COAL: 1962 Ford Galaxie – The Brighter Day

Yes, the title is correct.  While I had the 1963 Galaxie for a very long time, there was an interloper in there for about ten years, with this pair stored next to each other in my parent’s pole barn.  So how did all of this come about?

I am glad you asked.

Flash your mind back to August 1988.  That was when the Iran-Iraq War ceased, the 8888 Uprising in Burma (now Myanmar) took place, and an air show at Ramstein Air Base in Germany ended with the collision of three Italian jets.

That’s been a while, hasn’t it?

This is now across from the old Homestead store, being glimmers of East St. Louis

In my little slice of the world, summer was winding down and I was about to begin my junior year of high school.  Somehow I had heard about an auction in East Cape Girardeau, Illinois, at the former Homestead store, a recently closed business in which one could have bought anything from barbed wire to cattle castrators to sticks of bologna.  It was a wonderful establishment.  Amongst all the assorted, non-automotive junk that was an offer, they did have an assortment of rather decent looking and sounding cars.

I can remember (most of) them vividly.  There were a few others now lost in my memory banks.

There was a yellow 1974 Corvette which had had a 1960s vintage Chevrolet 327 V8 transplanted between the front fenders.

Two Corvairs were being sold.  One was a sedan with an automatic, the other was a turbo-charged coupe with a four-speed.  Both were fascinating as I had never seen a Corvair up close before.

Ford Motor Company had representation with a fantastic looking 1966 Lincoln Continental.  I was in awe of it having a 462 cubic inch V8 – that sounded like just the ticket for Jason.

Parked next to the Lincoln was a red on red 1962 Ford Galaxie.  And I am not leaving out the 500 part – in 1962, the base Galaxie was just Galaxie.  A 500 meant a distinct step up the trim ladder.

Despite there being a 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 parked in the pole barn at home, it wasn’t ready to roll.  All of these auction cars were.

Here’s how I remember things going down.  My father, in one of his few moments of weakness in both resolve and financial considerations, was actually looking at the cars.  Whoa, that was a surprise.  It was time to take advantage of the situation and make this an even brighter day.

I knew talking up the Corvette would have been a fool’s errand, so I starting extolling the virtues of Lincoln, and how it was what a luxury car should be.  Perhaps he was interested in the Lincoln, but damned if he didn’t start to bid on the Galaxie.  He purchased it for $500.

Was it a deal?  Likely so.  The car was profoundly solid, with no rattles or squeaks anywhere.  The ’63 was tight, but the ’62 seemed like a bank vault in comparison.  It had around 65,000 miles showing on the odometer.  While we knew no history of the car, it did have city stickers from Portageville, Missouri, on the windshield.

The downside to me was it having a regular three-speed on the column.  No overdrive here.  Nor was there any power steering, power brakes, or outside mirrors.  I even found the radio delete plate in the glovebox, but it did have the optional reverse lights.  So this purchase netted us two weirdly equipped Galaxies.

Under the hood was an engine of unknown displacement, but I knew it likely wasn’t a 352 due to the prominent exhaust manifolds and dual bolts on the valve covers.  A little sleuthing that night revealed it to have a 292 V8.

The 292 was the only weak spot with the car.  It had distinct tappet noise, especially when cold.  Fortunately most of that went away after we started driving it more.

An immediate, yet short term, downside was my mother.  She was indifferent about having another car on the place, but she was not thrilled about having to take my father and I back to East Cape to fetch my dad’s car (we had driven the Galaxie back).  However, this stems from her having had a hysterectomy about ten days prior.  As I made the mistake kind-hearted move of riding back with her, I got to hear about this being her first time driving since her surgery and how it was not pleasant.

In another of my unappreciated statements, I disclosed my offer to drive one of the cars back to prevent her having to do this, but dad had vetoed the idea.  He said something about having no driver’s license.  Whatever.  Law enforcement was a concept infinitely more than a reality where I grew up, so I don’t know what his hesitation was about.

So the Galaxie took up residence in the pole barn.  I drove it some, although that 292 was a bear to start when cold.  During one of my times trying to get it started, I enlisted my sister to spray some starting fluid down the carburetor as I was cranking the engine.  My father and I had done similarly before.

It worked way too well that time.  However, knowing my sister as I do, she likely shot half the volume of the can down the carburetor.  When that old 292 lit, there was a loud “FWOPP!” sound with the car now having much less exhaust sound muffled.  Getting out, we had somehow managed to rip a split down the entire length of the muffler.

Oh well.  It was running.

Other than a fuel pump, that old Galaxie needed nothing.  For a while, it was driven much more than the ’63, with this being the only old car both my mother and sister drove at some point.  That Galaxie was a joy to drive.  While the 292 was no powerhouse, it had a surprising amount of low-end torque.

The red Galaxie stuck around until March 1998, being driven little to none after about 1992.  Knowing the car was not benefitting from sitting around, I placed an ad online so it could find a new home.  After a few weeks, a gentleman called about the ’62 but really sought a ’63.  I told him luck was on his side, as I had one of each.  We agreed to meet at my parent’s place (I was four hours away in Jefferson City, Missouri, by this time) and he could pick whichever one he wanted.

When he got there, he chose the ’62 Galaxie.  It was a more base model car, working better with his plans.

My father got out his old Ford tractor and we loaded the red Galaxie onto the trailer hooked to the buyer’s Chevrolet Suburban.  The buyer then went back to his home in Hayfield, Minnesota.

About six weeks later, he sent me a short note with some pictures, this being one of them.  The Galaxie had received an engine transplant upgrading to, if I remember correctly, a 429 V8.  As can be seen, it had been painted black and white, with stickers on the door saying “Mayberry Sheriff”.

While this fate may not be everyone’s thing, to me it said the car was going to be used.  That was the hope all along.  Something tells me it is still around somewhere.

(Note:  The Brighter Day aired on CBS from January 4, 1954, until September 28, 1962.)