As a Ford enthusiast, one of my favorite pastimes has been my father’s stories of yesteryear’s drag cars. Visiting the track throughout my childhood (and even now), he would point out rare cars, or drag cars, that had been around for decades, noting interesting facts and awesome stories about them. It’s no wonder that I grew up to land where I have given my father’s deep love for Ford history – specifically that of Ford drag cars.
My dad, Scott Davies, has owned his own rare Ford for 45 years now. That car is a 1966 Fairlane 427 – or an R-Code car, for those familiar. He bought the factory drag car when he was 19 from the Downing and Ryan team, and has been enjoying it ever since. His best friend, Ed Shanley, is also a diehard enthusiast with his own stable. Most notable, perhaps, is a 1968 GT350 convertible barn find that was located in Passaic, New Jersey, a few years ago. He is in the process of restoring the rare Shelby.
Which leads us to the pair’s latest find. If you didn’t know better, you might think that the shell pictured here is just another washed up classic Ford. But you would be very wrong. Those Ford enthusiasts who have been around for a while might remember the famed Dockery Ford Galaxie of the ’60s.
This particular vehicle dominated the quarter-mile for a long time before it seemingly vanished. Fans of the car have been searching for it for years. A couple of years ago, Davies and Shanley got a hint: the car was literally right under their noses. But before we get to the rescue story, let’s look back at the car’s history.
This 1963 Galaxie Lightweight originally belonged to Bob and Barbara Martin of New Jersey. The pair loved drag racing, and Bob worked at Dockery Ford in Morristown, New Jersey, as a line mechanic. After their wedding in December of 1960, Barbara too began working at Dockery Ford.
Being that the early ‘60s were the era of drag racing’s rise, each of the big three were creating high performance competitors for the 1320. When Dockery Ford offered to help the Martins campaign one of Ford’s new lightweight Galaxies, they were on-board.
The lightweight Galaxie in question was one of Ford’s “R”-lettered cars, with a 427 cubic inch powerplant and 4-speed transmission from the factory. The body was equipped with fiberglass fenders and inner fenders, a flat fiberglass hood, and fiberglass decklid, as well as aluminum bumpers. There was no heater, radio, arm rests, passenger sun visor, or carpet. Instead, a rubber mat was installed in its place.
The glovebox notice says it all: “This vehicle has been built specially as a lightweight competitive car and includes certain fiberglass and aluminum components. Because of the specialized purpose for which this car has been built and in order to achieve maximum weight reduction, normal quality standards of the Ford Motor Company in terms of exterior panel fit and surface appearance are not met on this vehicle.”
Each one had specific Kelsey-Hayes steel wheels, 11×3 brakes front and rear (opposed to 2.5 on regular production Galaxies), and no power steering or brakes. Interestingly enough, they did have wipers, which Davies noted is pretty odd. They had operating lights, as they could be driven on the street. They also had a full exhaust system when sold new. It was, in essence, a factory race car with street car characteristics.
Almost every one of the cars was built in Wimbleton White, and was available to only a handful of dealerships. The Martins decided to name the car “The Albino” and outfitted it with red lettering and red headlights. The car would go on to gain the respect of fellow racers, who weren’t keen on going head to head with it.
Once the car belonged to the Martins, it wasn’t long before it made its debut appearance at New Jersey’s Island Dragway in Great Meadows. It was on that very same day that Barbara would become an employee of the track, taking a position in its timing tower.
Just one year later, in 1964, Bob decided it was time to retire from drag racing, and sold the Galaxie. Barb’s racing career continued, however, and she went on to work for NHRA Division 1 and win multiple powder puff derbies. She was also one of the first women to ever hold a full competition NHRA driver’s license.
In my search for the story of the Dockery Galaxie, we spoke with many racers and enthusiasts who knew the car, or the Martins. Ford drag racing legend Charlie Morris, led us to an article done on the car in 1998, and also provided a handful of timeslips from the car’s early days, as well as a copy of the car’s original title. Its best time slip of the group he handed over was a 12.867 at 111.66, however, Morris notes that once Bob switched to 7-inch recap slicks, the car did accomplish times in the range of 12.6 at 117 mph, though he couldn’t locate the slips.
After the Martins sold the Galaxie, it would make its rounds. First, the dealership dismantled the car, removing the original drivetrain, before painting it silver to cover its lettering. It was sold with a 390 cubic inch engine, and the 31-spline rear was replaced with a 28-spline version, before it was put out on the used car lot. Fortunately, the man who bought it knew that it was a lightweight, so he drove it only limited miles. He then sold it to a man who painted it blue, before selling it yet again to a police officer, who made it a project car. He had the intentions of restoring it and took it apart to prepare to paint it. Eventually, he retired and relocated, so he sold the car back to its previous owner. And there it sat for a full decade.
“The car has never been back in lightweight configuration,” Davies said, “until now.”
When Davies got a phone call from a friend, Andrew Krassas, who said he might know where a lightweight Galaxie was located, they never guessed it might be the famed Dockery car. Andrew’s father knew the owner, and my father was trying to broker a lightweight for a friend. After some digging, it came to light that the car may in fact be the Dockery drag car. The owner believed it was raced out of a Ford dealership in Morristown, and my father had the sneaking suspicion it might be the famed drag car. My brother, Scott Davies Jr., and Andrew went to see the car, and sent photos of the door jamb VIN sticker to my father.
At Carlisle in June, my father approached Charlie Morris to ask him if his suspicions might be correct. Could this be the Dockery Albino? Charlie told him to call him the following week, and he would give him the car’s VIN number.
During the phone call, Charlie asked if the VIN ended in “630.”
“I said, could it be 631? He told me he would check, and sure enough, it was 631,” Davies said.
We had happened upon the actual Albino.
When the friend that the car had been scouted for dropped out of the deal, Davies and Shanley decided to go in on it together.
Before the sale, Davies and Shanley never actually saw the car. They only saw the photos provided, and knew they had to have it.
The weeks leading up to the recovery of the car were full of the unknown. We weren’t sure that the owner was even going to follow through with the sale, though the pair had left a hefty down payment on it earlier.
The day came, and we all waited around for hours. Could it be that the Galaxie would never be recovered, after all?
Hours after the expected call never came, we drove to the location with three pickups and two trailers and sat down the road. The enclosed trailer awaited the treasured Galaxie, and the open trailer, for the accompanying parts car. And we waited some more.
Finally, we got the call that we were good to go. We drove down to the owner’s shop and proceeded to load the Galaxie into the trailer before literally utilizing a crane and a flatbed to hoist the parts car up onto the other trailer. It was a sight to see. With the car safely in our possession, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. She was home.
Since delivery day, the Galaxie has been brought home to Shanley’s compound in Pennsylvania, and the pair has begun going through the many spare parts included in the sale and figuring out what they still need to locate to restore the car. Yes, that is their intention.
The pair have decided to return the car to its original glory – a recreation of its time as “The Albino.” This means the car will have to be rebuilt and repainted.
“It won’t be a 100-point restoration,” Davies explained. “We just want to restore it and get back on the track for nostalgia racing. A 100-point resto is for someone else to do down the road. It won’t be us. It won’t be a rotisserie car.”
As for the drivetrain, that part is easy. The 427 ci engine in Davies’s Fairlane was originally pulled out of a Galaxie Lightweight, so it will be returned to its proper place – at least for a little while.
It will also be equipped with a Toploader 4-speed transmission, though that isn’t the transmission it was originally equipped with. Ford outfitted it with an aluminum case T-10 transmission, but the lightweight transmission didn’t hold up to the abuse the cars saw on the quarter-mile.
“Everyone took them out and threw them away as soon as Toploaders were available,” Davies explained.
The only parts not included in the sale were the front bucket seats (these Galaxies had an all-red interior), and the aluminum front bumper brackets. According to Charlie Morris, the front bucket seats offer a weight savings of 68 pounds over Ford’s bench seats.
So, Davies and Shanley will be on the hunt for the red interior pieces to complete the build.
As far as the aluminum front bumper brackets, according to Davies, most of the front brackets were destroyed because of towing, while the back ones survived, so there are very few original brackets around.
This Galaxie’s time as a drag car is clearly chronicled through the modifications that remain. The inner fenders have been cut out for aftermarket headers, and remnants of its aftermarket ladder bar system exist (the car originally car used a single bar traction system). On this particular car, the Martins tried running them backwards with no success before turning them around, and finally switching to ladder bars. Holes exist where the driveshaft loop was mounted.
While the pair has their work cut out for them, they can’t drag their feet. They have made a bet with a friend that the car will be done by October of 2020 – and while the winnings aren’t huge (a bottle of their favorite liquor) – there is a lot of pride at stake.
“It’s just for bragging rights,” my father explained. “We’re going to pull the 427 out of the Fairlane to put it in the car just to win the bet.”
As for me, I’ve loved watching my dad find a car with a history that he has a passion for. It’ll be an awesome thing to watch their plans come to fruition, and I can’t wait to be on the line with him at Island Dragway on its maiden pass as the revamped drag car it was born to be.