1960’s Ford Factory Race Cars that were Street Legal!

In the vibrant automotive world of the 1960s, the Ford Motor Company offered a unique opportunity for enthusiasts to own special factory-built cars that were not only ready to tear up the drag strip or stock car track but also completely street legal. These remarkable vehicles, often produced in limited quantities, represented the epitome of automotive excellence and were considered experimental or homologation compliant cars.

The Concept of Homologation Cars

Homologation cars were a requirement for manufacturers, who had to build limited quantities of a particular model and make them available for sale to the public. These cars were designed to be a representation of the vehicle that would compete in racing events or series. Now, let’s dive into the fascinating world of street legal race cars that Ford offered in the 1960s!

1. The 1963 and a Half Ford Galaxy Lightweight

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, racing had captured the hearts of American youth, both on straight-line drag strips and oval track stock car races. To meet NHRA entry eligibility for the stock eliminator race class, manufacturers needed to produce at least 200 identical cars for competition.

Thus, the 1963 and a half Ford Galaxy Lightweight was born. Ford, Chrysler, and GM had already fitted their big block engines into full-size and mid-size car bodies but were limited in increasing engine displacement beyond approximately 7 liters or 425 to 430 cubic inches. To enhance competitiveness, the manufacturers focused on shedding weight from the cars.

The race-ready Ford Galaxy underwent a substantial weight reduction program. It replaced the stock steel fenders, hood, and trunk panels with lightweight fiberglass versions. Additionally, the heavy steel bumpers were replaced with lighter aluminum ones. The car even went as far as removing the heater and utilizing a lighter frame intended for the six-cylinder-equipped Galaxy.

With these modifications, the weight reduction amounted to approximately 420 pounds, giving the car a substantial performance advantage. Most of these lightweight race cars were purchased by Ford dealerships for their local race programs. However, a few were bought by individuals eager to race their Galaxies on the street, surprising other drivers with this deceptively ordinary-looking Ford powerhouse.

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2. The Legendary 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt

Following the success of the Ford Galaxy Lightweight, Ford embarked on another factory street legal race car project, giving birth to the iconic 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt. This time, they focused on Ford’s mid-sized car body, the two-door post Fairlane.

The Thunderbolt underwent a similar weight-saving treatment, where non-essential components were removed and steel body panels were exchanged for lightweight fiberglass or aluminum alternatives. Under the hood, the Thunderbolt housed a monstrous 427 cubic inch V8 race engine with dual four-barrel carburetors on a high-rise intake manifold.

To accommodate the increased engine height, a distinctive hood bulge was added, giving the Thunderbolt an aggressive and intimidating appearance. Between 111 and 127 Thunderbolts were produced for the super stock drag racing class, generating around 650 horsepower. In 1964, it set elapsed time and top speed records at 11.6 seconds and 124 miles per hour, respectively. The Thunderbolt went on to claim the super stock title and won the manufacturer’s cup in 1966.

3. The Rare 1966 Ford Fairlane 500 XL

The fifth-generation Fairlane, introduced in 1966, saw Ford once again applying their factory race car expertise to the new model. The 1966 Fairlane 500 XL, a two-door hardtop variant, was equipped with the 427 cubic inch R-code engine and various weight-saving measures.

This particular version of the Fairlane was made available to meet NHRA race eligibility requirements and was entirely street legal. Ford produced only 57 of these highly coveted and exceptionally rare cars. Interestingly, these Fairlanes were offered in any color as long as it was Wimbledon White.

According to Ford history experts, the low production quantity was not due to a factory-imposed restriction but rather challenges in manufacturing the exhaust manifolds. The R-code engine option and other race-inspired enhancements added approximately two thousand dollars to the car’s cost, making it a total of four thousand five hundred dollars back in 1966. Today, these beautiful machines can fetch prices ranging from two hundred thousand to over three hundred thousand dollars at auctions.

4. The Homologation Special: Ford Mustang Boss 429

Conceived not as a dedicated race car, the Ford Mustang Boss 429 was offered to the public in 1969 and 1970 to homologate its engine for NASCAR use. Ford needed a higher level of performance for its fastback Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone twins to compete against the dominant Hemi-powered Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Superbird Aero body cars.

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The Mustang’s body and chassis were never originally engineered to accommodate the massive engine, resulting in significant modifications. The car emerged as a front-heavy beast with less-than-ideal handling characteristics. To address this, the car battery was relocated to the trunk, and a rear anti-sway bar was added.

Production of the Boss 429 took place over two years, starting in 1969. Car Craft, Ford’s special vehicle engineering facility in Brighton, Michigan, handled the modifications. Out of the 1,359 Boss 429s produced, the numbers included two Mercury Cougars fitted with the race engine for the Lincoln Mercury race division.

5. The Road-Legal Ford GT: A Rivalry on the Streets

The famous and breathtaking Ford GT was initially created in the 1960s as the centerpiece of Ford’s efforts to challenge Ferrari’s dominance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The intense rivalry between Henry Ford II and Enzo Ferrari resulted in the development of the Ford GT race car, based on the Lola MK6 chassis and powered by a range of Ford V8 engines.

However, what many people don’t know is that the Ford GT was also offered in a street legal variant. Throughout the 1960s, the GT was available in a road configuration, complete with wire wheels, ashtrays, luggage space, carpeting, and both left-hand and right-hand drive versions. These road versions were created to satisfy homologation requirements for racing eligibility.

A total of 31 MK-1 versions and only 7 MK-3 versions were built. In the mid-2000s, Ford introduced a new generation of the GT, with the first version sold between 2005 and 2006 and the latest version still available since 2017.

Conclusion

The 1960s marked an exhilarating era for the Ford Motor Company, as they unveiled a range of rare and exceptional cars that were both street legal and ready to dominate the racing world. From the lightweight Ford Galaxy to the thunderous Fairlane Thunderbolt, these machines represented the pinnacle of automotive performance.

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Today, these historic and legendary cars have become even more coveted, their desirability growing over the past five decades. As the saying goes, they truly don’t make them like this anymore. The 1960s Ford factory race cars that were street legal continue to capture the imaginations of enthusiasts worldwide, serving as a testament to Ford’s innovation and racing heritage.

So, buckle up and embrace the legacy of these remarkable vehicles. Feel the adrenaline and immerse yourself in the extraordinary world of 1960s Ford factory race cars!


FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Were these street legal race cars popular during their time? These street legal race cars were niche vehicles, produced in limited quantities. They were sought after by racing enthusiasts and those looking for high-performance cars that could also be driven on the streets. However, they were not as widely popular as mainstream production models.

2. Can I still find these vintage Ford race cars for sale? Due to their rarity and desirability, these vintage Ford race cars can be found at auctions or through specialized collectors. However, be prepared to pay a substantial amount, as their prices have significantly appreciated over the years.

3. Are there any modern equivalents of these street legal race cars? While modern performance cars have evolved significantly, there is still a fascination with the classic street legal race cars of the past. Some manufacturers offer limited edition or special performance versions of their current models that capture the spirit of those iconic vehicles.

4. Were there other manufacturers producing street legal race cars during the 1960s? Yes, Ford was not the only manufacturer producing street legal race cars during that time. Other manufacturers, such as Chrysler and GM, also had their own offerings. The competition among manufacturers fueled the development of these exceptional vehicles.

5. What makes these vintage Ford race cars so valuable today? The rarity, historical significance, and high-performance nature of these vintage Ford race cars contribute to their value today. Collectors and enthusiasts appreciate their unique features, limited production numbers, and the legacy they carry as iconic symbols of automotive history.