Someone offered to buy Jim Murray's '63 Galaxie 500 recently. The prospective buyer was so interested he left a note on the windshield, an earnest plea scratched on a business card and tucked under the wiper blade. A friend who was with Jim at the time jokingly asked how much would it take, hypothetically, to sell the car: $30,000? $40,000? At $60K Jim said he'd sell. He felt troubled, though, and after thinking about it for an hour, Jim suddenly blurted to his friend that no, he wouldn't sell it for $60,000. He couldn't imagine selling it at all.
He wished he could convey how much happiness this car has brought him. We knew that he wouldn't be able to, no matter how many stories he told about it, but listening to his voice it was obvious just how much this Galaxie meant to him. "It's more than the cost of the parts, or the time I've spent fixing it. It's the people I've met, the experiences I've had because of it, and the joy I get from driving it," he says. And that is something we can all relate to.
Jim likens his car to an ambassador. "It brings me into contact with people I never would have otherwise met." He has literally dozens of stories he could tell about total strangers coming up to him and describing very personal experiences they had involving a car similar to his-childhood memories, loves lost and found, happiness, and heartbreak. These exchanges are what have elevated Jim's experience with this car to something more than just a guy and the car he loves to drive.
That experience began in 1999 when Jim bought the car from a local dealer for $800. It actually wasn't much of a car; it was more like a shop experiment gone bad. The trunk floor was gone, with a five-gallon fuel cell crudely fit in its place. The front wheelhouses were missing, and the frame had large burn holes as if a cutting torch had suddenly developed a mind of its own and gone on a rampage. On top of that, one side of the car had been bashed in. To his credit Jim saw gold where others would have seen iron pyrite. Upon taking delivery of his new purchase (on the hook of a tow truck) he told his incredulous wife, "It's already wrecked; there's nothing I can do to make it worse!" Actually, the car did have one good thing going for it-one of its prior owners had dropped in a 460. It didn't run, of course, but the work to fit the 385-series engine in place of the original 289 had already been done. Jim promptly replaced that tired block with an SVO 460 crate engine (this was back before Ford changed the name of its in-house high-performance division from Special Vehicle Operations to Special Vehicle Team). He then got to work repairing the frame and rebuilding the car.
It's been almost eight years, and Jim says the car is only half done by his estimation. Judging by the pictures, his definition of half done differs from that of the rest of us. Frankly, the car looks great. Jim wanted it to have a different look, so he mixed some circle-track cues into his buildup rather than whacking it completely with the Pro Street stick. We totally dug the side-exit exhaust. He does drag race the car, though. His best quarter-mile time is 12.30 at 115 mph. Not too shabby for a car that weighs 4,030 pounds.
Not too shabby for a car that gets driven on the streets as often as possible, either. Jim figures he puts between 8,000 and 10,000 miles on it per year. He commutes to work in it, he goes to cruises and car shows, he enters it in parades, and he takes it on road trips. It draws a crowd everywhere he goes. Which brings us back to his point about the car being an ambassador: "People can relate to the Galaxie," he says. "They were common back in the '60s, but you don't see very many today. People seem to get excited when they see one again." Jim has met and befriended so many more people than he normally would have had he not chosen to build this car. He feels very strongly that his life has been greatly enriched because of it. How can you put a price on that?
What: '63 1/4 Ford Galaxie 500
Owner: Jim Murray
Where: Oroville, California, where it can reach 115 degrees in the summer
Engine: The 460 that was resting on the motor mounts when Jim bought the engine had no crank bearings. He replaced it with a Ford Motorsports SVO 460 crate engine. It came with all the good factory stuff-10.5:1 pistons, 244/254 duration, 0.588/0.614-inch Ford Motorsports cam, and aluminum Cobra Jet heads. He figures all this is good for about 560 hp and 535 lb-ft at the flexplate. To deal with Oroville's superhot summers, Jim backed all this up with a Moroso electric water pump and dual 12-inch Flex-a-lite electric fans.
Induction: An Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake bridges the lifter valley. Jim scoffs at fuel economy with his Holley 850 double-pumper.
Exhaust: Crites 131/44-inch primary tube headers got the nod. They spill into a 3-inch system custom-bent by King Mufflers in Oroville. Magnaflow mufflers make the sound bearable.
Ignition: Jim mated a Ford electronic distributor with an MSD 6ALN ignition box and a Blaster II coil, Motorsports wires, and Champion plugs.
Transmission: A C6 slush box is bolted to the engine. Jim augmented its internals with a TCI 3,500-rpm-stall torque converter, a B&M shift kit, and a TCI trans cooler with its own electric fan. He installed a Gear Vendors Under/Overdrive unit just before the Anti-Tour in April.
Rearend: The Galaxie still sports its original 9-inch rearend. It houses an Auburn Gear Pro Series limited-slip differential with 4.30:1 gears and 31-spline Strange street/strip axles.
Suspension: Jim is the co-owner of an anodizing and powdercoating company, so it's a given that his suspension bits got the spray-and-bake treatment. He retained the stock springs front and rear, added KYB shocks to all four corners, and stiffened the leaf springs with a pair of Traction-Master traction bars.
Brakes: Jim shelved his stock front drums in anticipation of Anti-Tour as well, installing 11-inch discs from Stainless Steel Brakes. He's still got the stock rear drums but says their days are numbered, too.
Wheels/Tires: You can't go wrong with Cragar S/S wheels. Jim mounted a pair of Mickey Thompson 315/60-15 ET Street radials out back.
Interior: Jim rewired the dash and added an Auto Meter tachometer and the ubiquitous three-gauge pod down below. The seats are out of a '64 Fairlane and were reupholstered by Coy's Upholstery in Palermo, California. Future plans involve adding a much louder stereo-the Clarion unit that's in there now just can't compete with the exhaust note.
Performance: Though his best time so far is 12.30 at 115 mph, Jim figures he can drop into the 12.10s as soon as he gets the hang of shifting with his new Gear Vendors gear splitter.
What's Next: Since the car is only half done, Jim still has a lot of work to do. He plans on upgrading to a Survival Motorsports 545-inch FE package, redoing his instrument panel, and improving the front suspension components. He still has to fix the trunk floor, too.