Car of the Week: 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 7-Litre convertible

Hot and Heavy Ford

Story and Photos by David W. Temple

Ford’s Galaxie 500 7-Litre showcased that year’s new 428 V-8, the latest in a series of FE engines dating back to 1958. Other standard equipment included the C6 automatic, power disc brakes, Galaxie 500/XL interior, simulated wood-grain steering wheel, diecast grille, styled steel wheel covers, accent stripe, and special identification badges on the grille, fenders, deck lid, and dashboard glove box door. The 410hp and 425hp 427s were extra-cost options; the latter powers this car. A 4-speed manual transmission was mandatory with the 427.

 

Ford Motor Co. introduced the Galaxie shortly after the start of the 1959 model year. Its formal, Thunderbird-inspired roofline distinguished it outwardly from that of the Fairlane 500 series, which had a narrow C-pillar and wraparound rear window. With the introduction of the Galaxie, the Fairlane 500 was bumped from its top-of-the-line status held since the “Fairlane” name was introduced for the 1955 model year.

Building a sporty full-size Ford

For the 1962 model year, the Galaxie name received an addendum, “500,” reportedly to more closely connect it to 500-mile NASCAR races. Ford was deeply involved in supporting race teams at this time since winning races helped sell cars. Indeed the adage “Win of Sunday, sell on Monday,” was true. Ford’s FE engine, released in 1958 in 332 and 352 displacements, had grown to 406 cubic inches for 1962. Furthermore, the Galaxie 500/XL was introduced at about the mid-point of the 1962 model year. It was aimed at the emerging youth market that sought sporty attributes in their cars. The model, available as a two-door hardtop and as a Sunliner convertible, was distinguished by its standard equipment of a V-8 engine, bucket seats and console with gear selector. It proved to be a good seller for a few model years, but then sales tapered off and never again approached the peak sales volume achieved in 1964. By this point, intermediate cars such as Pontiac’s GTO were drawing enthusiasts’ attention.

Ford advertised its new Galaxie 500 7-Litre as the “smoothest brute on wheels.” Other slogans said either it was, “the quickest quiet car or the quietest quick car.” It was all aimed at a market niche wanting luxury combined with some sports car attributes.

 

By the mid-point of the next model year, the FE engine was enlarged to 427 cubic inches. The 427 — available with a single 4-bbl. carburetor or a 2×4-bbl. setup — had such features as cross-bolted main bearings for strength and cast-iron header-type exhaust manifolds.

All new for ’65

For 1965, the full-sized Fords were about as different from their predecessors as the 1949 Fords were from the 1948s. They were accurately described as “new from road to roof.” About the only major components carried over were the V-8 engines and transmissions. The basic design continued to be used through 1968.

Underneath the all-new body was an all-new perimeter frame. In the prior years, the frame was designed to provide complete beam-and-torsional strength. The 1965 full-sized Ford frame was somewhat flexible while the body was designed to be much more rigid than in the past. This concept, in combination with plenty of sound-deadening insulation, was said to provide a quieter riding car, something that was quite an achievement since the 1960-1964 full-size cars were not especially noisy in this regard.

This 1966 Galaxie 500 7-Litre convertible is painted extra-cost, special-order Sapphire Blue, a color normally reserved for Lincolns that year. It is also equipped with the extra-cost deluxe rear-mount antenna and bumper guards.

 

The suspension was, of course, also new. The lower A-arms of the independent ball-joint front suspension were replaced with a single arm; the upper A-arm was retained and was angled back to reduce brake nose dive; a diagonally mounted, rubber-bushed strut was employed to control fore-aft wheel movement; an anti-roll bar reduced body roll during cornering; and shocks were placed within the coil springs. The design of the front suspension was so superior it was used for NASCAR stock cars into the 1980s, regardless of make.

A three-link, coil-spring suspension was used in back. The longitudinal links controlled fore-aft motion of the rear axle assembly and absorbed acceleration and braking forces. Two of these links were positioned between the lower side of the axle housing and the frame torque box at either side. The third link was installed between the right-hand side of the differential at the top of the axle housing and the frame crossmember. A track bar was attached near the axle center and to a lateral point on the frame’s left rear rail. The rear suspension was fully isolated with rubber bushings and sleeves which served to further reduce noise and the transmission of vibration. Fifteen-inch wheels replaced the 14-inch units used on big Fords for many years.

LTD: Meaningful luxury

The model lineup changed as well. New was the luxury-oriented Galaxie 500/LTD available in two- and four-door hardtop varieties. Various interpretations have been assigned to the LTD designation: “Luxury Trim Décor,” “Lincoln Type Design” or simply “Limited.” However, according to a Car Life magazine review of the LTD, the designation was just three meaningless letters. Regardless of the intent of Ford Motor Co., “Luxury Trim Décor” as well as “Lincoln Type Design” fit the concept of the LTD very well. For the base price of roughly $3200, the buyer purchased a car that was “quieter than a Rolls-Royce.” Scientific testing revealed the Fords were technically quieter than a Rolls-Royce, though not to the point most people would actually notice. Even so, advertising made the most of the fact.

The interior of the Galaxie 500 7-Litre was virtually identical to the standard one installed in the Galaxie 500/XL. A 7-Litre badge, however, was mounted on the dashboard glove box door and a simulated wood-grained steering wheel also differentiated this model from the 500/XL.

A simulated wood-grained three-spoke steering wheel was standard issue for the Galaxie 500 7-Litre.

This console houses the switches for the optional power windows as well as the gear shifter.

 

Revisions for 1966

The one-year-old full-sized Fords received some new sheet metal, though the 1966 bore a close resemblance to the 1965s. Stacked headlights and a horizontal grille remained, though both were redesigned. Actually two different grilles were used: a chrome-plated die-cast unit for the top-of-the-line models and an anodized aluminum grille for Galaxie 500s, Country Sedans and the Ranch Wagon. The quarter panels received a subtle kick-up to create a Coke-bottle profile; rear wheel openings were more open; and the roofline of the two-door hardtops swept back more. Square taillamps with “cross hair” housings for the backup lamps — now standard in all models — were in back. Seat belts became standard equipment, too.

Standard issue on the 7-Litre model was a set of styled steel wheel covers.

 

The engine choices for 1966 received significant updates. A 315-hp 390-cid with four-venturi was added while the 330-hp Police Interceptor was discontinued. Making a return was the 410-hp 427 after having been dropped in March 1964. Two new engines offered were 428s, one of which was a Police Interceptor restricted to law enforcement agencies. These were not super-high-performance types such as the 427s. Instead, the 428 was an engine designed to produce high, low-end torque to help move the big Ford’s increasing heft. The 1966 full-sized Fords gained roughly 60 additional pounds, though the LTDs gained substantially more. Incidentally, the 428 became the basis for the 428 Cobra Jet and Super Cobra Jet used in Mustangs, Torinos and other FoMoCo cars and replaced the 427 a couple of years later.

The 428, which actually displaced closer to 427 cubic inches, was rated at 345 hp (or 360 hp in the Police Interceptor guise). Its size was the result of using the old 406’s 4.13-inch bore in combination with the 3.98-inch stroke of Mercury’s 410. Both versions had a compression ratio of 10.5:1 and were fed premium fuel via a single four-venturi carburetor.

Ford’s Cruise-O-Matic was updated with disc clutch plates in place of the old bands on low and reverse gears, improved valving in the hydraulic system and a new combination of steel and composition plates in each of the clutch assemblies. This transmission was dubbed the C6.

The famous 7-Litre is born

An additional model was added for 1966 featuring the 428 and C6 automatic as standard equipment; it was christened “Galaxie 500 7-Litre” and offered only as a two-door hardtop and convertible. These two were the heaviest models in Ford’s line with the convertible weighing a hefty 4,059 pounds.

Identification for the Galaxie 500 7-Litre was spread around various points on the car. Emblems emblazoned with “7-LITRE” were mounted on the grille, fenders, and deck lid. Chrome-plated letters and numerals spelling “GALAXIE 500” appeared on the quarters.

 

Standard exterior colors offered were Raven Black, Wimbledon White, Arcadian Blue, Nightmist Blue, Silver Blue, Ivy Green, Tahoe Turquoise, Sahara Beige, Springtime Yellow, Silver Frost, Sauterne Gold, Candyapple Red, Vintage Burgundy, Antique Bronze and Emberglo.

Galaxie 500 7-Litres (and 500/XLs) came with crinkle and rosette vinyl upholstery; the latter was used as an insert on the seat cushions. Colors offered were blue, aqua, emberglo, red, ivy gold, black and parchment.

Ford said the new Galaxie 500 7-Litre models combined “the luxury of the ‘XL’ models plus the spirit and performance of the 345-hp 428 V-8, a specially tuned dual exhaust system with a ‘sound of power’, the smooth shifting capabilities and convenience of Cruise-O-Matic and the unexcelled stopping ability of power brakes disc brakes on the front wheels.” Ford’s ad writers called it the “smoothest brute.”

Ford advertised its new Galaxie 500 7-Litre as the “smoothest brute on wheels.” Other slogans said either it was, “the quickest quiet car or the quietest quick car.” It was all aimed at a market niche wanting luxury combined with some sports car attributes.

 

Other standard features were a wind-split hood ornament, the Lincoln differential with its 9-3/8th inch ring gear (standard in all 427- and 428-powered big Fords), low-restriction exhausts, wide oval tires, simulated wood-grain steering wheel, styled steel wheel covers, pin striping, additional sound deadener, and padded instrument panel. Optional was a four-speed manual transmission for the 428, or the 427 with its mandatory four-speed transmission. Very few 7-Litres were ordered with the 427 four-speed, however.

Martyn Schorr, writing for CARS magazine, wrote that the “7-Litre is a plusher, quieter riding and all around more impressive vehicle than Plymouth’s VIP or Chevrolet’s Caprice.” Schorr was also impressed with “the obvious amount of quality control and sound engineering that went into the design, construction and assembly of the car.”

The 425hp 427 V-8 was rarely ordered in any full-sized 1966 Ford. Only two Galaxie 500 7-Litre convertibles powered by this engine were built.

 

The best quarter-mile result attained by the CARS driver in their four-speed convertible was 15.8 seconds at 82 mph; in their automatic hardtop, it was 16.8 seconds at 84 mph. Braking was judged as “sensational considering the weight distribution specifications and the overall weight.” Handling, however, was not a particularly strong point: “The chassis, body, suspension have not been designed for maximum handling and cornering…” Strongly recommended was the optional heavy-duty suspension.

Over one-million full-sized Fords were built for the 1966 model year. Of those, only 11,174 were Galaxie 500 7-Litres; the 7-Litre would be discontinued as a separate model and instead become an option package for 1967.

Rarest of the rare

Of the 2,368 Galaxie 500 7-Litre convertibles built, only two were equipped with the optional 425-hp 427 with a four-speed according to research done by Marti Auto Works. The feature car is one of those. While the power train alone makes this 7-Litre especially noteworthy, that is not its only special feature. In addition, it was painted special-order Sapphire Blue, a 1966 Lincoln color. The power train and paint color combination make it a one-of-one car.

This parallelogram-shaped 427 badge was installed on just two 1966 Galaxie 500 7-Litre convertibles.

 

At the time it was photographed, it was owned by Mike Patak of Elkhorn, Neb. Mike is the proprietor of Mike’s Classic Cars in nearby Blair and a Ford enthusiast. He acquired the feature car in August 2008 from the Floyd Garrett Museum where it had been since 1993. Shortly before it went into the museum, the 7-Litre underwent a light restoration which included a repaint in its original color. This car’s interior is almost all original.

Currently, the feature car, as well as the only other 7-Litre convertible built with the 425hp 427, is a part of The Brothers Collection, a private museum located in the northwest part of the United States.

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