Here at Power Automedia, we have lust in our hearts for full-size Fords from the early-’60s.
Jimmy Carter references aside, this was a Golden Era of Ford styling and performance, culminating with the intro of the Mustang at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Nearly ten years later, Ford Design sagged under the weight of government regulations, insurance costs, and a gas crisis or two. When names like Maverick, Pinto, Granada, and Mustang II replaced old school names and design cues, Ford was never the same.
But for those few magical years, big Fords, Mercurys, and Lincolns of this era were unmatched in styling and set the tempo for technology and execution. Not only did they rule the showroom floors, but they also burned up many a racetrack as well. In fact, after the 1963 ½ Galaxie came out with the 427, single four-barrel (Q code) V8, and fastback C pillar, Ford won 32 of 37 NASCAR races that year.
We were in Louisville last summer at NSRA’s big 50th Anniversary event, and this 1963 1/2 Galaxie 500XL, a.k.a “Code Blue,” owned by Ken Hollingsworth, from Camden-Wyoming, Delaware, was a technicolor knockout.
Restored and modded by Superior Autoworks of Frederica, Delaware, Code Blue is the latest example of a mega-build from shop owner and emcee, Ed Denkenberger. Ed has been building show-winning customs, hot rods and vintage trucks for nearly a quarter of a century now, and the hits just keep coming.
As is usually the case, the backstory is as impressive as the car itself, and Ken takes us back to the beginning, “My Dad ordered the car new from a dealer in Raeford, North Carolina, after Ford announced it was coming out with a half-year upgrade with a 427 engine and a fastback C-pillar to improve competition in NASCAR. He took possession of the Galaxie in March 1963 for $3,930.69.”
From there, the car provided much enjoyment for father and son. Ken recounts a fun game they used to play, “When I was 8 or 9, Dad would put a dollar on the dash. I’d be in the back seat, standing on the transmission tunnel and looking between the bucket seats. He would tell me I could have the dollar if I could get it. Each time I tried, he would floor it and throw me back into the seat. I never got the dollar.”
There were run-ins with the boys in blue as well., “Dad let me drive before I had my license or learner’s permit. Once we were on a long country road and I was driving. We saw a police checkpoint ahead. Dad took the wheel. I climbed between the bucket seats into the back seat. Dad climbed into the driver’s seat. No problem.”
Then the elder Hollingsworth made a deal with his young scion. Ken explains, “He told me if I made straight A’s, he would buy me whatever car I wanted when I turned 16. I still remembered the day he came to me and said that I had kept my part of the bargain. He wanted to know what car I wanted. I told him I wanted a 1969 Corvette 427. He laughed because that was way out of his league. “That was a $6,000 car reserved for doctors and lawyers, and my Dad was a butcher. He asked if I would be happy taking the Galaxie. I immediately said yes, and he gave me the keys. It was 1969 and I was 16.”
At this point, the ’63 1/2 was Rangoon Red with a red interior, Foxcraft mag wheels with spinner center caps (Keystone knock-offs) and about 30,000 miles on the clock.
Ken continues, “I had just taken ownership of the hottest, fastest car in the county where I lived and everyone knew it. It had beaten all the GTO’s, ‘Vettes, Mustangs, and 442s around town. Dad had it tuned by Holman Moody in Charlotte and it had some serious stink. My personal “cool factor” skyrocketed. Looking back, I didn’t know enough about girls to make the most of it.
Sadly, things took a turn for the worse. Ken tells us, “Two years after I ‘inherited’ the Galaxie, it was rear-ended at a stoplight and then parked. It sat and deteriorated in the elements until 1980. The doors were stuck shut from the impact and we took the insurance money and bought a 1970 GTX 440. Once I graduated from medical school and was getting a paycheck from the US Navy, it was then I had some spare money to start rebuilding the Galaxie.”
“When I retired from the Navy in 2000, I started getting a bigger paycheck so I had the money to put it in a shop for a complete build. An owner of a shop that specialized in rods referred me to Ed at Superior Autoworks but I didn’t know how to find him. One day the UPS man made a delivery and wanted to know what was under the cover. I showed him and told him my story. Turned out that he went to school with Ed and knew where his shop was.”
That was back in 2001. Ken looked Ed up and was impressed with his operation. Denkenberger had been in the auto restoration game for 24 years and his chops and reputation preceded him. “He had an organized, clean shop with cool rock and roll playing. He had pictures on the wall of some of his builds and two projects in the shop. The quality was top notch. We hit it off and I got on his list. I saved money, bought some parts, and met with Ed periodically to plan the build. The project grew from a stock rebuild with kick-ass stereo and disc brakes to a high-end show car.
“I was waffling back and forth until Ed took a tool and cut a chole in the dash for the stereo. It wasn’t going to be a stock rebuild after that. He started on the car in 2003 as his primary, full time build and finished it in 2005. For the first show, Ed and I brought our Dads up to see the car. Ed’s father was suffering from cancer and my Dad was battling heart disease, so we had limited time left. Both Dads met and got along famously. My Dad had not seen the car since 1980. We got Best of Show and it was a thrill to accept the award with our fathers present.”
Then another stroke of bad luck happened. While Ken was trailering the car with his Ford Excursion, he hit some black ice and the rig jackknifed, with the trailer shearing free from the hitch. Code Blue was strapped inside the enclosed trailer, but the force of it hitting a berm off the highway, the car broke free from its tie-downs and smashed the car into the end of the trailer.
Code Blue was almost totaled.
Ken continues, “I parked it for a while, waiting for a spot in Ed’s shop. While it was in, I had the motor redone to fix some problems, and we decided to do some more modifications. In 2017 after a thorough restoration, we returned to the show circuit and we’ve been loving the journey. Throughout all this, Ed and I have become close friends. Ed wants to put a spoiler on it but I think I’m done.”
For now, Ken is enjoying the car and rolling around car shows in the southern United States and of course the East Coast. If you see a blue blur this summer, chances are Ken is rolling the car with dad riding shotgun from above.
Ken Hollingsworth's 1963 1/2 Galaxie XL500 "Code Blue" Specs
Make/year: Ford 1963 ½ iron center oiler originally. Now has a Genesis FE side-oiler aftermarket iron block
Stock CID: 427
Current CID: 498
Horsepower: 679 at 6300 rpm
Torque: 607 ft-lbs at 5200 rpm
Bore/Stroke: 4.32 x 4.25
Crankshaft: Scat cast steel
Pistons: Diamond forged-aluminum with valve reliefs, Total Seal rings
Connecting rods: Scat forged steel H beams, shot-peened, Magnafluxed
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Engine built by: Jay and Jules Schonberger
Machine work: block sonic tested, bored, and honed with torque plate, deck paralleled, pressure checked, align-honed, Magnafluxed
Name of shop: Philadelphia Racing Engines (PRE)
Camshaft make: Erson solid roller, 0.683-inch intake, 0.700-inch exhaust
Cylinder heads: Edelbrock Performer RPM, polished aluminum, fully ported, stainless valves, 0.700 lift, 2.270-inch intake, 1.750-inch exhaust
Heads built by: PRE
Injector size: Quick Fuel 580cfm four-barrel dual carburetors
Intake manifold: Dove aluminum medium riser, polished then chromed
Headers: stock cast iron long headers, smoothed, ceramic coated by Jet-Hot
H/X‑pipe: H pipe
Mufflers: Edelbrock polished stainless steel
Pipe size: 3-inch, polished stainless steel
Type: Top Loader NASCAR (big spline) four-speed, 1350 yoke
Clutch / Converter: McLeod
Flexplate / Flywheel: steel
Shifter: Hurst Competition Plus with T-handle
Trans built by: PRE
Type: Ford 9 inch, axle tubes straightened/shortened 4 inches, billet-steel wheel flanges, Strange polished-aluminum differential, Auburn Posi-traction
Gears: Richmond 4:11
Axle: Moser 31-spline induction hardened
Frame: FoMoCo stock, molded, smoothed with Heidts Superide II front clip
Front upper/lower control arms: Heidt’s tubular polished stainless steel
Front shocks/struts: Aldan coil-overs, polished-aluminum body
Steering box: Heidt’s power chromed rack and pinion
Sway bar: 1-inch chrome
Rear upper/lower control arms: Heidt’s tubular polished stainless steel
Rear shocks: Aldan coil-overs, polished aluminum body
Sway bar: 1-inch chrome
Panhard bar: polished stainless steel
Tires (front): Dunlop SP 9000 225/45ZR18, smoothed
Tires (rear): Dunlop SP 9000 285/40ZR18, smoothed
Wheels (front): Budnik Gasser X Fat Lip, aluminum, chromed, 8×18
Wheels (rear): Budnik Gasser X Fat Lip, aluminum, chromed, 10×18
Front: Baer Pro , 14-inch, ventilated, slotted, drilled, six-piston caliper
Rear: Baer Pro , 14-inch, ventilated, slotted, drilled, six-piston caliper
Original color: Rangoon Red
What condition was it in when you bought it? Dad purchased new. I got it 1969 with 30,000 miles in good shape, stock
Body modifications: 3rd brake light molded into the roof, custom inner fender panels, molded firewall/trunk/hood/door jams/cowl/radiator support/dash/rear window tray/console, all-aluminum trim chromed, bumper bolts removed, bumpers tucked
Hood: 1964 hood, extensive underside molding, CAD cold-air intake
Paint: DuPont Hot Hues Tri-Coat Blue Pearl, custom mix, 3 coats blue base, 3 coats blue pearl, 7 coats clear
Upholstery: UltraLeather off-white
Gauges: AutoMeter Ultra-Lite Carbon Fiber with Tri-alert system, warning lights, speedometer/tach/fuel level/oil pressure/oil temp/coolant temp/vacuum
Rollbar/cage: custom-built behind front seats for shoulder belt mounting
Safety equipment: Simpson one-off, four-point front, and rear harnesses
Other interior mods: KoolMat insulation, electric windows actuated by stock crank handles, electric locks, Vintage Air A/C, Alpine receiver, Kenwood amps, Memphis Audio tweeters/midrange/10 inch subwoofer, equalizer molded into dash, CAD speaker grills to match wheels, dash speaker converted to motorized 3 gauge pod