Category Archives: Classic Cars

The Guy With The Galaxie: Radiator Hose

meandmygalaxie

Me And My Galaxie

I’ve decided to start writing about the various repairs and improvements I make to my 1965 Galaxie as they happen. I’ve written about my car before. This will be an ongoing column as more work is done on the car.

Yesterday I was driving my 1965 Galaxie down 705, wearing a Hawaiian shirt, drinking a glass bottle of Coca-Cola, with my girl by my side on our way to BBQ at Dash Point on the Fourth of July. I couldn’t have been more Americana if I tried unless I was coming from a baseball game and had picked up a fresh baked hot apple pie.

This was the first drive of more than a few miles that I’d taken the Galaxie on since having the radiator repaired. A few weeks ago it had overheated on a hot Sunday after driving for most of the day. The bottom tube of the radiator where the lower hose connects broke off. I’d had the guys are NW Radiator make the repair and reinstalled the radiator. This was the first real test. One advantage we had was that we were following my girlfriend’s mother to the BBQ so if anything went wrong, we wouldn’t be on the side of the road forever.

I-705 is one of those rare, strange freeways where there are a handful of stoplights. We were stopped at the first one when I noticed the temperature going up towards 240 degrees. Typically it runs right around 200. From past experience, I know that once it gets to 240, bad things start to happen. I pointed it out to my girlfriend and asked that she keep an eye on it. The light changed and I sped up, hoping that the air through the engine would lower the temperature. It didn’t. A few hundred yards past the first light, I could hear the engine falter a bit. I slowed down, blinked the lights at my girlfriend’s mother’s car and watched as the steam began to come up from the hood. I pulled off to the side of the road.

I popped the hood and watched as coolant sprayed all over the engine. I quickly searched around to see where the spray was coming from and prayed it wasn’t the radiator. Within seconds, I found the culprit. The top radiator hose had a hole in it, right past the clamp that secured it to the radiator. I grabbed a screwdriver from my trunk and waited a few minutes before unhooking the hose from the engine and the radiator. The hose was still hot to touch.

The bad radiator hose

The bad radiator hose

By the time I had that done, my girlfriend’s mom had turned around and found us. We transferred the BBQ stuff from our vehicle to hers and took the broken hose with us. Once at the BBQ, my girlfriend and I used her mom’s vehicle to stop by AutoZone to get a new hose.

The first AutoZone we came across didn’t have the hose, but quickly found that another nearby branch did have the hose in stock. We picked up the hose and a couple of gallons of coolant. Then we headed back to the BBQ. Later, we went back to the Galaxie. I installed the new hose, filled up the radiator, and we were back on the road in minutes.

When I’m driving down the road and I see another classic car, we always give each other a small wave. We do this knowing that if you’re driving a classic car, then you’ve spent some time under the hood. Sometimes that time is spent on the side of the road on the Fourth of July, but if you’re a classic car lover, this sort of thing doesn’t bother you. It’s the price of admission. Best of all, the repair cost a total of $10 for the hose and $24 for the two gallons of coolant. Name the last time you repaired a modern car for under $30.

–          Jack Cameron

Advertisements

Ford Galaxie Year One (Part Eight) Conclusion

My first summer with my 1965 Galaxie was almost over and things seemed to be going well. A rebuilt radiator, new gaskets, repaired brakes, a new throttle cable, and a dozen other little things had turned my classic car into a fairly reliable vehicle with a lot of style. I’d gotten used to the new ‘hot rod’ sound. Even if it did tend to wake up the neighborhood when I left for work in the morning.

Some people at work had even begun to admire the car. One of my older coworkers asked me to pop the hood one afternoon as I sat warming it up. I got out, opened it up and watched him look under the hood. After a few seconds, he said, “Are you gonna fix that exhaust leak?”

“What exhaust leak?”

“Right here. “ He pointed to the right side of the engine.  “Put your hand there.” I put my hand there and felt the exhaust hit my hand. “There’s supposed to be an exhaust donut right here between the exhaust pipe and the exhaust manifold.”

On the way home, I called my brother. He said it’d be a relatively easy fix and we should just do it at his house some Saturday. Saturday rolled around and I pulled into my brother’s driveway. We got the car onto a couple of struts and crawled under the car. Not only was this the first time I’d been under the Galaxie. It was the first time I’d been under a car. I was enthralled.

We decided to do more than just work on the exhaust pipe. We checked fluid levels, checked and replaced the spark plugs, and while we were at the auto parts store, we bought a new air filter as well. Now it was time to deal with the exhaust pipe.

The exhaust pipe did not want to disconnect from the exhaust manifold. One of the two bolts was stripped and it wasn’t in the best angle to get at anyway. By the time we were done with it, one bolt was completely unusable and the other was stubbornly hanging on. We realized that in addition to the three dollar donut part, we were going to need some new bolts. The stripped bolt would neither loosen up enough to come off nor retighten. This was going to take tools and time we didn’t really have. My brother called a mechanic friend of his. He was out fishing, but could look at it Sunday.  My brother found another bolt and we decided the best thing to do would be tighten the bolt on there and I’d bring it to his guy tomorrow.

We got the bolt tightened back on and I started up the car. My brother told me to rev it a couple times just to make sure everything was working. I hit the gas and suddenly my brother yelled, “TURN IT OFF!!!”

I turned the key and took it out of the ignition. It didn’t help. I could hear something splashing on the pavement. It turned out to be all of my water. A freeze plug had blown. My car had gone from loud but drivable to completely undrivable.

We laughed at our luck and then spent the next hour or so trying to find an auto parts store that hadn’t closed. We were not successful. We decided the best thing to do was to take it to my brother’s guy tomorrow and get it dealt with then.

My brother’s guy turned out to be a good guy, but the whole mechanic thing was sort of a weekend thing with him and he didn’t get it done on Sunday. So it was another week before I got my car back. My brother gave me a ride out to see the guy and pick up the car. He’d put the donut on with new bolts and replaced two freeze plugs. He’d checked the other freeze plugs and when he tapped on one with a screw driver, it blew out. He charged me $150 for his trouble and my car was back up and running.

The first thing I noticed was that as soon as I started it, it was back to that low hum it had before. It suddenly dawned on me that the morons I’d taken my car to a couple months earlier had probably just taken the donut off when they were replacing the gaskets and never bothered to put it back on. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what they’d really done was put on some gaskets and then a bunch of things to make a guy who doesn’t know any better think they’d fixed up his car. The paint and the sound were just there to distract me from the fact that what they’d done probably shouldn’t have even cost half as much as I paid.

It turned out to be one of the last times I’d have my Galaxie at the mechanic’s shop. It was becoming clear to me that working on cars is just like working on websites or any other skill. If you don’t know how to do it, it seems complicated. Once you know what you’re doing, it’s fairly simple. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was learning and I was smart enough to have people around me who knew more than me.

A few weeks later my car didn’t start. I called my brother over to help me troubleshoot it. He found that the starter was okay. We replaced the solenoid and the battery cables. This seemed to help. About a week later, I was having trouble getting it started again. My brother took a look at the battery. It had 425 cranking amps. My brother said, “Let me guess, you have trouble starting it on cold mornings.” I nodded. He said, “This isn’t the right battery for this car.”

I flashed back to the jerk at Napa who had told me I’d gotten a bad deal. The asshole had actually sold me the wrong battery. I wanted to go back and throw it at him. After making some calls, we went to a place my brother was familiar with called The Truck Shop. A hundred dollars later we had a truck battery that had 900 cranking amps at zero degrees.

We got back to the house and hooked the battery up. The Galaxie started instantly. There’ve been a few problems over the past few months, none of them major, but with the new battery, the car always turns over.

As fall turned into winter, I was afraid that something major might break on my car. I don’t have a garage and the weather is not always kind. It turned out though that I was right. The first year of owning a Classic Car is a learning experience and it’s expensive. The next year has so far been very good.

I check all the fluids at least once a week. I listen for uncommon noises. I put fuel cleaner in my gas tank every three or four tanks. I start it at least once a day. Old cars aren’t maintenance free, but that maintenance has its rewards. Every car I’ve owned before this was just a means to get from place to place. It could be any car in the world and if it got wrecked, I wouldn’t care once I got another car. When it comes to cars, my Galaxie is my first love. I don’t just drive to get from place to place. I drive to drive. When I’m driving my Galaxie, I don’t always need a destination.

-Jack

Note: Thanks for sticking with me through this. When I got my car, I’d tried to find something on the net about the first year of owning a classic car and couldn’t find anything. I promised myself I’d write one for those who were interested. On another note, I’m planning on making some significant changes to this site. I hope you’ll stick around to see them. As always, you can write me at jackcameronis@hotmail.com .

Ford Galaxie Year One Interlude

It’s my birthday this weekend so I don’t have a new post about Year One with my Galaxie. Instead, I have a photo galary of the car. Enjoy.

Ford Galaxie Year One (Part Five)

The radiator seemed to be working like a charm. It even looked good because the radiator guys had spray painted it black. A couple days after reinstalling the radiator, I parked the car and looked under it. I’ve learned in the months since that this is a good habit to get into.

There was fluid dripping from the front of the car. Not a lot, but enough to notice. I reached under the car and put my finger in it fully expecting green antifreeze and already thinking of what profanity I would be using when I contacted the radiator shop. Instead the fluid was red. I knew enough to know that was transmission fluid. It still seemed to be coming from the radiator though. I popped the hood and took a good look at the radiator. There were a total of four hoses going to the radiator: Two large ones, one on top, one on bottom, for the antifreeze/water and two small ones on the bottom of the radiator near the center. These hoses had transmission fluid in them and they were leaking. A closer inspection revealed that the hoses just weren’t fitting very well after the reinstallation. I took them off and went to the auto parts store. (In another vehicle of course)

As I’ve stated before, I’m not the most mechanically inclined individual. The only time I’d ever gone to a auto parts shop alone was to pick up some antifreeze. Other than that, I just didn’t trust myself to know what the hell I was talking about. In this case, I had the hoses I needed to replace and the hose clamps. I figured I could handle it. I found the right clamps and then asked a guy named Serge to cut some hose for me. I wasn’t sure how much I’d really need given that the hoses I’d taken off weren’t working. Maybe I should have them a bit longer. In the end, I asked for two feet of hose, figuring that was more than enough for the job.

I got back home, cut the hose, put the hose on and tightened it up with the clamps. It was just replacing hose, but I’d done it by myself. My car had a problem and I went to the store, bought parts, and fixed it. I felt good about that. And it’d cost me like five bucks. I started the car and got out and watched the engine. No leaks. Awesome.

The next few weeks, I had no problems with my car and really enjoyed driving it. I’d actually had enough experience with it that I was entirely comfortable driving the big thing. I got used to the sounds of the car. The rubber in the passenger side wing window still folded a bit letting in some air. I used duct tape to fix it. Eventually I’d probably want to replace the rubber, but not now. The next thing I noticed was that the slightest moisture caused the belts to start slipping, creating this high pitched whine.

I called my brother and said I’d like to come over and have him help me switch the belts on the car. This was both so I could get his expertise and so we could work in a garage. It was not yet Spring and still plenty cold.

We got the belts off easily enough. Yet again, I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy having a car that has such a simple engine. At the auto parts store, while checking out, the girl behind the counter asked if we had a military ID for a discount. Neither  my brother or I had ever been in the military.

My brother said, “I was in the Army, but I’m retired.”  My brother is thirty-two and looks five years younger than that.

“Really?”

“Yeah, I forgot my ID though. Can you help a veteran out?”

The girl behind the counter gave us the discount and as soon as we left, I laughed my ass off. Of course the thought did occur to me that the same girl who thought my brother was a retired veteran had given us the new belts.

We got back to my brother’s place and got one belt on easily. The other one wouldn’t quite fit. It was so close though. It just needed a little more. My brother asked for the key and said he had an idea. He turned the key just enough to turn the engine over and that cranked the wheels, causing the belt to pop right on there. We tightened a few things up and all was well. My car wasn’t only cool. Now it was quiet.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have a garage. So there were many mornings when I wasn’t so happy with the gigantic windows on my Galaxie as I scraped the ice off of them. The real problem though was that moisture was getting inside the car and so after scraping the outside of the windows, I had to scrape the inside. The solution to this was incredibly simple and entirely unexpected. I was complaining about it to my wife and she suggested I put some cat sand crystals in a dish under the back window.  It sounded crazy, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

I haven’t had any interior moisture problems since.

To Be Continued….

Ford Galaxie Year One (Part Four)

The first year of owning a classic car, it’s going to need more work than any other. So I’m going to end up talking a lot about the various problems I’ve had with my Galaxie, but that’s not all there is to it. If that were the case I would have sold it after the first couple weeks.

Before I go any further I need to explain something about myself. I’ve been in twenty-five car accidents. It’s not that I’m a terrible driver. I was only driving in five of those and none of those were very serious. Statistically you’re safer with me behind the wheel than in the passenger seat. That said, I’ve been in cars that were cut in half, cars that flipped over, cars that sunk, and cars that caught fire and exploded. (Yes, cars can explode. I know people tell you that that only happens in the movies, but I’ve got pictures on my Facebook to prove it.) Now given, this history with vehicles, it probably comes as no surprise that in general I don’t like to be in a car. This is where owning the Galaxie means something different than it might to other people.

The 1965 Ford Galaxie is twenty-two feet long. It’s a big steel box and it’s on the road with a bunch of plastic cars with less steel in them than your average Hot Wheels. The bottom line here is that I feel safe in my Galaxie. A hell of a lot safer than I felt in my ’83 Firebird (wrecked when I was 16), my ’83 Mustang (engine died), my ’73 Volkswagen Bus (engine died), my ’89 Convertible Mustang (hit a truck), my ’94 Toyota Camry (hit a Jeep), or even my ’78 Monte Carlo (caught fire and blew up).

In addition to my feeling safe, the Galaxie has the added bonus of having more style than any car made in the last twenty years. Yes, there may be a whole thing where there are Chevy Guys and Ford Guys, but first, you’re Classic Car guy. When I pass another classic car, I wave and they wave back because we know that while we’re both probably getting less than 15 miles per gallon, we’re still recycling, because our car has been used before. And let’s not forget that unlike new cars, my Galaxie doesn’t assume I’m stupid. It doesn’t tell me when I’ve left my keys in the ignition or left my lights on or my door open. It assumes that if I’m bright enough to drive a car, I can figure out when my lights are on and that just maybe I have a reason for them being on. It’s also not going to remind me to put on my seatbelt or when I’m really low on gas. Yes, it has a gas gauge, but it’s not going to beep at me. In fact my Galaxie is incapable of beeping at me for any reason at all.

Having said all of this, I still haven’t gotten to the best part about driving my Galaxie: It is fun to drive. Driving most modern cars is almost like playing a video game. Most modern cars are so air tight you can’t hear the road. You can’t feel the engine. Hell, you could easily be in some bad car simulator.  Whereas when you’re driving a car like the Galaxie, you experience the drive. You can feel the road. You can hear the engine. There aren’t sensors to tell you when something is wrong. YOU are the sensor.

My point here is that while I’m going to talk a lot about all of the problems I’ve had with my car, the only reason I’m talking about them is because I love my car. If it weren’t for that love, it’d just be this machine that needs work all the time. It’s not though. Instead it’s this machine that needs attention from time to time and after giving that attention, it continually rewards me with something more than just a means to get from point A to point B. It rewards me with a good drive.

To Be Continued….

Ford Galaxie Year One (Part Three)

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.

Ford Galaxie Year One (Part Two)

Getting the $1200 together took a bit of doing, but a couple days later I had it. My wife and I drove out across the Narrows Bridge one November night after work and drove out to the seller’s house. The seller and his wife came out. I gave him the cash, which he immediately gave to his wife.  A few minutes later, I had the signed over title, a receipt for the payment, and keys to my 1965 Galaxie. He’d even warmed it up for me.

I started up the car with no problem. He mentioned that there was no gas in it and that the first place I should go is the gas station. Given that we were across the bridge near Port Orchard (which for non-locals is the middle of nowhere), I hoped the car could get to a gas station. I buckled the lap belt and took a look around. This car has some serious room in it. I turned on the stacked headlights and smiled at the dim glow of the dashboard. It ran two thirds of the way across the car and it looked cool as hell. I put the car into gear and followed my wife’s van out onto the road.

Driving a giant classic car like the Galaxie takes a lot of getting used to. You can’t make precision moves with a vehicle like this. As we drove through the night, it was totally clear to me why some people referred to these cars as ‘boats’. I kept looking at the gas gauge. It was on ‘E’ and not moving even a little. I’d never been to this part of the peninsula before. So I wasn’t concerned about nothing looking familiar. I was concerned that there wasn’t a gas station anywhere. I grabbed my cell off the bench seat and called my wife in the van ten feet in front of me. Unfortunately we were so in the middle of nowhere that it wasn’t connecting. I tried a couple more times and got through. She assured me that she knew where we were and where we were going. Five minutes later, we were at the gas station.

I put seventeen gallons of unleaded into the car and told my wife not to worry. She could go on ahead. I got in the car and turned the key. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing. I called my wife and asked if she could turn around. She came back, we hooked up some jumper cables and fifteen minutes later, we were on the road.

It was good to be on the freeway rather than the dark back roads. One of the benefits was I could suddenly see the car. While I was admiring the size and look of the car, I noticed I could see what was in front of me reflected on the hood of the car. The Galaxie had no problem getting to and maintaining freeway speeds. In fact it seemed more comfortable going fast than it did on surface streets.

Modern cars often feel like car simulators in that you feel very detached from the road. With the Galaxie it was very clear that I was driving on a road. It’s not a passive thing that you’re doing to get from point A to point B. It’s an active thing. The low roar of the engine sounded better than any other car I’d ever owned. I could also hear a low whistle like a window was down. I checked the driver’s side window. Shut. I reached over to the passenger side but I couldn’t reach the passenger door from the driver’s seat. This was a big car. I looked at the windows and saw the wing window on the passenger side had part of the rubber missing from it. That’s where the sound was coming from.

We got the car home. I grabbed the jump box and plugged it in. I decided the first thing I’d be buying was a new battery.

To Be Continued Next Week