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Bruce Hotchkiss' "SPARE PARTS" - 390 Or 406? That Is The Question.

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What Exactly Did My '62 Ford Galaxie Ex-Cop Car Have Under The Hood?

Bruce Hotchkiss
Recollection by Bruce Hotchkiss
Special Correspondent, West Coast Bureau

Many years ago, maybe around '66 or '67 I owned a car similar to the one above, a '62 Ford Galaxie 2-door sedan. It was an ex-Connecticut State Police unmarked pursuit car. It did not have any badges on the fenders saying what size the engine was but I always thought it was a 390.

At that time cop cars were special in many ways. This one had huge drum brakes, heavy-duty everything, the clutch felt like what we used to call a truck clutch, larger exhaust, and mine had bucket seats. The transmission was a 3-speed manual; I may have put a floor shifter in it but it was on the column when I bought it.

Unmarked cop cars were not uncommon in Connecticut and I knew of 3 or 4 others in private hands. Generally they were sold off when they had about 100,000 miles showing. But they had many, many more hours of idling.

Ford put out a sales brochure for its police cars. Here's the cover:

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It has kind of a noir look to it doesn't it? The gritty streets of any city U.S.A. The stuff that pertains to my cop car is on pages 4 and 5:

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Yeah, Blazing, High-Performance Police Interceptor!

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Take a gander at the description - 330-hp Interceptor 390, and heavy duty everything! The 390 Interceptor had solid lifters (they were de rigueur for high performance back then), a single 4-barrel carburetor, and header-style cast iron exhaust manifolds. The only thing it didn't have was cross-bolted main bearings.

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A Ford FE engine without cross-bolted main bearing caps.

All the special heavy-duty, cop stuff was a real pain when it came to ordering parts (and back then there wasn't a parts store on every corner). I lived in a small rural town, the closest parts store was six miles away in the next town. Almost every single part had to be special ordered!

Here you can clearly see the bolt heads for the cross-bolted main bearing caps
(the engine is upside down).

Now here comes the kicker, my '62 had cross-bolted main bearings. How did I know? I could see them just above the oil pan. I always thought that it was a 390 but I was told by an Internet expert that no 390 ever had cross-bolted mains. Here it is, almost 60 years after the fact, the car is long gone (I don't even remember when I sold it), and someone tells me it must have been a 406! But I am totally confused so using my contacts I got in touch with the Ford Motor Company Archives. Here is what they provided after doing some research:

    We were "able to reach out to a former engineer and here is the information he was able to share from his knowledge:

    "The 406 was a performance engine built in limited quantities to satisfy sales numbers to use it in racing in stock classes. It was not available in the police car at least in advertised options, but the 60s were an era of special orders and unadvertised options so anything is possible. The 390 was the biggest engine normally available in the police car, but the 390 did not have cross-bolted mains from the factory in any variation. It was a common engine-building upgrade to add cross-bolted mains to the 390. A machine shop could use a kit to add the bolts, spacers, and bosses. The difference would be the bosses were not cast into the block. If there was a '62 406 powered police car the choices are:
    It was an ultra-rare 406 powered police car that was a special build. It was a 390-powered police car with a performance engine rebuild that added the cross-bolted mains.
    It was a 406-powered non-police galaxy that was used as an unmarked police car. A clue may be that the 406 was only available with the then-new 4-speed manual transmission. I think it only came in a floor shift.
    Another note is that the 406 was only equipped with cross-bolted mains halfway through the model year as a result of NASCAR engines blowing up their bottom ends. The 406 was short lived and replaced by the 427 in 63."

So what did I have? I may never know but I am leaning to it having been a special build, maybe Connecticut found that the "stock" 330-hp, 390 didn't quite cut it so they ordered up some with the 385-hp, 406. There is some information that hints at this as the Archives wrote "One of the changes they made to the Interceptor engine was to add cross-hatches to the main bearings to get better oil circulation to the engine." That makes me wonder if the Connecticut State Police had a problem with some of the 390s they had and they upgraded to the cross-bolted 406.

Back in those days the big three automakers catered to their clients, even just regular folks, but especially fleets. Police orders were a big deal, not just for the money but for bragging rights and the prestige of their cars being driven by a state's best. So if the Connecticut State Police said they needed 50 plain Jane Galaxies with 406 engines instead of the normal 390s, Ford most likely would have replied "what color?"

Maybe I'll never know. If it was a 406 instead of a 390, my '62 really is one that got away.

I sent an email to the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Association Museum to see if they can shed any light on police cars of this vintage. I'll update this article if there is any news.