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It’s not every day a 68 year old makes a return to drag racing, but David Leshay of The Villages, Florida, threw caution to the wind and built the car of his dreams. It was roughly five years ago when Leshay began the journey with this 1963 Ford “Box-Top” Galaxie.
“I raced back in the 1960s and ’70s at the old Connecticut Dragway and at Lebanon Valley Dragway in New York,” said Leshay. “I raced a 1966 GTO and then a ’69 Judge and had three friends with Galaxies. I always loved them, but I got out of drag racing for years.
Leshay recently captured the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout win at the Holley NMRA Spring Break Shootout, beating out strong competition that was much younger and lighter than the Galaxie.
“I just got the urge to go racing again so I bought this car about four and half years ago. It had a 460 and a 4-speed, and my plan was to build a 427 FE and recreate a period-correct drag car that I could still drive,” he told us. Leshay slowly and methodically assembled the parts and pieces to build a 482-cube FE with an MMR block, Crane cam with .600-inch lift, aluminum heads and a SCAT rotating assembly. He finished assembling the “Side-Oiler” himself and added a medium-riser Ford intake and dual Holley 600 carbs to let it breathe.
The big-block Ford produces a dyno-proven 500 crank horsepower at just 5,500 rpm and is backed by a Jerico 4-speed and a McLeod street-type clutch. Fortifying the driveline is a Moser 9-inch with a Detroit Locker, 35-spline axles 4.11 gears.
"I personally have turned every nut and bolt on this car. My goal was to come to this NMRA event, run True Street and with any luck, make the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.”
A pair of Holley 600 cfm carbs sit on a Ford medium-Riser intake and feed the 482-cube FE that is good for 500 horsepower at the crank. That grunt goes through a Jerico four-speed and out to a Moser 9-inch.
Leshay ran 13.291, 11.944 and 12.230 to average 12.48 during the True Street competition, and that was good enough to sneak him into the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in the 8th and final spot. In fact, Leshay was the only racer not using a power adder, and clearly he had the oldest car in the field. His big Ford hooks up with Caltrac single-leaf springs and bars and a set of Mickey Thompson tires mounted on Cragar SS wheels.
Leshay’s Galaxie was popular with the Bradenton NMRA crowd. They loved the burnouts, hard launches and the glorious sound from the stroked FE. Round one saw Leshay face Rob Thompson in his T-56-equipped 2001 Mustang GT, but Thompson was tardy at the light and Leshay rammed the gears for the win.
In Round 2 of the three-round race, Leshay faced Brian Biegert driving a quick 2017 Mustang GT. Leshay produced an 11.83 at 114 mph (his best-ever pass) and that was enough to defeat Biegert and move to into the final.
After a long weekend, where racers first had to make three back-to-back runs in True Street competition, the final was set between Leshay and Tyler Thornburg, who was driving a nitrous 1988 GT convertible. Thornburg’s juiced 347 stroker was running strong and he was shifting a TREMEC T5 transmission.
The interior of Leshay's Galaxie is kept basic: a bench seat, a tachometer, and a shift light are all that's needed to keep the big Ford running in the upper 11-second range.
The handicapped start went to Leshay, and on green his Galaxie lurched as the dual Holley carbs came to life. Thornburg drove hard to an 11.31 at 124 mph, but Leshay was too tough, running 11.97 at 115 mph to capture the win from the last qualified spot.
“It’s pretty spectacular that 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.”
David Leshay is not only reliving his youth, but creating all new memories with his amazing Galaxie. He enjoys every burnout, launch and powershift. On a typical run he drops the clutch at around 4,000 rpm, rams the gears at 5,400 rpm and it pulls to about 6,200 rpm in the lights. “The engine is pretty basic so I can street drive it, but it’s powerful enough to run 11s in this 4,000-lb car at the track.”