Australia had a long history of importing big cars from North America and trying to market very ordinary models as prestige vehicles.
The Galaxies that came here in the 1960s fitted the formula exactly. They came with four-doors, bench seats, power steering but wind-them-yourself windows and the smallest engine the company thought it could provide in such a substantial car.
Pre-1965 offerings included some pillarless Hardtops and massive Squire station wagons but the full range included fastback coupes and convertibles and we never saw those except as private imports.
Two-door Galaxies performed strongly in a variety of motor sporting categories including Nascar and by winning the British Saloon Car Championship.
After 1965, when Ford’s Homebush plant in New South Wales began local assembly of the cars, Galaxies became a common sight here. Governments at all levels were big customers.
The base engine was Ford’s 4.7-litre ‘289’ V8 which developed 168kW and struggled to haul the ’65 Gal’s 1700kg. Better suited was the 6.4-litre ‘390’ with 208kW to play with. The Galaxie then became a match for Chrysler’s 6.3-litre Dodge Phoenix and easily outpaced GM-H-built Chevrolets and Pontiacs.
Big bench seats and plentiful legroom ensured abundant space for families and business buyers who were able to spend $5570 (or $2200 more than a V8-engined XR Fairmont).
Performance from the 6.4-litre engine feels stronger than the stopwatch might indicate. Road tests of early ‘390’ engined cars recorded 0-60mph (0-96km/h) times in 9.7 seconds, while the 4.7 litre models were around three seconds slower.
In an age of vinyl floor covering and single-speed windscreen wipers, early Galaxies with carpet on the floors, courtesy lights in the foot wells and variable-speed wipers were considered ‘luxury’ cars. A radio and air-conditioning were options – the a/c unit tailored to suit the cars but still fitted intrusively under the dash.
Australia followed North American styling changes throughout the Galaxie’s local history and in 1969 adopted LTD badging. By then weight had climbed to 1835kg, again affecting performance. Despite a compression ratio increase to 9.5:1, the 0-96km/h time had blown out from 9.6 in 1965 to almost 11 seconds.
The final Australian-assembled LTD from 1971 had ‘pillared Hardtop’ styling and a 6.6-litre engine that was an enlarged version of the 5.8-litre unit fitted to Falcons and Fairlanes.
Galaxies with their all-coil suspension are highly regarded for their blend of decent ride quality and acceptable handling. Country users were especially fond of these cars and their ability to maintain high average speeds over second-rate roads without falling to bits or spearing off into the shrubbery.
Cars that suffer deterioration of the underpinnings, however, will wallow their way through bends and bottom out on bumps.
The power steering initially feels way too light in a car with four turns lock to lock but improves with familiarity.
Pre-1965 imported Fords are relatively scarce and generally cost more than locally-assembled models. An excellent four-door pillarless Hardtop will cost $20-25,000 and a 1963-64 two-door with a ‘390’ engine can exceed $50,000.
These cars are all built on a hefty chassis and that’s the place to check first. Using a jack and stands or a hoist, examine the bodymounting points for deterioration, the rails for accident damage and corrosion, floor supports and the floor-pans for rust. If the chassis is sound, move next to the rear quarter panels, wheel arches, window surrounds, door bottoms and leading edge of the bonnet. Leaky seals will allow the boot to fill with water. Body chrome and stainless items are being remanufactured and are available from US suppliers. Bumpers cost US$400-600 each but check the freight costs before committing. Occasionally a decent second-hand bar appears locally at $200-300.
Ford V8s nearing the end of their useful lives will rattle, blow exhaust smoke and leak from various places but they won’t give up. Smoke from the exhaust or crankcase breather signifies worn piston rings. Overhauling the engine can cost $5000-8000 or find a replacement 390 in the USA for $2500 then pay $1000 freight. Exhaust manifolds can crack around attachment holes or leak at the exhaust system joint. A new water pump is $150, replacing all the hoses and the radiator an extra $600-800. Automatic transmissions that jerk or slur changes are ready for an overhaul costing upwards of $2500.
PRODUCTION: 5.16 million (1963-73 inc. LTD)
BODY: steel, separate body/ chassis, four-door sedan, two & four door hardtop, convertible, station wagon
ENGINE: 4724, 6384cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 208kW @ 4600rpm, 537Nm @ 2800rpm (6.4 litre)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 9.7 seconds, 0-400 metres 17.1 seconds (1965 model 6.4 litre)
TRANSMISSION: three-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) live axle with coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: drum or disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: 8.15x15 crossply or 205/75R15 radial
Worn ball joints and idler arms are common Galaxie problems and cars that groan audibly when turning at low speeds need work. Jack up the front end and lift each wheel to check vertical movement. Excessive free play at the steering wheel suggests steering box wear but new replacements are available ex-USA for $350 plus freight or get a repair kit for your Saginaw power steering for US$50. Replacement parts for braking systems – US-market alldrum or local disc/ drum – are available and generally not expensive.
Most items of Galaxie interior trim are basic and easily replaced. The under-dash air-conditioner can deliver huge volumes of cold air but will be expensive to convert (if not already done) to be compatible with modern refrigerant gas. The fuel gauges in these cars are notorious for showing empty when the tank is still more than a quarter full. The bench seats will jam and twist on their runners so when test driving make sure you can get comfortable. If the doors shut with a horrible clatter then rattle when on the move, spend $400-500 on a set of door seals.
FORD GALAXIE (1965-69 Sedan)
(Note: concours cars will demand more)