Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Low-Priced Luxury and Performance
Text and Photos by David W. Temple
The full-sized Fords were introduced to the public on September 29, 1961 and appeared completely different than the 1961 models thanks to new sheet metal, grille, taillights, trim, and bumpers. They were slightly shorter, narrower, lower and even quieter than their predecessors. The interior was not exempted from fresh styling either. More horsepower was offered, too. Such model year updates were the norm for the time.
Still there were more than these typical updates that made Ford’s 1962 model year even more different than the prior one. A couple of body styles were dropped with these being the Starliner noted for its thin arching rear roof pillars and matching curved backlight. It was considered aerodynamic at the time and was certainly more so than the Thunderbird-inspired boxy roofline included on all closed non-wagon models. Also lost this year was the two-door wagon. Another major alteration was the redirection of the Fairlane and Fairlane 500 nameplates which had represented the bottom and mid-range of the hierarchy in past model years. Those monikers went to a newly created mid-size or “senior compact” line to fill the void between the big Fords and the compact Falcon. The lineup went from three levels to just two with the Galaxie (or Galaxie 100 as it was referenced in some literature) and the Galaxie 500.
Also new was the Galaxie 500/XL introduced at mid-year. It was aimed at the emerging youth market composed of those who were seeking sporty attributes in their cars – a market niche clearly revealed with the success of Chevy’s Corvair Monza equipped with bucket seats.
Furthermore, additional horsepower was made available in the form of the “M-series” 390 and a pair of 406-cid V8s.
The model year began with 12 models divided among the Galaxie, Galaxie 500, and station wagon lines. In the low-priced series, Galaxie, were two body styles – the two-door Club Sedan and four-door Town Sedan. Standard equipment for the Galaxie Club Sedan (like the one shown on these pages) and Town Sedan included bright-metal body trim on the beltline, hood lip, body sides, lower C-pillars, windshield, side and back windows, and rear edge of trunk lid. The model name appeared in script on the front fenders and in block-style letters on the lower trunk lid. Other standard features were cigarette lighter, glove box lock, front and rear armrests, rear coat hooks, dome light, rayon-nylon carpeting, front seat belt anchors, two sunvisors, combination cloth and vinyl upholstery, dot-pattern cloth headliner (replaced with the Galaxie 500 style vinyl later in the year), fiber mat trunk floor covering, single-speed electric windshield wipers, 7.50x14 black sidewall tires, 3.56:1 rear axle ratio, three-speed manual transmission, and the 223 cid “Mileage-Maker” six-cylinder engine.
Buying a Galaxie 500 added more equipment – backup lights, an electric clock, and four-ply tires – as well as additional bright-metal trim. The flashy 500/XL versions had bucket seats, console, all-vinyl upholstery with soft Mylar accents, special door panels also with Mylar trim, bright-metal trimmed pedal pads, color-keyed heater housing, special horn ring, the 292 V8, Cruise-O-Matic transmission, plus special identification on the quarters, C-pillars, and fuel filler door.
A plethora of options and accessories were offered so the buyer could custom-tailor their car to their taste. SelectAire Conditioner with the combination air conditioning and heater/defroster, chrome engine dress-up kit, power brakes, power steering (except for high-performance V8s), power windows, heater delete (with credit), bumper guards, outside rear view mirrors, heavy-duty suspension, heavy-duty rear axle, “Equa-Lock” differential, rear fender shields (skirts), tinted glass, two-speed electric windshield wipers, remote trunk lid release, AM-radio, rear-mounted antenna, tissue dispenser, etc.
A total of 13 Diamond Lustre Enamels were offered for single-tone paint schemes while the two-tone option (not offered on Country Squires) provided the buyer with 21 standard choices. Single tone colors for 1962 were Raven Black, Corinthian White, Rangoon Red, Baffin Blue, Viking Blue, Peacock Blue, Oxford Blue, Castilian Gold, Silver Moss, Ming Green, Sandshell Beige, Heritage Burgundy, and Chestnut. The latter color, however, was limited to the Galaxie 500 and 500/XL series.
Upholstery for the low-priced Galaxie was basketweave-pattern nylon cloth inserts sewn to bolsters of leather-grained vinyl with chrome Mylar highlights. Six standard color schemes were offered including red and white as seen here.
The six-cylinder and well as the V8s (292, 352, 390, and 390 Police Interceptor) from 1961 were carried forward. Added to the engine choices for the full-size Fords (except wagons) were the Q-code and M-code 390s. Both were discontinued for the big Fords by about January. (The M-code 390 in detuned form became a Thunderbird option.) Both engines were similar to the 1961 high performance 390s, but had a half-point higher compression ratio – 11.1:1. As in 1961, the 401 hp V8 featured a tri-carb intake with three Holley two-barrels. Peak horsepower arrived at 6,000 rpm and the torque rating was advertised as 430 ft-lb at 3,500 rpm.
The departure of the high-performance 390s was not a loss for enthusiasts; these engines were replaced with the new “Thunderbird 406 High-Performance V-8” (code B) and the “Thunderbird 406 Super High-Performance V-8” (code G). Neither was ever officially listed as being available for station wagon models. Also, despite what the marketing lingo implied the engine was not offered for the Thunderbird either. The “High-Performance” version was equipped with a four-barrel carb while the “Super High-Performance” 406 had a 3x2-bbl. setup. Horsepower ratings were 385 and 405 respectively with both figures being reached at 5,800 rpm. An increase of .08-inch in the bore of the 390 accounted for the extra 16 cubic inches. The 406s had thicker walls, new flat-top pistons and connecting rods which were stronger, and larger exhaust valves than the 390 (1.625 inches vs. 1.560). Compression was 10.9:1 in both versions. Other features included cast aluminum intake, header type exhausts, and solid lifters. Unfortunately, cross-bolted mains were not included originally. Main bearing and crankshaft failures were common occurrences after running for 300-400 miles on the race track with the two-bolt arrangement. By spring, blocks with four-bolt mains (the center three) and higher strength main bearing webs were in production.
Another feature of the cars equipped with a 406 was the inclusion of 15-inch wheels and nylon tires. The two stainless steel wheel cover designs offered on cars with 14-inch wheels did not fit. To have a wheel cover available for the 15-inch wheels, Ford went with a retro choice – those from the 1956 Mercury were reissued, but they were slightly modified with the addition of a three-bar spinner. At mid-year another choice was added; it, too, was a reach back into the past. The 1956 Victoria and Thunderbird wheel cover became an option.
The 406 was of course the subject of much interest among those writing for the various automotive publications. Car Life reported in their March 1962 edition, “There’s a new formula around FoMoCo these days and the magic word is performance. The formula goes like this: Take one Galaxie, add the ‘500’ trim details, drop in a 405-bhp powerplant, and bolt on a 4-speed all-synchro transmission. The net result of this concoction is bound to be startling…” Their test car “would romp up to 6000 rpm in each of the 4 gears so fast that it would literally make our head swim… The ‘full-race’ engine is a little more noticeable than a ‘stocker’ – a slight bit of extra noise and rumble, a little rough on idle – but the average person getting innocently into the car for the first time wouldn’t notice anything different… Of course the engine at wide open throttle turns from a lamb into a tiger. There is a power roar that becomes nearly a scream as the revolutions approach 6000.” The writer of the report estimated top speed to be over 150 mph “under favorable circumstances and with proper gears.” The 4,210 pound test car reached 0-40 mph in 4.1 seconds; 0-60 in 7 seconds flat; 0-100 in 18.6 seconds. Standing quarter-mile result was 15.3 seconds at 93 mph. Hot Rod magazine’s drivers did even better. Their 0-60 time was a full half-second faster with a quarter-mile time of 15 seconds at 95 mph. Clearly, the 406 offered tremendous performance.
Transmissions available with the 406 were the heavy-duty three-speed column shift (standard issue) with overdrive being an option as well as the extra-cost four-speed. Another option with the three-speed was a floor-mounted shifter. An automatic was not offered for either 406 (nor had it been for the discontinued high-performance 390s). Beyond the high horsepower engine and the Borg-Warner T-10 transmission, the buyer of a 406 Galaxie, Galaxie 500, or Galaxie 500/XL received heavy-duty shocks and springs.
Despite the new 406 V8s, the year 1962 was not a good one for Ford’s factory-back racing activities. In addition to the engine failures encountered during the early part of the race season, formal roofed Pontiacs were getting 465 hp from their 421 and setting record speeds. Plymouths were downsized and powered with the 413. Chevrolet grafted the 1961 bubble top roof to the Bel Air for 1962 and ran with the 409. The additional horsepower provided by the new 406 was not enough to overcome the drag of the T-Bird roofline which was estimated to reduce top speed by three miles per hour on Galaxie 500s being raced on the super-speedways.
In all, Ford took just six super-speedway wins – the least of any other make. At least in USAC competition where the speeds were lower, Ford had ten wins which tied Pontiac’s total. A Ford driven by Curtis Turner won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. The following year, however, would bring much improved results in NASCAR competition.
Ford did not have any greater success on the drag racing circuit. Pontiacs and Chevys had big wins in NHRA competition. Dave Strickler driving a 409-powered Bel Air “bubbletop” eliminated the remaining Fords to reach the finals.
A total of 704,775 full-sized Fords were built for the model year which was nearly 87,000 units lower than in 1961. However, the drop was more than offset by production of the new Fairlane series as well as by the compact Falcon.
Among the over 700,000 big Fords built for 1962 was this Galaxie Club Sedan powered by the B-code 406 4-bbl. and four-speed. At the time this restored musclecar was photographed it was owned by Mike Patak, owner of Mike’s Classic Cars in Blair, Nebraska. Mike is a Ford enthusiast with a fine collection of full-sized Fords and Mustangs
(Special note: This article was excerpted from the author’s book, Full Size Fords: 1955-1970, published by S-A Design.)
1962 Ford Galaxie Club Sedan
Base Price: $2,453
Engine: 406cid V8
Bore and Stroke: 4.13x3.78 in.
Carburetion: Holley four-barrel
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 119 inchesProduction: 54,930