The popular perception (and especially Pontiac purists) would like you to believe the musclecar era began with the '64 GTO. But others, among them early-'60s big-car devotees, are adamant that the horsepower race started much earlier. Certainly Chevy's '55 small-block unsheathed the sword that killed the flathead, but it was really the big-blocks that escalated the horsepower and torque skirmishes into a full-fledged war by the late '50s and into the early '60s. By the time astronaut John Glenn was circling the earth, Ford was mining heavy metal with its FE-series big-blocks. While this engine family started out small at only 332 inches, it didn't take long to mature to 390. By 1962, Ford had a great body style but was sliding behind in the horsepower department.
That's when the Dearborn clan infused the basic 390 with a bigger bore, while maintaining the 3.74-inch stroke. The difference in power made an impression on the buy-on-Monday crowds after watching Ford racers begin to take the win light at the drags. The first 406 engines were single four-barrel combos that added 10 hp to the old 390's 375hp claim. But the real news was the introduction of the three two-barrel 406 packages that promised a ground-pounding 405 hp. This was the Super High Performance option that gave Ford fans a larger caliber weapon to compete against Chevy's 409/409 and the Super Duty 421 Pontiac that matched Ford's 405 hp. Thus began the Ford Total Performance years.
During this time, John Riggs was a young man hungry for every word he could find on performance Fords. His first car, at 16 years old, was a two-door '59 Ford, but what he really wanted was a big-block car. By the time the 406 Fords were in dealer showrooms, he was one of the first to step up to a 406-powered car. And in those all-or-nothing days, John opted for the six-bore version. He eventually sold the car in 1970 to a gentleman in Arkansas for $600. Some 20-odd years later, John located the car and its still-second owner, but the man refused to sell. The Galaxie was still sitting outside as it had for almost 40 years, so it would have been a tough resurrection, even if John had managed to negotiate a sale. That's when the plan to build a '62 re-creation began to take shape.
John's original '62 had been a hardtop, but the new plan was to build a replica of the less popular two-door sedan body. He began looking and couldn't believe his luck when someone in Texas offered almost exactly the car John wanted to build. Though it sported 406 badges, the reality was this was originally a 292ci V-8 three-speed stick car that had been frame-off restored. The last 15 years had been kind to the Galaxie and everything was in amazingly great shape, so John took the dive. The engine is also not a 406 but a carefully rebuilt 390 that originally powered a '68 Mustang GT. The re-build included a few minor mods to the heads and a cam, but the important part is the requisite 3x2 induction system. Now the car is just fun to drive. "I've had pretty cars, the ones that you drive for one hour and clean for two, but I have more fun just driving this one." That's the way it should be.
What: '62 Ford Galaxie
Owners: John and Dinah Riggs
Hometown: Springfield, Missouri