Factory-built race cars are among the most coveted items gearheads dream of possessing, but unfortunately, finding the products of Detroit's most storied skunkworks today generally means purchasing them from collectors who are fully versed in their history and resultant value. But there are those few lucky souls out there who realized early on how special some of this stuff was before everyone else did. Among them are Mark and Bob Buchanan.
Back in the mid-'70s, when most guys were either whining about the gas crunch or making payments on a Bandit Edition Trans Am, the Buchanans were corralling orphaned Ford muscle equipment that others had dismissed as obsolete.
The first score for Mark was a '68 Shelby GT 500 Mustang with a bent valve, purchased in 1973 (while still in high school) for $800. A similar scenario played out when Mark's dad acquired his '66 GT 350, also for $800; yet another $800 picked up a basket-case '64 Thunderbolt. All of these cars remain in the Buchanan stable today.
But one of the rarest of the Buchanan's Ford treasures is the '64 factory lightweight Galaxie that Mark purchased in 1978. The lightweight fullsize Fords of the early '60s were intended as secret weapons in drag racing's closely contended stock classes, and while the '64 models had probably the least exotic body treatment, with only a fiberglass hood and acid-dipped steel bodies (earlier models had fiberglass fenders and doors, and some use of aluminum), the '64 is the only one to run the fabled 427 "high-riser" engine.
Longtime Car Craft readers may recall that Mark and his big Ford were featured in these pages way back in the early '80s ("Family Portrait", June '82 and "Requiem for a Heavyweight," July '83). As the story goes, the previous owner had picked up the Galaxie on a used car lot after recognizing the special vented grille (which Mark still has stored) and upon closer inspection, found the metal tag in the glovebox denoting the car's status as a factory "dragster" package. Most of the special equipment was gone, but before long the Galaxie was again running 427 power, this time in Super Stock. That's when the car was tubbed, the framerails were C-notched, sectioned, and moved inward, and a four-link suspension was fabricated to locate the axle, though the leafsprings remained.
When Mark took over, there was no engine or trans, though the high-riser heads and intake were in the trunk. He stuck them on a stroked 427 he was working on and mated it to a '69 Top Loader. Back then, the tubbed rear wasn't considered such a sacrilege, and in fact, allowed the '64 to be one of the earliest Pro Street cars in town. Mark used the car almost exclusively for the street since the Buchanans were satiating their racing jones with a front-engined FE-powered dragster at the time.
In fact, as Mark became increasingly involved with serious drag racing, his interest in the street cars diminished. "After the Car Craft Nationals '83, I stuck it in the garage and it wound up sitting untouched for about 15 years," he explains.
But these days, with a successful metal fabrication business and a reduced racing schedule (Mark has crewed for a few IHRA Top Fuel teams), he finds that he has a lot more interest in having fun with the old Fords. Even though the paint laid down in 1978 still shines, Mark's been gathering parts and pieces for years in anticipation of the day when the lightweight will be restored to stock condition, though he admits to being hesitant to begin that process. He has already surgically returned the floorpans of tubbed race cars to flawless factory appearance for others, so he's not worried about getting the job done. He's just not in any hurry to interrupt a good time.
Car Craft Q&A
Car Craft: You seem to have parlayed your interest in working on cars into a full-time metal fabrication business-what motivated you?
Mark Buchanan: My brother, Bob, and I have always been very interested in cars, and the mechanical part came naturally with help from our father and uncle, both of whom worked for Ford. But the body and fabrication skills were acquired after paying other people too much money to take too long to do disappointing work. We just realized we had to do it ourselves.
CC: That led to the racing contacts?
MB: We'd been racing our dragster since the late '70s, and being in Indy, we made contact with a lot of racers, which eventually led to work for several successful drag race teams, including Don Garlitts' back in the '80s. Today we do lots of work for drag teams and even a few IRL guys.
CC: What's next?
MB: Just trying to stay on top of the business while finding time to have fun with the cars.
Car: '64 Ford Galaxie 500, lightweight "Dragster" package
Owner: Mark Buchanan, Indianapolis, IN
Engine: '68 Ford FE series 427 "high-riser" V-8, now displacing 447 inches with Speed-Pro 14:1 pistons and Ford "LeMans" rods, machined by Scott Gunderman, Indianapolis, IN
Heads: '64 Ford factory High-Riser, 80cc chambers, 2.19/1.73-inch valves, no port work
Induction: Stock '64 Ford "Thunderbolt" aluminum intake manifold with two Holley 780-cfm carbs
Exhaust: Belanger 2-inch headers to 3-inch stainless exhaust with 3-inch, three-chamber mufflers
Camshaft: Crane mechanical flat-tappet with 280 degrees duration (advertised) and 0.715-inch lift
Transmission: '69 Ford Top-Loader four-speed with Hays clutch, Ansen bellhousing, and Mr. Gasket Verti-gate shifter
Rearend: '64 Ford 9-inch housing with bracing, Detroit Locker, 4.44:1 gears, and Moser axles
Front Suspension: Stock '64 Ford with 90/10 Carrera shocks
Rear Suspension: Fabricated unequal-length four-link with original leafsprings
Brakes: Stock '64 Ford drums, front and rear
Wheels And Tires: '58 Rambler 15x4-inch steel front; Stockton Wheel 15x12-inch steel rear; Mickey Thompson 28x15 front; 19.5x33x15 Sportsman, rear
Body Modifications: Factory acid-dipped with original fiberglass hood, fabricated rear wheeltubs
Paint: Ford Wimbleton White by Mark Dole (in 1978), Indianapolis, IN
Cost To Build: "I don't have $5,000 in this car"