The lure of special edition cars is hard for enthusiasts to ignore, whether it is limited production numbers, high-performance components, or a combination of both. Randy Weaver’s 1963.5 Ford Galaxie was well-equipped from the factory as an R-Code, 427-powered machine, but the original owner took it a step further and replicated an even more special Ford model.
In the 1960s, a common practice among manufacturers was to build lightweight production vehicles specifically for racing. It didn’t really matter where they were raced, as it all fell under the “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mantra. Unfortunately, the quantity of these lightweight cars was always quite limited—usually meeting a minimum amount set by the racing sanctioning body—and most of the time they were allocated to sponsored race teams, leaving many enthusiasts out of luck.
The thing about race cars, however, is that they are likely to get banged up, so oftentimes, the manufacturers made additional quantities of the parts that made them special to facilitate repairs and keep the cars racing.
This Galaxie’s original owner, Bill Hart, took advantage of that, and the fact that he was a Michigan-based Ford dealer at the time. Though he couldn’t buy a factory lightweight Galaxie outright, he was able to order factory Ford lightweight parts for his Heritage Burgundy 1963.5 Ford Galaxie 500 and make his own.
While Ford’s Galaxie debuted as a 1963 model, the 427-powered version wasn’t available until later in the production run, hence the 1963.5 model year. The factory lightweight program had actually started years earlier, but the 1963.5 Galaxie R-Code lightweight cars featured a new, more aerodynamic hard top, along with numerous changes that resulted in several hundred pounds of weight lost.
Steel sheetmetal was replaced with fiberglass, with the front fenders, fender liners, hood, and trunk lid all remade in the lightweight material for this endeavor—a very small number of the 200 or so factory lightweight cars were fitted with fiberglass doors, as well, and an even smaller number of said doors were sold to racers like Bill Hart.
For further weight savings, the hood springs and trunk torsion rods were both removed as well. New front and rear bumpers were remade in aluminum, as were the brackets that held them in place. Even the chassis itself was modified before the engineers turned their attention to the inside of the car where all creature comforts were removed.
The heater, defroster, door panel arm rests, clock, trunk mat, spare tire, and jack were all removed, the carpet was replaced with a rubber floor mat, and no sound deadener was applied to the body during the manufacturing process. The traditional bench seat spanning the center of the cabin was also excised in favor of a pair of lightweight, no-frills bucket seats. Even the dome light and rear ashtrays were reportedly shelved.
The weight reduction, combined with the horsepower of the potent 427 cubic-inch FE engine, put these behemoths into the mid-to-low 12-second range in the quarter-mile, and the cars were raced on the dragstrip, the wide ovals, and on road courses with some even making their way to Europe and having success overseas.
According to Weaver, Hart drag raced the car throughout the 1960s in Michigan and nearby racetracks. Eventually, it was parked in the barn with an expired engine. In the ‘90s, Hart’s son had it restored to drivable condition after his father passed away.
Later, Don Morgan of Pennsylvania procured the full-size Ford for his own collection. Hart had noted that the original engine was gone and replaced with a 1964 427 to get the car on the road once more, but at this point, it was not running its best and Morgan decided to replace the 427 FE engine with something more potent, a lot more potent in fact. In keeping with the car’s racing heritage and Ford lineage, Morgan contacted Barry Rabotnick of Survival Motorsports, who set him up with a SOHC Cammer engine.
Rabotnick is renowned for his prowess with FE engines, and this single-overhead-cam version began with an aftermarket Genesis block and Bill Coon cylinder heads with 2.300-inch intake/2.00-inch exhaust valves. The intake ports flowed a breathtaking 456 cfm, and exhaust ports a healthy 288, which is indicative of the heavy modifications Coon made to the cylinder heads to get them to perform at their best. Diamond pistons and Oliver connecting rods work with a SCAT billet steel crankshaft to deliver 527 cubic inches of displacement, and COMP Cams provided the all-important camshaft for the build.
On top, you’ll find a Dove high-rise, cast-aluminum intake manifold that was massaged by John Marcella and is fed by a pair of Quick Fuel Technology 850 cfm carburetors. On the exhaust side of things, a custom set of stainless steel headers were fabricated for the Galaxie, as was a 3-inch, stainless-steel exhaust system.
When the build was finished, the Cammer churned out 870 horsepower at 7,000 rpm, and 722 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm, with 600-plus lb-ft of torque available from 3,000 rpm on up. That’s a vast improvement over the factory rated 425 horsepower, or even the 600-plus horsepower available from the original SOHC engines. And just as Ford engineers encountered hood clearance issues when they stuffed the 427 into the 1964 Thunderbolt, the new Cammer and its high-rise intake manifold in this Galaxie required a similar solution—where better to look than the Thunderbolt for a simple, period-correct solution!
Attempting to harness the power of the SOHC Cammer is an aftermarket Ford Top Loader four-speed. The manual gearbox then drives a Ford 9-inch rearend that is still equipped with the 4.11:1 ring-and-pinion ratio that it came with from the factory.
Perhaps the one thing that should have been upgraded given the newfound horsepower is the braking system, which remains the original four-wheel-drum setup. Though the R-code cars received upgraded police-spec, 11×3-inch drums, they probably aren’t up to restraining nearly 900 horsepower, but we also imagine that the days of this particular Galaxie flexing its muscle and reaching triple-digit speeds are in the past.
The inside of the car reflects the personal choices that the owners have made over the years. It’s unknown if Hart had installed the lightweight buckets seats, as the car was restored and sold with the couch-like bench seating. A Hurst T-handle adorns the shifter just fore of said bench seat and the heater and radio were deleted, though the armrests on the door panels were retained. A few aftermarket instruments were added to better inform the driver, but the rest is factory Ford Galaxie 500 fare.
Morgan held the stewardship of Hart’s home-built lightweight machine for quite some time, and it was a chance call to current owner Randy Weaver that eventually saw the Galaxie change hands. “I bought it about five years ago,” Weaver says. “He ended up with an engine I had sold to someone else and was asking for information on it. We did some trading with some cars and I ended up getting the engine back from him,” Weaver said of his chance encounter and purchase of the Galaxie.
I’ve had several Starliners, but this is the first Galaxie. The ‘63 is my favorite. Randy Weaver
Weaver, a retired landscaper, drag raced for 22 years before hanging up his helmet. Admittedly, he raced a Chevy-powered, rear-engine dragster because they were cheaper to race, but Weaver claims he is from a Ford family, and his car collection shows it. He has owned several Ford Starliners—the precursor to the Galaxie—and currently has several ‘50s-era Fords, a ’61 Ford Ranch Wagon, a 1970 Mustang Mach 1 with a Jon Kaase Boss 9 engine, a 1964 Mercury Comet, and his wife Lynn also drives a 1965 Mustang fastback.
The Galaxie, now with just a touch over 30,000 miles on the odometer, has been retired from racing for some time, but it seems only fitting that a car built for racing ends up in the hands of a former racer who can possibly appreciate it even more. “The Cammer is actually really drivable, and we take it to local cruise ins and shows,” says Weaver. “I change the oil and that’s about it these days. My dad was a carpenter and just thought of cars as transportation—I’m not sure where I caught the bug!” We’re just glad Weaver and so many others did.
There’s no denying that being lean and fit leads to improved performance, whether you’re talking about cars or people. Randy Weaver’s Galaxie not only went on a diet to improve performance, but it also went to the gym to build more muscle, too!