David Leshay’s 1963 Ford Galaxie wins the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in Bradenton, Florida, at the 2021 NMRA Spring Break

photography by Evan Smith

The want was real. The desire to dump the clutch on a 427 Ford FE and bang the gears all the way down the quarter-mile. The dream of 73-year-old David Leshay of The Villages, Florida, came true when he purchased this 1963 Ford Galaxie with the intention of building a street-strip terror.

“I bought the car about 41/2 years ago. It had a 460, but I knew I would change that to a 427 FE,” David told us. “I built a 482-cube FE with an MMR block, Crane cam with .600-inch lift, Edelbrock heads and SCAT rotating assembly. I also went with a medium-riser Ford intake and dual Holley 600 carbs to make it period correct,” he added.

The spectators at the NMRA Spring Break cheered hard for David Leshay and his 1963 Galaxie. Among a crowd of late-model Mustangs, the big Ford was a crowd pleaser.

“I ran True Street last year at this event, but didn’t make the TREMEC STICK Shift Shootout. I used to race in the 1960s and the 1970s. I had a 1966 GTO, then a 1969 Judge, but then I didn’t race for a long time,” he explained. “Racing is in my blood, and back in the day I had three friends with Galaxies and I always wanted one. I personally have turned every nut and bolt on this car. And my goal was to come to the NMRA event, run True Street and, with any luck, make the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.”

The interior is period correct with a factory bench seat, full factory dashboard and trim.

And that he did in March 2021, at the Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida, during the NMRA Spring Break Shootout. David ran 13.291, 11.944 and 12.230 to average 12.48 in the True Street competition. This earned him the 8th and final spot in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. Interestingly, he was the only racer not using a power-adder. He also had the oldest car in the field.

David made sure that the Galaxie was also period correct under the hood. The dual quads on a Ford FE engine is exactly what you would have seen in one of these cars in the 1960s.

The 427-powered Galaxie was a hit with the Bradenton crowd. Each burnout and pass gained him more fans, as they rooted for the big, white tank of a Ford.

Round 1 saw him face Rob Thompson in his TREMEC T-56-equipped 2001 Ford Mustang GT. Rob was tardy at the light and David rammed the gears for the win.

The car launches hard, with David dropping the Centerforce clutch at 4,000 rpm on the starting line.

In Round 2 , David faced Brian Biegert driving a quick 2017 Mustang GT. David produced an 11.83 at 114 mph, which was his best pass of the weekend and the best pass on the car, enough to defeat Brian and move to the final round.

After a long weekend, where racers first had to make back-to-back-to-back runs in True Street, the final was set between David and Tyler Thornburg driving his 1988 GT convertible. Tyler’s nitrous-fed 347 stroker was running strong and he was doing a nice job shifting his TREMEC T-5 transmission .

Even though the Galaxie had the slowest qualifying time, David’s good skills as a drag racer helped him beat the competition in all three rounds of the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout, showing that anyone has a chance to qualify for the shootout and win!

The handicapped start went to David and his Galaxie [TT2]lurched as the dual-quad FE roared. Tyler left on cue and the chase was on. He drove hard to an 11.31 at 124 mph, but David was too tough, running an 11.97 at 115 mph to capture the win!

“I can’t explain how exciting this is!” David exclaimed. “I was in my motorhome when they announced the TREMEC Top 8 and I was so excited to hear my named called. I made the field this year – barely – but this is a race anyone can win. I’ve been working really hard to get this car to be consistent. It’s heavy and breaks a lot of parts, but everything worked well this weekend.”

The Sunpro tachometer is also a look right out of the 1960s. The only modern concession is a shift light. David shifts the FE at 5,400 rpm.

David is not shy about dropping the hammer on his Box-Top Galaxie either. He does a short burnout, stages and dumps the clutch at around 4,000 rpm. He rams the gears at 5,400 rpm and the torquey FE pulls like a freight train. “It makes 500 horsepower at 5,500 rpm.” David was able to get the Galaxie into the 11.80s and he plans to refine his classic car and progress into the mid-11s. “I have to thank Corky’s Muscle Car Performance in Ocala and all my friends who support me.”