1963 Ford Galaxie 500 ‘R-Code’ Lightweight
- Raced by Jack Sears in his 1963 British Saloon Car Championship-winning season!
- Part of the late Jack Sears private collection for nearly 27 years!
- Raced in period by Double Formula One World Champion, Graham Hill, 1965 South African Touring Car Champion, Bob Olthoff, three-time British Saloon Car Champion, Frank Gardner and 1967 Targa Florio winner, Paul Hawkins
- The most successful of only three Ford Galaxie 500 ‘R-Code’ Lightweights built by Holman & Moody for the British Saloon Car Championship
- Fantastically documented with many period racing images, reviews, invoices and documentation
Ford, the Galaxie and competition
Ford is synonymous with competition success, having won no fewer than thirteen Formula One Drivers Championships, ten Formula One Manufacturers Championships, sixteen NASCAR Manufacturers Championships, Four World Rally Manufacturer Championships and claimed three outright victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours. So, when the Ford Galaxie made its debut in the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship, the opposition were worried, and rightly so.
Ford introduced the 1963 ½ Galaxie, also known as the ‘R-Code’ with a lower fastback roofline and new 427 ci big-block, dual-carburettor factory V8 engine, producing 425 bhp. However, this was still not enough performance for some, with Ford commissioning around 210 ‘Lightweight’ editions of the ‘R-Code’ 427, only available in Corinthian White with a red vinyl interior. These ‘Lightweight’ Galaxie’s were specified with a four-speed Borg-Warner T10 gearbox, 4.11:1 rear axle ratio and heavy-duty suspension. To save weight, steel body panels were exchanged for a fibreglass bonnet, boot and front wings along with aluminium bumpers, transmission cases and bellhousing. The spare wheel and tools were removed along with any sound deadening material and most of the interior trim. In total, these very special ‘Lightweight’s were a staggering 170 kg’s lighter!
With competition in mind, Ford had shipped several Fastback ‘R-Code’ Lightweights to Holman & Moody in North Carolina, USA. The Holman & Moody team had a lasting effect on motorsport, with their innovations including fuel cells, on-board fire systems and quick-change disc brakes.
To make these ‘Lightweight’s the envy of all competitors, Holman-Moody called upon their vast NASCAR experience to create the car that would change the face of the British Saloon Car Championship. The ‘Lightweight’s were fitted with strengthened pick up points, chassis welding and a stiffer roll cage. The suspension wishbones were also stronger with dual dampers. Holman-Moody had also developed their own enhanced version of the infamous 427 ci V8 engine, with medium-rise intake manifold and Belanger Brothers Y-piece fabricated exhaust primaries feeding to oval side exit pipes which crossed through the chassis rails. For the British Saloon Car Championship, Holman & Moody designed and built only three cars to this specification.
This Holman-Moody built 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 ‘R-Code’ Lightweight
At the end of 1962, the Ford Motor Company of America was expanding its racing activities tremendously and asked John Willment Automobiles to race one of their Galaxies in Britain. So, in January 1963, British race driver, Jack Sears, received a telephone call from Jeff Uren, Team Manager of John Willment Automobiles. Jeff explained that the newly formed team from Twickenham were purchasing a “full-house Holman & Moody NASCAR Ford Galaxie” with which they intended to confront Jaguar in the British Saloon Car Championship. Oh, and they wanted Jack to drive it!
Jack Sears was a veteran of saloon car racing, having won the inaugural British Saloon Car Championship in 1958. Sears also claimed a class win at the 1963 Le Mans 24 Hours with Mike Salmon aboard a Maranello Concessionaires-entered Ferrari 330 LMB. Another class victory followed at the Daytona 24 Hours in 1965, driving one of the Daytona Coupes for John Willment, and folklore records that he topped 180 mph on the newly-opened M1 motorway in England when testing a Cobra ahead of the 1964 Le Mans 24 Hours!
This car, chassis no. 3N66R143030 was one of a select few Galaxie 500 Lightweights dispatched to Holman & Moody for competition enhancements and was one of only three destined for the British Saloon Car Championship. Upon completion in North Carolina, this Galaxie was driven over 600 miles to New York, ensuring it would be delivered by air in time for the major BRDC International May Meeting at Silverstone. This Galaxie was flown aboard a USA Airforce Transport plane, sitting alongside a delivery of Coca Cola for the USA air bases in England! Amazingly, accompanying this Galaxie is its original sales invoice from Holman-Moody to ‘John Willment Automobiles Ltd, 161 Chertsey Road, Twickenham, Middlesex, England’ with the sale price recorded as $3,342.98.
Round five of the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship was held at Silverstone, during the 15th International Trophy Meeting. As Jack recalled “Without trying terribly hard I then qualified on pole position, faster than all the Jaguars.” Race day came and as Kenneth Evans dropped the flag, Sears made a calculated start, being beaten to the first corner by three Jaguars with Graham Hill followed by Roy Salvadori and Gawaine Baillie. Sears recalls in his biography ‘Gentleman Jack’ “In that first race I had drum brakes with metal to metal linings so they didn’t fade and were actually quite good, better than you would believe. I found the Jaguars were not out-braking me, so when we left Chapel Corner and came onto Hanger Straight I felt, gosh, this thing is really flying, I think I can pass them. To my surprise I passed all three Jaguars in one manoeuvre. I had no time for waving or anything like that; I had my head down concentrating but now was the moment of truth as I hit my braking point for Stower. To my surprise they didn’t come past me but just followed me. I put my foot down in the exit from the fast-uphill left-hander Abbey and the Galaxie just pulled away from the Jaguars. By the end of the second lap I had a comfortable lead though was still worried about the clutch, so left the Galaxie in fourth gear for the rest of the race – I never changed gear again …”
At half distance, Sears had built up a lead of over 20 seconds from Roy Salvadori, and after setting a new Saloon Car lap record for Silverstone, was given the ease-up signal by Jeff Uren to claim the first non-Jaguar victory in the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship!
Two weeks later and Jack Sears and the Willment Galaxie returned to the track, this time for the 100-mile race around the full Grand Prix course at Aintree. Jack was again untouchable, but didn’t stretch the big Galaxie, instead, doing just enough to cross the line ahead of the field.
Two races into its European career, and the Galaxie had scored two victories with Jack Sears, but the British Saloon Car Championship race at Crystal Palace offered a new challenge on June 3rd 1963. Gone were the flowing curves of Aintree and open expanse of Silverstone, Aintree was tight, twisty and precise. You’d have put your money on the under 2-litre Ford Cortinas, the small Minis or the Jaguars rather than the Galaxie, which was, in the words of Sir John Whitmore, “looking as big as an aircraft carrier!” The Jaguar drivers tried all they knew, but Sears and his seven litres of V8 Galaxie were absolutely untouchable. At the end of the race, it was again Jack Sears who was presented with the race winners garland.
A few weeks later, the Galaxie and Sears entered the Archie-Scott Brown Memorial Trophy Meeting at Snetterton. The first race of the day was for the saloon cars with unlimited modifications and was another victory for Jack and the Galaxie. However, one race victory was not enough for Sears at Snetterton, and he and the Galaxie also entered the final race of the day for Group 2 saloons. As was becoming almost tradition, the big Galaxie romped away from the pack to claim its second victory in one day!
In late July, Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix Meeting, with Sears and this Galaxie competing in the supporting Saloon Car Race, round seven of the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship. Such was the dominance of the Galaxie at the large spacious Silverstone Grand Prix circuit, that Sears claimed yet another victory, over a minute ahead of the first non-Galaxie! This marked the sixth consecutive victory for the Galaxie, and the third British Saloon Car victory in a row, firmly placing Sears and the Galaxie in the race for the championship.
Brands Hatch held round six of the British Saloon Car Championship on 5th August, with Sears again competing in this formidable Ford Galaxie. This 20-lap race saw Jim Clark pilot the Alan Brown Racing-entered Ford Galaxie, giving Sears some fresh competition. Sadly, the battle between Sears and Clark for the lead of the race ended on lap nine when Sears crawled into the pits with a left-rear tyre failure.
A few week later, the Galaxie returned to Brands Hatch, this time being driven by South African driver, Bob Olthoff. Having made his competition debut in the late 1950’s in South Africa, Olthoff progressed to race in America and Europe, competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours, Sebring 12 Hours and Nurburgring 1000 km.
In his debut event piloting the big Galaxie, Olthoff qualified an impressive second, only being bettered by Roy Salvarodi in the Alan Brown Ford Galaxie. As the flag dropped, Olthoff made a great start, but still the Jaguar of Mike Salmon squeezed into the lead, but only briefly until the big Galaxie powered into the lead along Top Straight, a position it would hold until the chequered flag, 31 laps later!
The next race for the Galaxie was the Oulton Park Gold Cup Meeting in late September. For this event, Willment handed the Galaxie to reigning Formula One World Champion, Graham Hill. Dan Gurney started on pole position in another Ford Galaxie, but Hill quickly found his feet and lined up second on the grid. Hill crossed the line second in this Galaxie, with Sears a further 30 second further back in third. Perhaps Sears should have stuck with his trusty Galaxie at Oulton Park after all!
One week later and Sears took back the wheel of the Galaxie, this time for the Autosport Three Hour Meeting Saloon Car Race at Snetterton. Sears qualified the Galaxie on pole position once again, actually beating his own lap record by a monumental five seconds, and even lapping faster than the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato’s achieved in the main three-hour race!
For the Saloon Car Race, Jeff Uren decided to hand the big Ford to Bob Olthoff, who trialled the car in qualifying, setting a time just 0.8 seconds slower than Sears. Olthoff started well, leading Formula One World Champion, Jack Brabham in a sister Galaxie, until transmission issues forced a retirement at Sear Corner.
The Snetterton meeting marked the end of the B.R.S.C.C. British Saloon Car Championship and Jack Sears was crowned Champion, having claimed victory in every race he finished in this Holman & Moody-built, John Willment Racing-prepared, Ford Galaxie 500 ‘R-Code’ Lightweight.
With the European racing season drawing to a close, the Willment Team, Jack Sears and this Galaxie headed to South Africa to continue racing. The Galaxie was sent to South Africa with a Royal Automobile Club Carnet, with its first race in early November, the Rand Daily Mail 9 Hour Endurance Race at Kyalami, better known as the Kyalami 9 Hours.
The nine-hour endurance race required two pilots, so Willment asked Australian racer, Paul Hawkins to share driving responsibilities with newly-crowned Champion, Jack Sears. The race started with 40,000 spectators witnessing a Le Mans-style getaway, and the big Galaxie quickly asserting itself well within the top three. However, most impressively the Galaxie was leading the Index of Performance, beating even the race-leading Ferrari 250 GTO. Unfortunately, just as dusk fell, the big Galaxie was to retire with a failed head gasket whilst running in third overall, still leading the Index of Performance.
The final outing for the Galaxie in its inaugural year of competition was the South African Grand Prix Meeting at East London on December 28th. Piloted by Paul Hawkins once more, this Galaxie crossed the finish line second overall, only beaten by the sister Willment Automobiles Ford Cortina, driven by Bob Olthoff. To conclude its first tour of South Africa, this Galaxie was entered in the Touring Car Race at Killarey in Cape Town, with Hawkins again driving, finishing second in the heat, and third overall in the final.
After the Killarney race, the Willment team returned to England with their cars to prepare for the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship. Jack Sears had chosen to defend his 1963 title in the best possible way, by driving this same dominant Galaxie for the 1964 season.
The first round of the 1964 British Saloon Car Championship was at Snetterton in mid March, where Jack Sears retired with wheel damage. Round two saw Sears and this Galaxie return to their winning ways, taking outright victory at the Goodwood St Mary’s Trophy on March 30th. Sears again dominated the pack, setting a new class lap record – the fastest lap to ever be done at Goodwood by a saloon car!
Oulton Park played host to round three of the Championship, with Sears again piloting his favoured steed. Having quickly asserted himself in the lead, all was once again going to plan, until Sears tried to brake for Lodge corner on the fifth lap and found the brakes to have failed. Fortunately he deliberately spun the car to avoid hitting the bank and causing any damage.
A week later and Sears corrected the wrongs of Oulton Park, again qualifying on pole position, an incredible two seconds faster than Jim Clark! As reported by Patrick McNally for Autosport “The saloon car evet was won by Jack Sears in the Willmont Ford Galaxie after his usual meteoric drive – he also broke the over 3-litre (and outright) saloon car record, dropping it to 2mins 11.4 seconds.”
Next up was the National Saloon Car Race at Silverstone, which again the big Galaxie and Sears dominated, before returning to the same track for the next round of the British Saloon Car Championship the following weekend, continuing the Galaxies unbroken streak of victories at the Silverstone circuit.
Sears was not content with competing, and winning against the English field, and in May took the Galaxie and John Willment Automobiles to Belgian racetrack of Zolder, for the opening round of the 1964 European Touring Car Championship. Having qualified on pole position, Sears got a great start and dominated the race, being presented with the winners garland by Miss Belgium and Miss Beauty – a tough day for Sears!
Sears’ time racing with the Galaxie was nearing its end, with four races left. However, from those last four races at Aintree, Crystal Palace and Brands Hatch, the Galaxie and Sears claimed three pole positions, three fastest laps and two race victories!
Now the European season was complete, John Willment Automobiles once again headed to South Africa for the Springbok series. This year the Willment team chose to reverse their colour scheme for the South African tour. Previously, the team raced white cars with red stripes running the length of the car in the centre, but for South Africa the cars were repainted red, with white stripes running their length.
The Springbok series was rounded out with two more victories by Hawkins, before Bob Olthoff drove again at the 1965 South African Grand Prix meeting, held at East London. After yet another encouraging race, Olthoff had decided this was the car he wanted to compete with for the 1965 season. He then purchased the car from Willment Automobiles, and continued the Galaxie dominance, winning many races throughout the 1965 series in South Africa, including victories at Kyalami, Roy Hesketh, Marlborogh and Killarney.
Olthoff’s final race with the big V8 Galaxie was the 1966 South African Grand Prix-supporting Saloon Car Race, where … you guessed it, the pair claimed victory! A perfect ending to the competition career of this Holman-Moody built Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight.
Bob Olthoff continued racing, but this Galaxie was more than just an old racing car to him. He kept it as part of his collection and after formally importing the car to South Africa, he entered the 1974 South African Grand Prix Historic support race.
As Jack Sears grew older and retired from racing, there was one car he remembered more fondly than others, and that was this Galaxie, the car which brought him so much success, and in May 1988 he finally manage to convince Bob Olthoff to sell it to him. This sales invoice is still accompanying the car.
Still finished in red with white stripes, Sears immediately returned the car to England where it was reunited with its original period road registration of ‘BML 9A’. In the early 1990’s, Sears set about sympathetically restoring the car and contacted engineering manager from the Willment team, Mike Brown. Then running his own shop, Rally Service Ltd in Middlesex, Brown set about restoring the car for Sears with invoices and communication from these works still contained in the impressive history files accompanying this car. The engine was also rebuilt by The Engine Shop of Maids Moreton, Buckingham, at this time.
Once the sympathetic works were complete, Sears took great pride in regularly using his Galaxie on the road, and regularly accepted the request of Lord March to demonstrate this historically significant car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival meetings, with the pair attending no fewer than six times!
In 2008, Sears and this Galaxie returned to the scene of the 1963 Archie Scott-Brown Memorial Trophy Meeting, where the pair scored victory in two races, Snetterton. Images of Jack with the Galaxie in the pits and on the circuit are contained within the history file, and clearly show how much enjoyment this car brought to Jack. This Galaxie remained in the ownership of Jack Sears until he passed away in 2016.
Additionally, with this car being UK road registered, the history file also contains an quantity of UK MOT test certificates, showing the mileage steadily increasing from 5,306 in July 1990, to the 7,800 displayed today.
It was this actual Ford Galaxie 500 Lightweight, built by Holman & Moody, prepared by John Willment Automobiles and driven by Jack Sears that re-wrote the British Saloon Car Championship. No longer was a Jaguar the only car capable of dominating. From the moment this Galaxie, with its near-500 bhp, 7-litre V8 arrived on UK shores, the story of Saloon Car racing would change forever.
Jack Sears won every race he finished in the this mighty Galaxie, claiming the 1963 British Saloon Car Championship, adding to his 1958 title, and narrowly missing out on the 1965 title to a certain Jim Clark. Bob Olthoff claimed victory, and the South African Touring Car Championship in 1965 with Paul Hawkins also claiming race victories behind the wheel. Double Formula One World Champion, Graham Hill, also dove this Galaxie to a podium finish at the 1964 Oulton Park Gold Cup Meeting. Perhaps the nicest piece of history for this car is that the two drivers who won championships with the car, both decided to buy it, with Sears maintaining ownership until he passed away in 2016.
This mighty Galaxie commands attention, always pulling a crowd, why? Because it dominated with ‘Gentleman Jack’. If you don’t believe us, come and see it at our London showroom where you will be blown away by the cars presence, condition and history.
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