How Uncompetitive Ford Galaxies Dragsters Became Champion Road Racers in England
Updated April 27, 2016
The ’60s were odd times. Take the Ford Galaxy R Code, developed for drag racing but uncompetitive; shipped off to England and won a road racing championship. Against much smaller cars. Very odd.
To take on the Chevy Impala Z11 in NHRA drag racing Ford built about 212 special lightweight Galaxie 500 Sport Special Tudor Fastback R Code cars. The number of changes made, some minute, to save ounces is truly impressive. What follows is a list of known R Code modifications:
The R Code 427 engine was rated at a conservative 425 hp with two four-barrel carburetors and an aggressive solid lifter camshaft. Ford also made available aluminum cylinder heads as a dealer option. Transmission was a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed matched to a 4.11:1 rear axle, heavy-duty suspension and brakes.
Bodies were lightened with fiberglass hoods, trunk lids, and front fenders and inner fender liners, as well as aluminum bumpers, transmission cases, and bellhousings.
Eliminated were hood springs, heater, trunk lining and mat, spare wheel and tire (and mounting bracket), trunk lid torsion bar, jack, lug wrench, one horn (of the stock two), armrests, rear ashtrays, courtesy lights, and dome light were removed to reduce weight. The cars had all sound deadening removed, lightweight seats and floormats, and no options. In total, the efforts saved over 400 pounds.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to regain competitiveness with Chevrolet Impala Z-11s in drag racing, so Ford developed a Plan B.
A review of international racing rules revealed that the Galaxie would be eligible to compete in a number of road racing championships around the world. So several were shipped off to the UK, South Africa, and Australia after a stop at Ford’s technical partner in NASCAR Holman and Moody for some road race prep.
Three ended up in the United Kingdom. One was driven by a local amateur, another a “guest” car for the likes of Formula One drivers Dan Gurney, Jack Brabham, Graham Hill, and Jim Clark. The third Galaxie was assigned to former touring car champion Jack Sears. Despite a career racing smaller, lighter, and less powerful cars, Sears took to the big Galaxie like a duck to water. He quickly mastered driving the 17.5 foot monster (which was 7.5 feet longer than the Mini Coopers with which he shared the track) winning his very first race in the behemoth.
Sears captured the 1963 British Touring Car Championship with four outright wins in the Galaxie (along with a few class wins in a Cortina prior to the arrival of the big Ford from the States), breaking the multi-season stranglehold Jaguar had on the series.
Afterwards the car was raced successfully in South Africa, where it stayed from 1966 until 1989, when Sears bought it and had it restored in the original 1963 colors. At 85 years of age, Sears still rolls the giant Galaxie out for the occasional vintage event.
And all these years later, the Ford Galaxie nameplate still exists in the UK, but now its a minivan.