The cars we loved.
It seems inconceivable today to think that 40 or so years ago younger drivers wanted big performance cars. Buy that’s exactly what Ford thought in the early 60’s. The muscle car movement would be years away, but performance was becoming more important to the marketing of cars. Free of today’s safety and EPA concerns, Chrysler fired the first shot with the 300, arguably the car that started the horsepower race and eventually the muscle car era.
For its part then Ford chairman Lee Iaccoca spearheaded an all-out effort to link Ford racing activities to the showroom. Called “Total Performance”, it was the classic race on Sunday sell on Monday formula. To highlight the hot performance line of cars, Ford created the XL line. XL usually denoted the most powerful top of the range full size cars. They weren’t luxury oriented, but were loaded with racing inspired parts designed to enhance appearance and performance.
The big cars to get the XL treatment were coupe versions of the Galaxie and LTD. The application of performance in a big car often meant that there was room for huge engines. Ford stuffed a 7-liter V8 in its Galaxie 500/XL for awhile. It had around 350 hp and its performance numbers put many modern cars to shame. 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 153 mph – not bad for a car that could weigh well over 4,000lbs.! Just don’t do any sharp turns-on bumpy roads.
There were many changes to the Galaxie line during the mid to late 60s. Stack headlights and angular styling gave way to a more curvaceous “coke bottle” look popular with GM cars. While XL cars were popular, they were expensive for the time, costing around the same as the more luxury oriented 500 models. Over time, the Galaxie range would diverge, taking with it sales from the XL.
The horsepower war itself would change, favoring intermediates like Ford’s own Fairlane. The Fairlane was smaller, lighter and could host the big engines just like the Galaxie 500/XL. It was only a matter of time before the big performance coupe would fade away as the market drifted towards pony cars and more casual big coupes like the Dodge Polara and Chevrolet Impala.
The Galaxie would hang in there to the mid-‘70s. By 1975 it had been absorbed into Ford’s full size line of cars under the LTD banner. Although XL Sport models were made of the LTD, there were no performance models that were the equivalent of the Galaxie 500 XL. As for big car performance, the smaller Torino would have to do.