Monday, November 02, 2015

My 1963-1/2 Ford Galaxie

When I graduated from college in 1963, I didn't buy a car immediately.  I waited until the end of summer, just before I was to start teaching 11th grade English in Corsicana, Texas.  What I wanted to buy was an MGB, but there weren't a lot of MG dealerships in Mexia, Texas, or even in the area.  My family being a Ford family, I figured the next-best thing to an MGB would be one of the Ford Galaxie fastbacks that had come out as a mid-year model (thus the 1/2 tagged onto the year).  You can read more than you'll ever want to know about them here.

I thought the car was a real beauty.  And it even had air-conditioning!  Talk about classy!  The bad news was the beauty is only paint deep.  This car was the biggest lemon I ever owned.

I should have known I was in trouble when I went for the test drive.  The salesman was someone I'd known most of my life.  His wife taught in the elementary school, and his son was one of my brother's great friends.  They lived a block from us.  So at the Ford dealership, I was treated well, not like some kid buying his first brand-new car.  (It was my third car, but the first new one.)  The salesman handed me the keys and told me to take it for a spin.

I drove out of the parking lot and turned the corner onto the street.  That's when the front seat flipped backward and I wound up staring at the roof of the car from the inside.  Somehow I avoided crashing into anything, got the seat sort of upright, and drove back into the parking lot.  The salesman came over and made some joke about the short test drive.  I got out and pushed the seat over.

That gave him a real laugh.  I still remember what he said: "Must've made this one on a Friday."  He looked around the interior of the car and pulled up one of the floor mats in the back.  "Here's the problem," he said, reaching down to pick something up.  He stood up and showed me the screws (or bolts, I don't remember which) that were supposed to hold the seat to the floor.  "We'll get this fixed right up." 

I'd never heard the old adage about never buying a car built on Monday or Friday.  I was naive and in love with the car's looks, so when they got it fixed right up, I drove it for several blocks and made a deal to buy it.  

The troubles didn't begin for a couple of years.  Judy and I drove to Colorado on our honeymoon in the car without a problem.  It was a dry year.  The problems only happened when it rained.  

The first time was the worst.  We were driving back to Denton from Mexia one Sunday, and we drove into a terrible rainstorm.  When we were crossing the bridge over Lake Lewisville between Dallas and Denton, I could hardly see.  And the car died.  The engine just stopped.  I tried to start it.  No dice.  I tried again.  Still no dice.  I didn't want to run the battery down, so there we were, stymied.

This was not a good situation.  The highway was just two lanes in those days, nice and wide, but still no place to be stopped in the middle of a bridge.  There was only one thing to do.  Judy got behind the wheel, and I got out and pushed.  

Those of you who've seen me know that I flunked the Charlie Atlas course, but somehow I pushed the car the rest of the way across the bridge and onto the shoulder of the road, where we were able to park out of the way of the traffic.  I sat behind the wheel, drenched and fuming.  There were no cell phones in those days, and there was no way anybody was going to stop in the rainstorm to see what might be the matter.  I thought we were doomed.

After a while the rain stopped.  I thought I might as well give it one more try.  I turned the key, and the car started right up.  You can imagine my relief.  We drove to Denton and got safely home.  

For a while everything was okay, so I decided that some rainwater had gotten up under my hood but it wasn't doing my motor good (gratuitous Chuck Berry allusion).  Then one day I was in another rainstorm in Denton.  I don't remember where I was going, but I do remember that the car died in the middle of an intersection.  Like the first time, the engine didn't sputter or pause.  One second it was fine, and the next it was dead.

Once again I tried to start the engine with no result.  Once again I stepped out into the rain, and once again I pushed the car.  This time I had to do it by myself, but I got it off to the side of the road without getting killed.  I got back in the car, fumed for a while, then tried to start it.  It started just fine, and I drove home.

 I took the car to the Ford dealership.  They couldn't find anything wrong.  I took it to an independent mechanic.  He couldn't find anything wrong.  Both had suggestions, and both did some work.  I think one of them replaced the distributor cap, or something like that.  

Everything was okay until one day in a rainstorm I had to go somewhere.  I left the apartment and got into the car.  It wouldn't start.  This time I hadn't even been driving.  After the rain stopped, the car started.

I took the car to a third mechanic.  He couldn't find anything wrong.  As I drove away, I said aloud, "As God is my witness, I'll never own another Ford product as long as I live."

When Judy and I traded the Galaxie in on our 1967 Plymouth Fury III, the salesman talked to me after the deal was completed.  He said, "You can tell me now.  Is there anything wrong with that Ford?"

"Check it over," I told him.  "I guarantee you won't find anything wrong with it."

He seemed happy to hear it, but not as happy as I was to leave the car with him, and I've never owned another Ford product since that day.

24 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Great story. I don't blame you.
So you never found out why it was allergic to rain?

Jeff

sandra seamans said...

I had a Ford that did that, but it only happened when I drove through a big puddle of water, killed it every time. My husband called it our dry weather car. He always thought that water splashed up on some wires which basically shorted it out until it dried out.

Todd Mason said...

There was a period in the 1990s when Ford and Honda were putting out decent cars (not in any way superb), and as a result were the only large motor companies not circling the drain. It probably was a question that was raised in the boardrooms of other conglomerates as to why the Ford and Honda management were so foolish as to invest in reliability and competence.

That might also be the only period in which Ford was the least bad choice you could make among major US offers. I drove my Escort (the 1994 good, post-Taurus Escort) wagon till a kid made me centerpunch him by turning left in front of me as I was twenty feet away going about 30MPH. Over 120K on it by then. The insurance company, taking advantage of the BlueBook averages on Escorts, gave me $800 for it and took their sweet time about it. Thank goodness the current government plan puts the healthcare of the nation even more thoroughly in the hands of these benefactors than it was previously, if not much so.

Todd Mason said...

"Never buy a car released halfway through a model year."

Deb said...

In one of the oddest coincidences of the year, this morning a co-worker said, "Never buy a car made on a Monday or a Friday" (a phrase with which I was completely unfamiliar), and then--less than two hours later--I read the same phrase here!

Don Coffin said...

I also owned a 1963 (but not "and 1/2") Galaxie, but mine was 7 years old when I bought it (August 1969). I don't remember everything that went wrong with that car, but I only owned it for about 3 or 4 months before dumping it for a 1962 VW bug, which was older, but better...until the battery shorted out while I was driving it (smoke billowing out from under the back seat)...1969-70 was a very bad year for me and cars...I also decided never to buy a Ford again.

Richard R. said...

I've owned Fords: a 1949 Tudor, a 1956 Customline, a 1993 Explorer. All were solid, dependable, trouble free, drove fine. In between I had a couple of VW bugs, a Toyota Celica, and after the Explorer it's all been Japanese cars: Mazda, Acura, Infinity and Suburu. The cars from Japan have been bullet-proof.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I {heart} Subaru.

I did drive a VW bug for 16 years.

Bill, where was the snow picture taken? In Texas?


FreeLiverFree said...

My Grandfather used to refer to Ford as Fix Or Repair Daily.

Bill Crider said...

Jeff, the picture was taken in Denton, Texas, in the winter of '66. Or possible late '65. My owned Fords (with a rare exception, our beautiful '56 Buick) all their lives.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A car like that is what stopped me from driving. Cars were horrible in the late sixties and early seventies.

Mark Troy said...

My dad had a 1963 1/2 Galaxie 500, hard-top convertible, black exterior, red upholstery. I thought it was a sweet car. It was what I learned to drive on. I don't recall Dad having problems, but when i bought my first new car, a Ford Maverick, it had the same problems you describe. Every time it rained i had to change the distributor cap.I was never so happy to get rid of it.

Bill Crider said...

I'm glad to hear I'm not alone.

Cap'n Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cap'n Bob said...

Ford=Found On the Road Dead.

Daniel Stumpf said...

Love these tales!

I drove a 63 Ford for about a year in college, somewhere between '68 and '70. Time has mercifully blurred the exact dates....

Anonymous said...

My first was a '57 Pontiac Chieftain, white, christened "The Eggmobile". Once owned by my Uncle Tom's father. Gave useful service for a couple years, but persistent fluid leakage of several kinds sent it into early retirement.

Art Scott

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I learned to drive on my father's 1962 Buick Electra 221. That car was a tank. I'd push down a little on the gas and suddenly I was going 60 without ever feeling it. He always had Buicks in those days.

Jeff

August West said...

Bill I love that sweatshirt.

Bill Crider said...

I love it, too. I just about wore it out, but I'll bet I still have it. It gave much better service than that Ford.

Tom Johnson said...

I only owned a couple of Fords. The first was a 1948 coupe that I absolutely loved. I think my second was a 1959 Ford, which was okay. But then I bought a new '69 Ford, which was a lemon. The brake or clutch kept disconnecting. Oh, I owned several Ford pickups, but they're a different animal.

Bill Crider said...

My father had many Ford pickups. And one Dodge. I don't know how that one got in there.

Fred Blosser said...

Our family car my senior year in high school was a '68 Ford Galaxie. Ran pretty well as I recall. Not so the 1978 Ford Fairmont that my wife and I bought ten years later, a real clunker. Our next car, a 1982 Corolla, ran for about 14 sweet years.

Bill Crider said...

I've been a Toyota fan for 25 years now.