Monday, May 30, 2011

1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser

Space Age Design for Earth Travel
Text and Photos by David W. Temple
Tom McCahill could not say in a sentence or two just how different the Turnpike Cruiser was from the previous cars to come from the Mercury Division of Ford Motor Company. His road test report in the January 1957 Mechanix Illustrated devoted significant space trying to describe his reaction to the new ride: “This is a car with no nostalgic qualities and it won’t have any for at least another 25 years. Beyond a question of doubt, the 1957 Mercurys are the most different cars of the year…
In fact, the easiest was to describe this car is to state that it is a totally new automobile going under the name ‘Mercury’… For those who’ve been shouting against the warmed-over hash and crying, ‘Give us something new!’, the answer is simple: This is it – a Space Age design for earth travel.” Evidently, Tom McCahill was impressed with the new Mercury line as were the editors of Motor Life who reported in August 1957 that, “You don’t have spend much time behind the oddly-shaped steering wheel of a Mercury Turnpike Cruiser to learn this is something more than just a distinctively styled car. Equipped with all the pushbutton and power-operated gadgets you could ask for, this middling big car offers plenty of comfort, luxury, and performance in town and on the highway.”
Model year 1957 brought major changes for Mercury. The nearly twenty-year old division of Ford was moved into the upper-medium priced market to compete with cars like Chrysler’s New Yorker, Buick’s Super, and Oldsmobile’s Ninety-Eight, plus the cars were dramatically restyled so they bore no resemblance to anything they marketed in the past. The public liked the new look, but the attempt to compete in a higher market was ill-timed and therefore, not seen as successful, even though Mercury did gain a little market share and their station wagon models sold very well.
This 1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser showcases the flamboyance of the late 1950s with its wild Sunset Orchid and Tuxedo Black "Flo-Tone" paint scheme, anodized gold trim, and a ton of chrome.
In 1955, Francis “Jack” Reith (a member of the group who became collectively known as the “whiz kids” hired after the end of World War II by Henry Ford II) persuaded the executive committee to split the Lincoln-Mercury division and move Mercury up-market for ’57. Reith was then appointed head of the Mercury Division. This same committee had already given the go-ahead for the Edsel, which was set for debut for ’58. This really made the move upward necessary since Edsel was to be marketed above Ford. To help make the point that Mercury had moved up-market, it no longer shared its body with Ford. The decision to not share bodies with Ford gave Mercury more individuality, which of course, was meant to help it compete in the upper-medium priced market.
Another move to place Mercury into this arena was producing a gadget-laden, top-of-the-line model called the Turnpike Cruiser, which was largely based on a one-of-a-kind show car dubbed XM Turnpike Cruiser. The show car foretold the styling direction for Mercury and it looked like its inspiration came from the pages of science fiction. It featured concave, side-channel rear fenders that terminated into canted V-shaped tail lamps; compound curved, wraparound front windshield; three-piece wraparound rear windshield whose center section could be lowered; a flat roof lacking C-pillars; flip-up, transparent plastic roof panels and lots of bright trim. Inside the radical car were instruments clustered in pods, four bucket-like seats and a full-length console. A dual-quad 312 powered the XM Turnpike Cruiser.
The production Turnpike Cruiser was very much like the XM show car version, but lacked the unconventional roof treatment, the individual seating and console, plus had a more conventional, though unique, dashboard. The Lincoln 368 V-8 with a small compression drop provided the power to move the 4,450 pound car. The Turnpike Cruiser debuted in December 1956, in two versions – a two-door hardtop and a four-door hardtop. A convertible was added to the line the following February after negotiations with Indy racing officials resulted in its selection as the pace car for that year’s Indianapolis 500 race. All the Turnpike Cruiser convertibles sold were pace car replicas (although many never had the pace car lettering applied by the dealer).
Among the features of the 1957 Turnpike Cruiser were the 290hp 368 V-8, pushbutton-controlled "Merc-O-Matic" automatic transmission, the optional "Seat-O-Matic" memory seat, and the "Breezeway Ventilation" retractable rear windshield.
Besides the 290hp 368, the Turnpike Cruiser possessed a long list of other standard equipment such as Merc-O-Matic automatic transmission with push-button controls, power steering, power brakes, unique steering wheel, special wheel covers, tachometer, average speed computer clock, “Breezeway Ventilation” (a retractable rear windshield), padded dash, and sun visors, dual exhausts, and “Skylight Dual-Curve” windshield with twin air scoops at the corners. These scoops could be opened and closed via individual levers inside the car. The scoops also housed the horizontally mounted dummy antennas. The steering wheel was flattened on top to, “provide maximum visibility and greater safety,” claimed by Mercury’s sales literature of the day. The “average speed computer clock” reported average speed at any time during a trip – that is, if one wanted to learn how to operate it. If all this did not give comfort, convenience, and entertainment, one could order a number of other interesting options such as a more economical 255hp version of the 368 (optional at lower cost), power windows, air conditioning, “Seat-O-Matic” power seat, and “Multiluber” chassis lubrication system. The Seat-O-Matic was also known as the memory seat. With it, one could dial in a preferred seat position. When the door was opened to exit the parked vehicle, the seat moved back to facilitate the process. Upon reentering the car, one had to merely turn the key to get the seat to return to its previous position. The Multiluber option provided an easy means of lubricating the chassis with a dash-mounted, push-button activated system. No wonder Tom McCahill exclaimed the Turnpike Cruiser was a car with “space age design for earth travel” and Mercury literature boasted that it had “dream car design!”
The Turnpike Cruiser and the move to the upper-medium price market failed. Mercury did gain market share, but not nearly what Francis Reith had forecasted; he was removed as head of the Mercury Division as a result. Rather than take the offer of becoming head of Ford of Canada, Reith resigned from Ford. Bad timing of the move up-market may be mostly to blame for the lower than expected output. An economic recession was beginning to take effect for ’57, and would get worse the following year. As a result, buyers were increasingly interested in economizing at that time. The decision to change the marketing strategy for Mercury was made well ahead of the recession, though. Ironically, Motor Trend later reported the 1957 Monterey hardtop was among the best selling used cars of 1959.
After disappointing sales results, the Turnpike Cruiser was demoted to the Montclair series for 1958, and the Park Lane took the high road for Mercury. With the end of the 1958 model year, the Turnpike Cruiser quietly faded into the history books. The reasons often cited for its disappointing sales performance include poor workmanship and troublesome electrical systems. Whatever the reasons for its demise, road test reports indicated mostly satisfactory results. The writers for Popular Mechanics surveyed Turnpike Cruiser owners and reported in the August 1957 issue that the majority of them gave generally favorable comments about their distinctive automobile. Styling ranked as the most liked feature while handling ease and riding comfort ranked second and third respectively. Not all was viewed as perfect, though. The most frequent complaint was poor gas mileage (anywhere from 10-13 mpg), but poor workmanship and body rattles were also mentioned by 18.8 percent and 18.3 percent of owners, respectively; balancing these discrepancies is the fact that nearly 22 percent found no faults at all. (Worth noting is Mercury’s early factory air conditioning units for ’57 were troublesome.) Interestingly, these are about the same figures obtained for the ’57 Buicks and Oldsmobiles. Apparently, the upscale Turnpike Cruiser was on par with the competition.
Another aspect of competition was racing. Bill Stroppe was in charge of Mercury’s experimental racing division. One of his specially built Mercurys was the “Mermaid.” The car had numerous modifications designed to decrease weight and air resistance of the Monterey from which it was built. During Speedweeks at Daytona, the experimental Mercury ran a best one-way speed of 159 mph with a 154 mph average. Later, the car ran an unofficial speed of nearly 180 mph, but a radiator hose ruptured making the result invalid. 
The owner of the car pictured here at the time it was photographed by the author was Jim Hollingsworth of Dallas, Texas. When these cars were new, Jim would have much preferred the sales performance predicted by Francis Reith. Mr. Hollingsworth was a Mercury dealer in Beeville, Texas from 1955 to 1958. The Tuxedo Black and Sunset Orchid four-door hardtop was advertised in Hemmings Motor News a number of years ago; Jim went to Colorado to buy the car and later performed a partial restoration of it. This one is equipped with air conditioning, Seat-O-Matic, power windows, radio, power antenna, “Flo-Tone” two-tone paint, and the Multiluber. Hollingsworth has also owned another Turnpike Cruiser (a black two-door hardtop), a Monterey convertible, and a Colony Park four-door hardtop station wagon – all ’57 models. As a former Mercury dealer, Jim knows the faults of these cars very well; regardless of their faults, nostalgia is blind and there is no other car that Tom McCahill proclaimed to have “Space Age design for earth travel.”

Monday, May 23, 2011

1962 NASCAR Galaxie 500 Starlift

A Replica Revives the Memory of an Unusual Race

Text by David W. Temple

Photos by

(This article was partially compiled from the author’s book, “Full Size Fords: 1955-1970.”)

No, Ford did not build a Starliner for 1962, but did ostensibly offer a detachable "Starlift" roof for the Sunliner.
 Model year changes for the 1962 full-size Fords went beyond fresh sheet metal, dimensional differences, and mechanical tweaks. One of the several notable changes was the elimination of the Starliner, and with its departure, the sleek roofline. All closed non-wagon models had the T-Bird inspired “box top” roof which soon created a problem for those who were racing Fords on the super-speedways. An unusual solution to the drag-inducing boxy roofline was developed for the racecar drivers, but it lasted for only a very brief time during the model year and resulted in what is said to be the only officially “illegal car” to win a Grand National event.
The Starlift top was a detachable fiberglass roof for the Sunliner, the name for the convertible model. The roof was shaped basically the same as that of the steel-topped Starliner of the preceding two model years. It really was not seriously intended for typical owners of the Sunliner, but in order to qualify for use in NASCAR competition it had to be available to the general public. The idea behind it was simple – aerodynamics. Air flow over the boxy Galaxies became turbulent on the super-speedways where the speed was higher, thus top speed was reduced. To solve the problem, Ford created the Starlift as an option for the Sunliner. It worked well for those who were racing Galaxies, but it was not a great item for the general public as the rear side windows did not fill the opening and there was evidently no filler panel included with the top. NASCAR officials allowed it for just one race then banned it. Ford had a special brochure printed detailing the option and reportedly showrooms of dealerships near major racetracks had Starlift equipped Galaxies. Whether or not any were actually sold to customers is unknown as is whether or not any survived, though some years ago one Sunliner was rumored to exist with the Starlift top.
The year 1962 was not a good one for Ford’s factory-back racing activities. In addition to the engine failures encountered during the early part of the race season, formal roofed Pontiacs were getting 465 hp from their 421 and setting record speeds. Plymouths were downsized and powered with the 413. Chevrolet grafted the 1961 bubble top roof to the Bel Air for 1962 and ran with the 409. The additional horsepower provided by the new 406 was not enough to overcome the drag of the T-Bird roofline. Ford estimated a three mile-per-hour loss in top speed with the box-top Galaxies being raced by Holman & Moody drivers Fred Lorenzen and Nelson Stacy and by Wood Brothers’ driver Marvin Panch as well as independent Larry Frank.
When the three-time weather delayed Atlanta 500 race finally took place in June, Ford had the Starlift-equipped Galaxies ready. Officials with NASCAR, however, had great difficulty making a decision on whether to allow the Starlift-equipped cars to run or not. As explained in the September 1962 issue of Motor Trend, “… NASCAR Chief Inspector Norris Friel declared the slopeback-topped Fords which Lorenzen and Stacy entered ineligible for further competition the day before the race, but allowed them to run the Atlanta event ‘because they had no other cars to drive.’
The actual Starlift raced by Fred Lorenzen is shown here. (Author's collection)
The 385hp version of the 406 powered the '62 NASCAR Fords. This replica has a 390 rebuilt to 406 specs.
This weird turn of events actually began in May, when the Holman and Moody team built two true convertibles for Stacy and Lorenzen to drive in the Rebel 300 rather than cutting the tops off regular sedans, as is the custom at the Darlington convertible race. The strategy was this: Ford had made available a sloping top that could be bolted onto Ford convertibles. The boxy-topped 1962 Galaxie had proved most difficult to handle at high-speed Daytona in February due to the harsh aerodynamic effects which the unstreamlined top produced in 150-mph traffic there. The plan, then, was to run the true convertibles in the Rebel 300 and bolt on the new slopeback tops for the following late-model sedan events.”
With the aid of Photoshop we can see how a regular Sunliner with the Starlift roof would have appeared. (Photo and artwork by the author)
The next event scheduled was the World 600. This plan could not be executed, however, because the required 45-day period between the announcement of a new component such as the Starlift and the race had not been met. Instead, Lorenzen and Stacy ran with sedans built for the USAC dirt track; Stacy won and Lorenzen finished third. The sedans were sent back to the USAC circuit and the convertibles with their Starlift tops in place were rushed to the Atlanta 500. Then Friel declared them illegal until convertible-type X-members which had been removed from the frames were put back in place. The ruling was complicated by the fact that no other “bolt-together” automobile had been run on the Grand National circuit in the past. Without such a precedent in place, the ruling became “hazy” as expressed by the writer for Motor Trend. In Friel’s judgment, the convertibles raced at Darlington were permissible without X-members, but as sedans they had to have them. So the X-members were welded back in place. Then Friel consulted NASCAR’s Bill France about the issue. A decision was made the day before the race. The cars would be allowed to run in the Atlanta 500 race, but until NASCAR was satisfied that the bolt-on tops were “sufficiently available” and proper notice was given of a “new model” Ford, they would be ineligible for future races. Perhaps the rule-makers would have taken the Starlift top more seriously as an option if the quarter windows of the convertible actually filled the opening. The Starlift was not used again in NASCAR, but it helped to give Fred Lorenzen a victory in the sole race in which it was allowed.
Builder/restorer of the Galaxie 500 Starlift, Tom Kitchen, took his car to the "Historic Darlington 2010" show. (Photo by Tome Kitchen via Derik Lattig)
Without quarter windows or filler plates to fit the large opening left by the arcing C-pillar, virtually no one would have wanted the top for their personal car. Those running in the Atlanta 500 had the openings filled with plastic side windows. Obviously the top was really intended for racing purposes rather than as an option for regular Sunliners. Even if the roof had been allowed beyond the one race it would have been for the remainder of the 1962 race season only as this was the final year in which convertibles would be raced.
The car pictured here is a tribute version of the Holman & Moody/Fred Lorenzen Starlift racer. Owner,  
The car was built/restored by Tom Kitchen of Florida and is the only “tribute” car of this model out there and it is street legal!

The interior very closely resembles the design used in NASCAR stock cars of the era.
After building numerous NASCAR “golden era” clones, Tom pondered what could top his last build, a 1957 Ford Grand National Fireball Roberts NASCAR Replica? The car got plenty of press around the world for its attention to detail. Tom finally decided to build the infamous 1962 Ford Holman & Moody team Galaxie “Starlift.” Tom took a 1962 Galaxie 500 convertible, installed a rollbar, aluminum interior, racing seat belts, and Stewart Warner gauges.
As for the top, there are few if any survivors of the fiberglass tops used on the real Starlift, so Tom found a junked ‘61 Starliner, cut its top off and installed it on his replica.
Under the hood, Tom had a Ford 390 bored out to the specifications of a 406, installed a 427 cam, and tweaked the car’s four-speed transmission.

This Starlift replica made its Texas debut at the Lone Star Roundup in Austin, Texas earlier this year. Note the simulated "wheel rubs" on the side of the car. "Tradin' Paint" goes way back!
On the outside, Tom had the proper lettering painted in place, covered the front lights, placed exhaust ports on the side, and even created “wheel rubs” on the side.
The final result was a car that fools nearly 99 percent of the Ford folks who think it is a real ex-NASCAR racer. Although that was not his intent, it shows his attention to detail.
Tom took the car to “Historic Darlington 2010” and while it did not compete in class racing, Tom did open it up on track making numerous laps at well over 100mph.
Texan, Derik Lattig, bought the car and took the fuel cell out and had a gas tank installed so it could be driven to rallies and to car shows. Lattig also had glass packs installed as Tom sold the car “NASCAR ready” and it was loud. (The glass packs can easily be unhooked for that true NASCAR sound.) Additionally, Lattig had a prop maker for the movie “Star Wars” recreate the pushbutton, toggle switch starter control panel used by NASCAR at the time. To make his Starlift street legal, lights were installed on the inside of the grill.
The car made its Texas debut at the Lone Star Round-Up show in Austin, Texas recently and was a crowd favorite. Many pictures were taken of the car, and some told Lattig they had seen “that car raced back in the day.”

Special thanks go to Derik Lattig for his contributions to this story.
This story was partially compiled from the author’s book, Full-Size Fords: 1955-1970, available here:

Monday, May 16, 2011

1967 Ford Galaxie 500 - A Family Heirloom

1967 Ford Galaxie 500
Photography and text by David W. Temple

The Galaxie nameplate is renowned with Ford enthusiasts. It first appeared at Ford with the creation of a show car dubbed LaGalaxie. (Note the French spelling. Galaxie, in this case, means a collection of brilliant persons or ideas.) Its far-out appearance did not contribute much to the styling of production Fords, but its name made its way onto Ford’s top-of-the-line model in ‘59. It supplanted the Fairlane 500 in the hierarchy about a month after the introduction of the other Fords that model year.
By 1962, the Galaxie became the Galaxie 500; the numerical addition to the name reportedly was to influence the public to more closely associate the car with the 500-mile super-speedways of NASCAR. At the midpoint of the year, the Galaxie 500/XL (supposedly meaning “eXtra Lively”) was added to the line. The sportier model was distinguished with a V-8, bucket seats, and console as standard equipment. During the ‘60s, the Ford Motor Company began a campaign they called “Total Performance.” Winning races on the banked ovals or the drag strips was good advertising because it helped sell the cars. Even if the car that won on Sunday afternoon was powered by a 427 with 500+ horsepower, many customers were happy to have a car with a 289 or 352 because it resembled the one that won the big race. Ford Motor Company put a lot effort into winning and it showed. They did especially well in ‘64 and ‘65, with their NASCAR drivers such as Fred Lorenzen, Marvin Paunch, A. J. Foyt, and Ned Jarrett often taking the checkered flag. Ford’s had success in NHRA competition, too. For example, Bill Hoefer took Junior Stock Eliminator class honors with a light weight ‘65 Galaxie powered by a high-performance 289. The Mopars dominated in USAC competition, however. For ‘66, Ford wanted to pull out all the stops by competing with their monstrous SOHC (single overhead cammer) 427 that produced well over 600 horsepower. NASCAR would not legalize it, however, and Ford dropped out of competition in protest at the mid-point of the season.
Around this time, some independents started competing with the lighter Fairlanes and did well, so Ford officials decided the SOHC was not needed for NASCAR and returned with Fairlanes for their racing teams. The big cars had finally been overtaken by the intermediates and those would carry the performance banner for Ford into 1970, at which time Ford terminated their support for racing programs.
The 1967 Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop featured a sleeker looking roofline than the prior model year's counterpart.
The ‘67 full-size cars actually began with the introduction of the practically all new 1965s because succeeding year models through 1968 were based on this design although major sheet metal updates each year kept the big Fords looking fresh. Ford’s full-size bodies sat atop an all new perimeter frame with coil springs supporting the load front and rear. The 1965 full-size Fords were almost as different from their predecessors as the 1949 Ford was from the ‘48, and were said to be “new from road to roof.” About the only major components carried over were the V-8 engines. Homer LaGassey who came to Ford Motor Company from GM in ’55 was one of the stylists involved in the design of the full-sized 1965-68 Fords. When interviewed for this story, he expressed the opinion that people who bought these cars got a “very good family car” and that Ford “got its monies worth out of the tooling” needed to build them since so many were assembled over the span of years they were offered. He noted that the long wheelbase allowed “us to take the boxy look out of it” in reference to the two-door hardtop’s sweeping roofline. One other important change that year was the addition to the lineup of the luxury oriented Galaxie 500/LTD. For model year 1967, XL was separated from the Galaxie 500 series – it simply became the Ford XL. The same had happened with the LTD the previous year. The big Fords became a bit more rounded for ’67 after a couple of model years with crisp, squared styling. The hood, grille, and bumper came to a point which broke from the previous ’65s and ’66s which featured flat designs. Rooflines of two-door hardtops were sleeker which, along with the rounded lines and pointed front end, followed the design trend of GM, or more specifically, Chevrolet, Ford’s long-time archrival.
Even though the Fairlanes and Mustangs were more appropriate for the sporting types, the full-size cars maintained a dose of sporty allure. The ‘67 two-door hardtop and convertible body styles retained the bucket seat and console equipped, V-8 powered XL model in the line-up. Furthermore, the big Fords could still be ordered with one of the 427s offered – a single 4-bbl. version rated at 410hp, or a dual quad type that delivered 425hp. If that was not enough power to satisfy the buyer, Ford still offered the SOHC version of the 427 through the parts department. This monster was rated at 616hp with the four-barrel carb and 657hp with the dual quads; either way the SOHC was extremely expensive and absolutely unsuitable for routine driving.
Also available was one of two 428s – one with 345hp and the other a police interceptor with 360hp. That is a lot of horsepower, but the main purpose of the 428 was to run the accessories like power steering and air conditioning while providing plenty of low-end torque, thus for serious performance one had to select the 427; few buyers did. The standard engine for the full-size line (except for the LTD and XL which came standard with a 289) was the 150hp 240 cubic inch Big Six, however, most ‘67 Galaxie 500s came with an extra-cost V-8 which was typically a 289 or a 390 2-bbl.
390 2-bbl. V-8
For 1967, there were essentially two versions of the 390. One was fed fuel with a two venturi carb and the other with a four. However, 390 2-bbl. engines received codes of Y or H depending on whether a manual or automatic transmission was bolted to it. This engine was officially rated at 270hp (though some sources show 265hp with the manual transmission and 275 with the automatic).The Z-code 390 was topped with a four-barrel, had a higher compression ratio, and got dual exhausts; these features upped the output to 315. As for transmissions, Ford offered a variety of them – three-speed column shift, four-on-the-floor, plus the automatics C4, C6, FX, MX, and XPL. The type installed depended upon such factors as engine selection and whether a trailer towing package was ordered.
Center seat belt was a dealer-installed accessory; deluxe seat belts were optional.
Headrests were a dealer-installed accessory. An 8-track stereo (mounted under center dash) was an option.
The March 1967 issue of Motor Trend provided interested readers with the results of a comparison test of the Galaxie 500, Impala Super Sport, and Plymouth Sport Fury. In terms of handling and roadability, the Ford impressed the MT evaluators the most “due to its quietness more than its handling characteristics.”  They elaborated that, “With windows closed, the Galaxie interior is almost completely sealed from all road noises and those of passing cars. It didn’t handle the best of the three, but we could learn to live with this a lot easier than leaking window seals and noises emanating from mechanical parts.” They also noted that the Galaxie 500 is “ equal performer to Chevy and Plymouth in all but the most severe cornering and rebound conditions – an area where most Galaxie owners won’t research.” The Motor Trend report indicated the three cars were very similar in all areas.
Standard features on the quiet riding Galaxie 500 two- and four-door hardtops, convertible, and four-door sedan included a choice of 15 monotone paint colors, five interior colors for the combination vinyl and cloth upholstery (all vinyl on convertibles), in-line six cylinder coupled to a three-speed column-shifted manual transmission, two-speed electric windshield wipers, heater, bright lower body and wheel well moldings, carpeting, and illuminated ash tray, glove box, and trunk. Optional features included the aforementioned engines and transmissions, wheel covers, extra body side molding or pin stripping, rear bumper guards, choice of radios including AM, AM/FM, and AM/8-track stereo, power steering, power brakes (all drum or front discs), power windows, electric clock, tinted windshield or tinted glass, air conditioning, two-tone paint (except convertible), all vinyl upholstery (standard on convertible), plus a large variety of dealer installed accessories such as headrests, litter basket, compass, etc. Numerous special equipment groups were comprised of various combinations of these options, too.
One of the ways FoMoCo promoted its new 1967 full-sized cars was with a couple of show cars christened XL Interceptor and Magic Cruiser II. The XL Interceptor had abundant modifications such as magnesium wheels, special tires textured appliqu├ęs on the lower bodysides, floating design taillights, reflector slots in the quarters, a modified grille, and plastic lens covers over the headlights. A 428 resided under the hood of the light blue Murano Pearl show vehicle. The Magic Cruiser II (built by George Barris) was, as Ford described it, a "super fastback” that could be turned into a station wagon when the fastback section of the roof and two special window-side panels were electrically raised. The two unique cars were shown nationally at various events that year such as the Chicago Auto Show.
The author posed (evidently reluctantly) with his dad's new Ford.
The most popular model in Ford’s line-up for ‘67 was the Galaxie 500 two-door hardtop – an example of which is illustrated here. It was purchased new by my dad during the early summer of that year. He evidently had a preference for Fords in the ‘60s; his first new one was a Tuscan Yellow ‘62 Galaxie 500 four-door sedan which was replaced about two years later by a Pagoda Green ‘64 two-door hardtop. Others followed in ‘65 and ‘66. During ‘67, mom and dad were ready for another new Ford. A Pebble Beige two-door example with the 289 had gotten my dad’s interest. However, my mom had her eyes focused on a Candyapple Red car with a black vinyl top. She probably did not notice the 390 emblem on the fender nor the window sticker, but my dad did. He was practical and did not want to pay the extra cost added by the 390 ($78.25) and vinyl top ($74.36). Mom was less frugal; she wanted the red and black car which is what she got. As I said, dad was practical!
Mom drove me to school in it until I was old enough to drive myself; at that point I got my own car. However, the Ford became my daily driver in August 1983, when it had just less than 50,000 miles on it. The Ford served my transportation needs until May 1995, and nearly 94,000 miles later when another vehicle assumed that duty. During those dozen years, the car was repainted, the radiator was recored, the transmission rebuilt, the compressor, carpets front and rear, and vinyl top were replaced, the front seat cushion was reupholstered, the bumpers replated, the suspension rebuilt, dual aluminized exhausts were added, plus several more factory options and accessories (AM/FM, reverb, power antenna, head rests, etc.) were installed.
The vinyl top which was replaced in 1989, decayed enough over the succeeding years to allow water to collect underneath; as a consequence severe rust infected the entire roof panel. (At the time the vinyl top was replaced, the steel underneath was flawless.) The vinyl hid the growing severity of the rust; upon removing it, though, the ugly truth was revealed. A roof transplant was mandatory to save the old Ford. Also, the 390 was very tired at just over 143,000 miles (with much of the mileage consisting of in-town driving during the first 20 years of operation) and the paint was bad again. Even the AM/FM radio was not working well. About the only consolation in all of this was that at least the old Ford did not require a total, body-off-frame restoration and locating a donor car would be an easy task.
The rusted roof panel had to be replaced.
The restoration of the body spanned about one year.
A local shop, R&R Restoration, handled the body work which was obviously a bit different than usual; after all, quarters, rockers, and floor pans are the panels commonly infected with rust and cutting off roof panels is generally associated with customizing (chop-tops). Once the replacement roof panel was attached, the idea of another vinyl top being applied was rejected. Besides, the lines of the car appeared to me to be much smoother without the vinyl covering and the chrome divider trim. Code “T” Candyapple Red paint in clear coat/base coat brought new radiance to the formerly dull, weathered body.
All 1967 Galaxie 500s were equipped with this trunk ornament.
The 390 rebuild was handled by another shop. The block was bored .040 in. oversize which resulted in the displacement increasing to 397 cubic inches. A new cam and rocker arm assemblies along with hardened valves and valve seats helped put new life into the engine – or so it seemed. For reasons unknown, the block had cracked badly in a water jacket area. It was welded by shop personnel without my knowledge. Unfortunately, when the engine was reinstalled and started for the first time it began leaking coolant profusely. Another block had to be located and was bored to fit the new pistons. The C6 transmission was also rebuilt. Replacement of the rear wheel bearings and seals renewed the 9-inch rear end.
Today, the 40-year old Galaxie 500 is in a state of semi-retirement with occasional outings adding about 1,500 miles per year to the odometer. There were 197,388 of these two-door hardtops built for ‘67, but in my opinion this car is one-of-a-kind because it is a family heirloom.
For more on full-size Fords purchase my book, "Full-Size Fords: 1955-1970," published by CarTech. It can be found here: