out. Later, it was rear-ended by a nearly-new Volvo 264 right in front of our house, which more or less destroyed the Swede; the insurer wanted to total the Ford but Grams insisted it be fixed. Make it so, and it was. But the rear end was pretty bent and it never drove the same afterwards.
    Once Grams decided to stop driving, I drove it a few months, then my sister and her bozo husband got ahold of it, then a year or so later I saw it in a pick-a-part all bashed up and broken. That, friends, was tough, as 1) it was Grandma’s car and 2) it only had about 42,000 miles on it.

  • avatar

    I am pretty sure it is a 289.  I believe that all 352 cars had dual exhausts which are not evident in the picture.  Keep these Curbside Classics coming.

  • avatar
    also Tom

    You guys should check out Jay Brown’s Minnesota based ’64 big block cammer. Absolutely fierce and also a black two door.

  • avatar

    not to get technical but you are overlooking The Jetty and Pillar Point Harbor from that parking lot.
    As for the car, even people like me who are not Ford muscle car fans acknowledge that the 64 Galaxie is one of the best cars of the era. The style details are everywhere on this car and it’s a car that, IMO, looks best when restored to factory condition. I’d love to have a Galaxie and if you look around carefully from where you are you will find another 64 Galaxie that is in worse condition than this one but rust free (rare for that area) and best of all is a convertible. I’ve had my eye on that car for years.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    nicest Ford of the era, but the 63-64 Impala is still my favorite looker.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Didn’t like the ’60 Ford much. Thought the 61 and 62 models were OK. Bought a black 63 Galaxie convertible. Liked it very much, until the 64 came out. God I loved the 64 convertible especially in red, but I was tapped out.

  • avatar

    Couple of surfer dudes from Washington came down in their black-primer Galaxie to check out Half Moon Bay, I see. Again, a remarkably straight and unmolested old car.
    I’m another ’63 fan…I liked those and the ’60’s best of the 1960-1969 Ford model years.

  • avatar

    Hello all!
    I realize my ’65 Galaxie Coupe was the follow-up to this ’64, but a friend also had a ’65, his was the 289, mine was the 352. In NO WAY could that 289 out-accelerate my big-block(both were stock engines) at any speed, any time.
    The 289 was great in the Mustang, but for such a heavy car the 289’s  high-revving horsepower was no match for the 352’s low and midrange torque. In the big Fords, the 289 was a 2-bbl single exhaust, the 352 was a 4-bbl dual exhaust.

  • avatar

    From the rear, I definitely prefer the ’64 to the ’63 (and both to the earlier ones). The ’64 has more of ***something*** that I associate with California beach culture of the ’60s.

  • avatar

    Put some real paint on that car and it would be gorgeous.

    However, it appears to be just a Galaxie 500 and not an XL.  To really get the full effect of this car you need to have the XL package, with the bucket seats, console, big speaker grille in the top center of the rear seatback, and trimmed with shiny Mylar, chrome and brushed aluminum everywhere.  My grandmom bought one new; I was 5 at the time.   I thought it was the next best thing to a rocket ship.  We were an all ’64 Ford family for a while, as my Dad had a ’64 Fairlane 500 wagon (which would be a better surfer car today than this coupe).

    Not only that, but a popular kid’s toy at the time (and I had one) was the “Deluxe Playmobile,” which closely resembled a 1963-64 Ford dash:

    • 0 avatar

      My grandfather’s only new car was a 1970 Ford Galaxie XL coupe.  He paid for it by cashing in his government savings bonds he had been buying since the 1950s with every paycheck.  Never got to ride in it, my grandmother sold it shortly after he died in 1978.  But I’ve seen pictures remember that it was milk chocolate brown and that my grandmother only referred to it as “the XL.”  As a kid I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why anybody would name a car “extra large.”  :P

    • 0 avatar

      Wow!  I remember the Deluxe Playmobile that I got for Christmas one year.  They sold them at supermarkets.  My brother got one called Johnny Jet that looked like a jet fighter control panel.  Pulled the back off the Playmobile when the batteries died and stuck a desk lamp up underneath it that illuminated the entire dash.  Pretty cool looking, but the lamp melted the windshield wiper mechanism.  Parents never shelled out for more than one set of batteries for any Christmas present.
      I loved the ’64 Galaxie 500 XL.  What a beautiful car!
      Marc Miller

  • avatar

    Ford back in those days reminds me of Toyota today. Each new model shared little styling themes from year to year. The 64s are strange looking to me. About all they had in common with the 61-63s were the round tail lights. Soon to be gone again for 65 (except for the cheapo fleet models). The 289 was awesome though. It has debuted in 62 as a 221 cu in. Took Ford 7 years to perfect the thinwall brilliance that was the 55 Chevy small block.

  • avatar

    The 64 is one of my favorite 60s Fords.  An aunt and uncle owned one into the early 70s.  A maroon Galaxie 500 4 door hardtop.  The back doors on the 4 door hardtops had a neat little kickup that met the roofline, instead of the chrome triangle that was bolted onto the door on the 60-63 models.
    My relatives were not much into car care, and that poor old Galaxie took a lot of abuse over its life.  These were solid, overbuilt cars.  Much moreso than the later models.  Although these were subject to rust, we later learned what bad rust really was.
    In the early 70s, my teenage cousins were driving the old Ford on a day to day basis.  I was told that this particular car was good for 97 mph.  My cousins related a curious phenomenon.  Above about 90 (in the summer with all the windows open), the roof panel started to deflect into the car.  When they slowed down, it reverted to its original shape.  Strange.  Whenever they talked about a drive with the roof on their backs, I knew what they meant.
    I am surprised that this example has only lost one wheel cover.  The 64 Ford wheel cover was a lightweight unit except for that big diecast hub, which must have caused balancing issues.  These 64 wheel covers were all over the road berms in my youth, and rare was the 64 Galaxie without at least one bare wheel by the late 60s.  I also remember the curious starting routine.  The neutral-start switch in the steering column was problematic on these, and I still remember Uncle Bob reaching his left hand across the top of the steering wheel to pull the shift lever up a bit, while he twisted the key with his right hand.  You will see this maneuver in the occasional old movie or tv show, as it was almost universal on these cars.  This switch had not been such a problem on the earlier models, which put the ignition key on the left side of the dash, keeping the right hand free to skootch the lever up.
    I will agree that the era’s Chevys were better looking, but the Ford was the better car.  The 289 was no worse than the Chevy smallblock.  And forget the 352, Chevy had no answer to the 390 coupled to a 3 speed Cruise O Matic.  In those years, a big American sedan was about torque, and gobs of it.  This was what the big Ford did in spades.

    • 0 avatar

      jpcavanagh, you nailed that idiosyncrasy right on the head! It took decades until the males in my extended family stopped starting cars (especially Fords and Mercurys) by pulling up on the gearshift! I’m sure my dad did that well into the 80’s, even in non-Fords.
      My Uncle Jack had a ’63 Galaxie XL convertible, navy blue on navy blue, that to this day is still one of my favourite cars of all time. Probably had to do with riding around Montreal during summer afternoons on the weekends with the top down and 5 or 6 kids hanging out the sides of the car while he blasted around at speeds well in excess of the legal limit. It was the start of my lifelong obsession with droptops.

  • avatar

    Wonder if there’s a 20-foot-long or more 2-ton great white shark prowling off-shore nearby?

  • avatar
    jack z

    March 1964 drove a black&white 390 no power steering, tried to catch a jag no luck the big ford dangerous on corners and the jag was gone.

  • avatar

    I havent thought about that for years! My dad reaching over the wheel of his ’66 f100 and pulling the lever up so the key would start it! Thanks for the memory.

  • avatar

    My wife and I have a 64 Galaxie 500 convertible and have had it almost 30 years. When we bought it, it was pushed up under a house built into the side of a hill with cats living in it. Yeah, take your imagination times 10. It took almost 15 years of on again, off again work to get it completely restored. The car is a 390 with a two barrel Holly and auto transmission. At about 40 the car really starts moving out smartly and quickly goes faster than any sane person would drive a convertible with drum brakes. When we did the interior, we put in a cloth interior instead of the original vinyl as we drive it often, sometimes once a week. The only complaint I have ever had with FoMoCo is the trim on the car. Most of it is chrome plated aluminum and dents very easily. Look at the front grill on your subject car. I love my 64. I only wish I could have 8 or 10 more.

  • avatar

    In the early ’60s, as a confirmed car nut and poor college student, I would haunt the dealer’s showrooms anticipating my first new car.  I never cared much for Fords, but sitting in the local Ford showroom in the spring of  ’64 was a Galaxie 500 XL, black over black with red interior, 390 4-speed.  It sat there with the top down, and I was instantly in lust.

    I have never owned a big Ford, but I still think about that car.  If I found an example I could be tempted….

  • avatar

    I’m a huge fan of the Fairlanes of this era but would love a 63 Galaxie for sure. It was the best looking of the era IMHO. The interior looked better than Chevy’s offering at the time I thought too.

  • avatar

    I think it’s a good-looking car; it looks like it is moving even when it’s still.  I think I stole that from a poem.

  • avatar

    I’m a huge fan of the big Fords from the ’60’s. My dad had a ’60 Fairlane 500 with a 292 and a 2 speed Ford-a-matic. Years later I owned a ’61 Galaxie Starliner with a 352, and a 3 speed Cruize-a-matic. Got rid of it during the mid-seventies gas crisis. As for styling, I think the ’64 is the heaviest looking, and I think the 1960 is the best looking, especially from the front, and to my eye is the best styling of any 1960 full size car. (I liked the ’61 through ’63 Chevy’s better than the Ford, but thought the ’60 and ’64 Ford was much better than the Chevrolet). As for engines, you guys are too hard on the poor old 352. It was more than enough for the big Galaxie I had. I agree the 396 big block Chev has an edge over the 390, but the 383 Mopar is definately not the better engine (I’ve driven plenty of both). I hope someday we can have a Curbside Classic on the 1967 big Ford, which I think is the best looking full-size Ford, ever.

  • avatar

    7 Litre…anyone??

  • avatar

    I’ve owned two cars with 352s–a ’62 Merc Monterrey and a ’62 Country Squire.
    My Dad had a ’64  Custom 500 two-door sedan with the 289 and a stick at the same time I drove the Squire. Once, when the Squire needed a fuel pump, I drove Dad’s 289.

    Despite the lower weight and the stickshift, the 289 was not quicker off the line than the Squire.
     In both the Squire and the Merc, I got 13- 14mpg in town/ 20-21 highway–in summer.
    Winter time dropped me to about 9 in town. Never took either car on a winter road trip so I don’t know about highway miles.

    My sister had a Falcon with the 2-speed auto and a 170c.i. six that she said got only 16 in town, so 14 from a “tank” wasn’t bad.

    • 0 avatar

      Grandma traded in the ’64 500XL (which probably had a 352) on a ’68 Galaxie coupe with a 302.  She used to rave about the better mileage she got in the ’68.  Probably about 16-17 city and 20-22 highway.  Still, not bad for a huge car, and not too far off what you would get in a new Grand Marquis today.  The 170 six was never a mileage king.  I recall in early Mavericks you didn’t same much if any fuel with the 170 as opposed to the 200 six.  You just got a slower car.

  • avatar


    @MadHungarian Not only that, but a popular kid’s toy at the time (and I had one) was the “Deluxe Playmobile,” which closely resembled a 1963-64 Ford dash:
    I loved my Deluxe Playmobile, and we were a Buick household

  • avatar

    The Avett brothers have written “In The Curve” (you tube link)

    The best song ever involving a 1963 ford Galaxy 500, something for the hoon in all of you

  • avatar

    My dad was a Ford man, but we never owned a Galaxie. We had Fairlanes, and even my first car was a used 1969 Torino (Fairlane, but fancier). Had to hold up the gearshift lever in all of our Fords, up until the mid 1970’s models, by then my dad was able to trade them out before the neutral switch went bad.

    One of our family’s friends had a ’64 Galaxie XL 4 door, I still remember it vividly, with all of the chrome and the four bucket-like seats in the interior. But there was a lot to be said for the model shown here, a basic two door with a mid level trim package. Treated well, it would be a good driver for a long time. Detroit should still build cars this well.

  • avatar

    The “uninspired” 61 Ford won some sort of international industrial design award for it’s styling that year. Something Ford played up in it’s ads of the day. Probably, to my eyes, the best of the era followed by the 64, the 60 and the 63 which was chunky and seemed too tall.

    The 63 grille did things that made no sense like the raised edge of the center bottom, the concave design and the taillights that made the bumpers look tacked on as an after thought. It always struck me as being the least attractive of the lot. Oh well YTMV [your tastes may vary….]

    Great article. BTW : Ford’s entire line was Motor Trend’s Car Of The Year in 1964 [not including the Mustang which wasn’t out at the time].

  • avatar

    As well: the grille was never chrome plated but aluminum cast. There were ads from Alcoa Aluminum which featured the 64 Ford’s grille in the COTY issue of Motor Trend that year. It claimed to stay bright and shiny through all sorts of corrosive weather,
    car washes and etc. There may have been a “finish” to the aluminum, but it wasn’t chrome. It gave a similar gleam but wouldn’t rust or pit.

    My 63 Valiant has a pressed aluminum grille. A good going over with some canned wadding for shining chrome and aluminum and a little wax makes it shine like new.

  • avatar

    My aunt & uncle bought a 1966 (I believe) Galaxie convertible – black, black top, black interior, over/under headlights, square taillights.  Although my uncle died fairly young, my widowed aunt owned it for a very long time; it was always (to me) a really sharp-lookin’ ride.

    My folks owned a black Thunderbird (62 or 63? – had round tailights); that was about the swinginest car we ever owned, but God it was always in the shop, and it was gone by ’67.  But for awhile there, family get-togethers were stylin’…

  • avatar

    I have a 1964 Galaxie 500 factory fx 390/375 bph solid lifters 11.5 to 1 comp. 57 cc heads cast iron short headers (ligther than long style) 4 speed BorgWarner tran. 4.11 pos. rear heavy duty springs car was factory built drag car built at Norfork Va. plant ,all original ,65,000 miles only driven on Suunday.

  • avatar

    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

  • avatar


    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.

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