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

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Ford Galaxie Year One (Part One)

It began with the idea that rather than spending $1,000 for some ten year old Toyota Camry, I would buy a classic car instead. I’ve had a thing for classic cars ever since my friend, Gabe got a 1966 Impala. Before that, cars were just a way to get around. The Impala, though, this wasn’t a car. It was a ride. And it was gigantic. It had bench seats instead of seats and seatbelts that felt like you were strapping yourself into a fighter jet. It didn’t have airbags. It didn’t have crumple zones. It was a big piece of American Steel with a lot of power and more room in the trunk than most closets.

Shortly after Gabe got his Impala, I started looking at classic cars trying to find the one I wanted. Then I saw the movie Wonder Boys. The car driven by Michael Douglas in that movie is a 1966 Maroon Ford Galaxie 500 Convertible. For whatever reason, I liked this car.

So I started at Ford Galaxies. From 1959 to 1964, Galaxies looked too much like Thunderbirds for my taste. And there was something about the tail lights of the 1966 that I just didn’t like. After 1966, Galaxies tended to get bigger and uglier.  But the 1965 Galaxie was beautiful. It was the first year that they did a significant redesign of the Galaxie and its stacked double headlights and chrome grill just worked for me for whatever reason. Sometime around the year 2001 or so, I told my friend Gabe that I would be getting a 1965 Ford Galaxie.

It wasn’t until November of 2008 that I finally realized my dream of owning a ’65 Galaxie. I was in need of a car and had around $1,000 to spend on one. I looked online and found a guy selling a 1965 four door Ford Galaxie for $1,200. Despite my interest in classic cars, I had no mechanical ability so I called up my brother, a tow truck driver and asked if he wanted to go across the bridge with me past Gig Harbor, to this guy’s house to check out his car.

We drove out there one night, down a long dead end road, to a guy’s house where he had half a dozen classic cars in and around his garage. We introduced ourselves and he opened a garage door. The Galaxie looked like it was a white or light gray. (Actually it was light blue, but the light just made it look that way.) I took a couple pictures.

1965_Ford_Galixie

As my brother and I walked around it we could see that there were a handful of dents and areas where there was a bit of rust. While we were checking it out, the guy told us how his wife used to drive it and that before that he drove it across the country to New Jersey and back a few times to visit relatives. He told us how the original 352 engine had died so he’d pulled that out and put in a two barrel 390. This meant something to my brother, but for me, at the time I had no idea what the difference was except that I was pretty sure a higher number was better.

I opened the driver’s side door and looked inside. Bench seats. I cannot stress enough how much I love bench seats. There were a couple of small rips in the front seat, but nothing too bad. The rug on the floor of the car was a bit worn. The front third of the headliner was missing entirely and there was a fair amount of surface rust on the exposed metal roof interior. He told us how the seats were actually out of a 1968 Galaxie because the original seats and headliner had been almost destroyed by his son’s dog during the time that his son had the car.

He opened the hood and we started it up. It just took a couple of pumps of the gas pedal to start. It was quiet. Not nearly as loud as Gabe’s Impala. Still, it sounded nice. It sounded like a real engine, rather the buzzing sound of most modern cars. And looking at the engine, it made sense. It looked like something I could understand if I put my mind to it.

I asked if we could take it for a test drive and the guy said, of course. I decided to let my brother drive because I didn’t know what to listen for. I shut the hood and got in the passenger seat. I looked behind me as we backed out and it seemed like there was a football field between me and the back window. This car was gigantic. We pulled out of the driveway and headed down the dead end street. The ride was smooth. I asked my brother what he thought of the car.

He said, “If you don’t buy this car, I’m going to.”

To Be Continued…