SEMA 2012: Fireball Robert’s #22 Ford Galaxie

It’s hard to believe such a beautiful Ford Galaxie would mark one of the darkest years of racing history in America. The #22 Driven by NASCAR’s first great superstar driver: Fireball Roberts. A man who raced under Smokey Yunick’s Black and Gold paint from 1959 to 1962 and in that same 1962 occupied his non-NASCAR efforts driving Ferraris in endurance road course events. This man was not one of those moonshine-running, good ol’ boy stereotypes that NASCAR fans like to glorify. Instead he was a talented driver and a true athlete.

Unfortunately the nearly infamous Ford Galaxie you see above would be the last car Fireball would ever drive. I caught this car at the outside Ford booth where if you wanted to wait in line you could enjoy flogging some of their fwd-based vehicles. Perhaps as a subliminal warning, this Passino Purple Galaxie was parked right next to the sign up booth.

There’s something just so savage about the approach on this car, as it was in most autosports in the 1960’s. The floor was completely modified to allow the car to sit lower to the ground without effecting the pinion angle. 8 inches of tread on the best tires the early 60’s had to offer was all that connected each wheel of your “stock” car (not some composite-bodied safety mobile of the future) to the pavement. The plain steering wheel wrapped in tape just has a sinister look to it, far removed from the clean and safety-oriented cockpit of today’s racer.

Unfortunately it took the death of Fireball Roberts (and many other drivers) in 1964 to force many of the safety reforms we take for granted today. An attitude is still prevalent in motorsports to this day it seems.