Curbside Classic: 1964 Ford Country Sedan – Just As Good Without the Wood

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Some cars invite controversy the moment you mention them.  Vega anyone?  Others seem to almost blend into history.  You know it’s there, but there isn’t really much to say about it.  The 1964 Ford seems to be one of these.

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Is there anything really special about the 1964 Ford?  The 1960 model that began the run of this generation had controversial styling and its rushed development led to lingering quality problems.  The 1963 model may have been the best looking of the decade (certainly the first half of it) and had “Total Performance” written all over its sharply creased lines.  The 1965 model was the first all-new Ford in years, and with the introduction of the LTD, it went on to dominate the “popular luxury” category.  The ’64?  Hmmmmmm.  Could we say that this was the last in a long line of incremental changes going back to the 1949 model?  If we were to break the Ford Motor Company down into two eras, the ’64 might represent the end of the first one, while the quiet riding ’65 would be the start of the second, which continues to today.

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Whatever there might or might not be to say about this car, it is one of my favorite Fords of the 1960s.  My Uncle Bob worked for General Motors back then, and their white ’61 Dynamic 88 bubbletop fit right into my extended family’s tendency towards GM cars.  But the Olds eventually succumbed to “Roto Hydra Matic disease”, and another set of wheels was necessary.  Then, I recall being told that my Aunt and Uncle had bought a Ford.  It was a late model used ’64 Galaxie 500 four door hardtop in the exact color combo of this wagon.

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Ford-loving young me instantly became smitten with that maroon Galaxie.  I spent hours playing in it, and can still recall being on intimate terms with so many of its little details.  Like the way the chrome rubbed off the radio buttons to reveal the grayish plastic underneath, or how the back door windows had an unusual way of lowering in order to get all the way down into the doors.  I also learned how every one of these had to be started:  left arm up over the steering wheel to pull the shift lever all the way up into Park, right hand turning the key, while the right foot steadily pumps the accelerator.  And that starter that kind of sounded like a baying hound with a nice vibrato.

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That car lasted into the mid 1970s, with multiple cousins doing what teenaged boys will do with an old car.  The poor thing just took the abuse, like a big lazy old dog.  It eventually got pretty ragged and got put out to pasture.  Living its life in Salt Central USA certainly didn’t help it.  However, the old thing probably stood up to what got dished its way about as well as anything could have.  What I took from my experience with that ’64 Galaxie was that it may not have been the smoothest or quietest or the nicest driving or best looking thing out there, but it may have been one of the toughest.

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I guess Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor knew what he was doing.

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You now know why I was so easily distracted when I found this Country Sedan last summer.  My family and I took a few days and went to the beach in St. Joe, Michigan.  As the rest of the family trekked out onto the sand our first evening there, I took a detour when I saw this old wagon in the exact color combination as Uncle Bob’s car.

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For those of you of a certain age, I’ll bet that if you close your eyes and I shout out “’64 Ford”, one of the Galaxies will come into your mind’s eye, and it will be in a particular color.  If someone does that for me, it will be a Vintage Burgundy Galaxie 500 four door hardtop.  So, in my little world, a ’64 Ford is properly painted only one color, and this is it.

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You know that I am a sucker for a station wagon, but on the with/without wood question, I go both ways.  The wood treatment on the ’64 Country Squire very cleverly mimicked the chrome trim on the front half of the un-splintered models, so a ’64 Squire is a winner in my book.  However, the burgundy paint that shows off the gentle sculpting on this car without the distraction of the Di-Noc makes for an attractive package as well.

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The only rap on this car is that Ford gave the Country Sedan a slightly down-market interior compared to its more expensive wooden brother.

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Looking at these pictures again, it strikes me how graceful the lines are on Ford wagons of the early 1960s.  The big Ford passenger cars may not have sold nearly as well as their Chevrolet counterparts, but the wagons closed the gap a bit.

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One look at the boxy ’64 Chevy version of this car, and the Ford looks all the more fluid and sleek.  But then again, I am a prisoner of my history, because Uncle Bob didn’t drive no ’64 Chevy.

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Some of you purists out there may gripe about the owner’s choice of wheels, but I like these a lot.  Besides, he probably had no choice after all of the original Ford wheelcovers flew off into the weeds, which almost all of them eventually did.   I would more likely complain about the petite little 289 that is probably under the hood.  One of these with a Thunderbird 390 would be much more to my liking.

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I have concluded that this is almost the perfect car to be seen in at the beach.  Maybe a guy should have two – a nice one like today’s subject car and another that is a little more tired for taking out onto the sand.

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Really, I can think of only one question – with the wood or without?  A tough question.  Some days I like my coffee with cream, other days I take it black.  Today I think I’ll take my ’64 Ford wagon plain.

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I know that in real life, this wagon was probably the Kia Sedona of its day – or maybe a Grand Caravan.  There were plenty of more luxurious wagons out there to buy, and this was a pretty ordinary car – an appliance, really.  But all these years later, it is much easier to see what a visual delight these really were.  Really, as a wagon, I can’t find a bad or awkward line anywhere on it.  And an attractive car that has the durability of an F-150 turns out to be a pretty attractive package.  Even though he didn’t get the wagon, I think I see what was going through my Uncle Bob’s mind all those years ago.

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Further Reading:

1964 Ford Galaxie 500 by Tom Klockau

1964 Chevrolet Bel Air wagon by Paul Niedermeyer