After work one day, I stopped by a Napa Auto Parts store to buy a battery. I told the bearded guy behind the counter that I needed a new battery for a 1965 Ford Galaxie. He grunted a little and said, “Ford Galaxie, eh?”
“Yeah, it’s in pretty good shape. It runs fine. It just needs a new battery. It’s been sitting for a while.”
“How long was it sitting?”
“I don’t know. I just bought it a few days ago for $1,200.”
The guy put a car battery on the counter and said, “Hmm, bad deal. Here’s your battery.”
Knowing what I know now, I would have walked out without the battery and found another place. At the time I thought the guy just didn’t like classic cars.
I got home and put the battery in the car and it started much easier. It still needed a little coaxing but I figured that was just the old car being an old car.
By late November it had started to freeze overnight and occasionally there was snow. Luckily I was driving a car weighing over two tons. Driving the Galaxie in the snow was even more like driving a boat. One good thing about it was that the heater still worked. In fact it worked really damn well. The Galaxie could go from freezing cold to room temperature in about five minutes.
At first when I started the car on those cold mornings I thought that the car was overheating but I quickly discovered it was just the ice on the hood turning to steam. On one such morning, I noticed a bit more steam than normal as I drove to work. I checked the aftermarket gauges below the dash. The temp was closing in on three hundred degrees. The car was overheating.
I pulled into a nearby parking lot and shut off the car. I called my wife and got a ride to work. After work, I had my brother pick me up and we went back to my car. After a quick inspection it was clear that there was ice in the radiator. The previous owner hadn’t driven the car much and kept it in a garage. So I suppose it’s not all that surprising that he didn’t keep it full of antifreeze.
My brother suggested he’d follow me and I’d drive the car back to the house since working in a parking lot in the freezing cold with nowhere to go inside kind of sucks. It was a long two miles. I got the car started and within a couple minutes it was already past the 200 degree mark. By the time we got back to my house it was pouring steam out again.
We were fairly certain ice had not got into the engine block, but inspecting the radiator showed that it had at least one nickel sized hole. It was time for a new radiator.
I asked around and people said I should get an aluminum radiator. It was lighter and better. Unfortunately they were also upwards of $300. Finally I found one online for something like $280. I bought the thing and a week later the box showed up.
It was a beautiful silver and as soon as I looked at it I realized it was the wrong radiator. They’d insisted it was the right one, but not only were the hoses in the wrong spots, the radiator wasn’t even shaped right. I carefully put it back in the box and reassured myself that I had taken a look at their returns policy before buying and that they’d refund all of my money.
The bad part about that was that until the radiator company refunded my money, I didn’t have the cash to fix the car. While waiting for the refund, I looked more online. I called junk yards. I called my friend Gabe who has a 1966 Impala. He told me that when his radiator broke, he called a place down on South Tacoma Way called Northwest Radiator. I gave them a call. They said it would cost anywhere for $50 to $300 to fix it. The next day I brought the radiator down and they spent the next few days rebuilding it to the tune of just over $250.
Once I got it back, my brother and I reinstalled the radiator and my Galaxie was back up and running.
To be continued next week.