I had been sitting on these pictures of this ’68 Galaxie 500 convertible since this past Memorial Day weekend, unsure of what exactly I wanted to say about it. It’s an impressive car and was in beautiful shape, but it wasn’t until a recent trip to the local thrift store that I found my inspiration. Browsing the two-for-a-dollar CD section at Green Element Resale, I stumbled across a handful of great finds, including The Best Of War…And More. Thankfully, there was also a selection of plastic CD racks for sale among the donated merchandise, the occasional purchase of which helps me keep things organized, 1990s-style. I’m old school.
I was never really into the band War before, even though I love lots of music from the ’70s, and across many genres. I was familiar with and liked some of their songs, a few of which have been included on some compilation albums I had picked up over the years. What appeals to me most about this band is their multi-ethnic, laid back, inclusive aura, which speaks to me, personally. Even with just some of their most familiar songs (“Cisco Kid”, “Low Rider”, “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” to name a few), I could understand their broad appeal across many audiences. It’s impossible to give their music one label. It’s not rock. It’s not R&B. It’s not just Latin-influenced. It’s all and none of those things, and all the more unique and special for it.
It wasn’t until I had purchased the second volume of the soundtrack to the movie 54 from ’98 (also from the same thrift store) that I come to appreciate War’s “Galaxy” from ’77. It’s an uptempo number that’s the closest thing to disco I’ve heard from this band. It was also their last song to make the top forty of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, peaking at number 39. It was a bigger success on what was then called the Hot Soul Singles chart, rounding out the top five, and even on the UK singles chart, where it reached No. 14. This band ain’t cerebral, but that’s part of why I like them. It’s the lyrics of “Galaxy” for me:
Take me to your place in spaceI’m sick and tired of the rat race On rocket ship no time to wait I just want to gravitate
To see this ’68 Galaxie 500
rocket ship convertible parked at the curb with its top down and shiny, black paint, chrome trim, and custom wheels gleaming in the sun was a gasp-inducing moment. It may sound cliché to say that something took one’s breath away, but this car did exactly that to me. Any full-sized convertible would have presence (this car is 213.3 inches long on a 119″ wheelbase, and 78″ wide), but somehow in Raven Black, it seemed to have even more gravitas than if it was in some other, more cheery or subdued color.
What I like about full-size Fords from the ’60s is that they have space program imagery built right into their stylistic details, with taillamps that resembled afterburners whether they were perfectly round or oblong-shaped, and little dingbat and star motifs often sprinkled into the mix. The taillamps on this ’68, combined with the dual exhaust tips protruding under the rear bumper, do really make this car look like it’s hurtling through space toward another galaxy. The panel between the taillamps also resembles some sort of exhaust grille.
About its name, “Galaxie” had always seemed like one of those deliberate, gotta-be-different misspellings that were so popular for consumer products and chemical compounds from around that time period. I was today years old (that is, on the day if this writing) when I learned that there had been a Ford “La Galaxie” show car from ’58 that had preceded the introduction of the actual Galaxie by one year. The La Galaxie was not at all predictive of the ’59 production car, but I was satisfied to know that this was where the model name came from. “Galaxie” is, of course, the French spelling of the word. What was it with companies adding French articles to the names of their cars? The “Le” in “LeSabre” held on all the way through swan-song 2005. Let’s also not forget the Dodge “La Femme” from ’55 and ’56. I’m glad the article was left off the Galaxie.
Sixty-eight marked a return from stacked headlights, introduced for ’65, to a more traditional, horizontal placement. I do like the look of some cars with vertical headlamp placement, even if it’s not my favorite. The big Fords of the ’60s wore that fad reasonably well, even if it instantly dates this car as being a product of its time period. However, the front of the ’68 looks like a homework assignment that was completed at 11:30 PM the night before it was due.
The headlights on the ’68 remind me of those googly eyes that get glued onto the faces of puppets, with those little black dots inside that move about. There’s a little bit of scoopy sculpture to the grille, and the raised power dome of the hood adds some dimension, but aside from those elements, its just looks like generic “car” and as anodyne as can be. I find nothing wrong with its muscular, purposeful side sculpting, modest hips, and detailed rear panel.
Ford built over 1,753,000 cars for ’68, of which 867,300 (almost exactly half) were full-sized, between the entry-level Custom, Galaxie 500, LTD, and wagons which included the Ranch Wagon, Country Sedan, and Country Squire. About 395,400 of the full-sizers (46%) were Galaxie 500s, and of those, just 11,800 or so were non-XL convertibles, with the ultimate XL soft-top selling just under 6,100 units.
There were just two permutations of full-size Ford that year that sold fewer copies than our featured car: the XL convertible, and the Custom 500 two-door sedan, with 9,000 units. Of Ford’s full-sized soft-top competition, only about 24,700 ’68 Chevy Impalas and only 7,000 Plymouth Furys were sold, which reflects the general trend away from convertibles by the late ’60s.
Getting back to War and what is one of their best-known songs, “Low Rider” from ’75, I can’t recall ever having seen any ’68 Galaxie made into such a vehicle, though I know I’ve seen many ’68 Impalas with this treatment, even if I can’t tell you where or when. Even conducting a quick internet search for ’68 “low rider” editions of both cars, I could find only a handful of (and I mean a few) Galaxies versus a bucket-load of Impalas. Why is this? Aside from its slightly generic front end, I think the ’68 Galaxie gives up nothing in terms of style to the Impala and is every bit as worthy of mild customization.
As for this gleaming black example,
It’s out of sight, it’s out of sightIt’s out of sight, it’s out of sight Gone, it’s gone
…And gone, it was, just like this summer.
Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Memorial Day weekend.
“Galaxy” Songwriters: Charles Miller / Gerald Goldstein / Harold Brown / Howard Scott / Lee Levitin / Lonnie Jordan / Morris Dickerson / Thomas Allen