(originally posted 7/25/2012) I know some of you are getting a bit tired of hearing about Eugene’s eccentricities. But where else can you order up a genuine Curbside Classic to deliver your pizza? That is, as an alternative to bicycle delivery, which is also on tap. Well, Domino’s does claim to be the Pizza Delivery Experts, and if you call the River Road store and ask for Josh to deliver your Cheesybread and Cinnastix, you’ll have a chance to check out his haulin’ 1971 Galaxie 500. Who knows, for the right price, he might even deliver long distance. Just be generous with your tip, because his beast is lucky to break single digits in the mileage department, especially the way he drives. Which is a slightly milder version of the way I drove 1971 Fords when I was his age.
What is it about these cars that inspire abuse at the hands of teenage boys?
Oh boy, does this car ever wash the memories over me; kinda like having a bucket of cold water tossed in my face. Uh oh; am I revealing my delicate feelings about this lovely Ford too soon? We’ve barely started, and I’m trying so hard to be ‘fair and balanced’ these days. But I speak from a deep-vinyl-immersion experience of these ’71 Fords: I was a car jockey in 1970-1971, and I spent my afternoons after high school driving/abusing them, and loving/hating every minute of it. In fact, when I think about these loathsome cars, what always appears in my mind’s tortured eye is a vile bile-green-on-green one, exactly like this one.
It was the color combination of choice that year, and Towson Ford sold scads of them. Seems like they always went into the hands of a milquetoast older couple, and I’d see them in it heading up to Immaculate Conception every Sunday, their heads barely visible above the headrests. The parking lot there was where these all congregated and commiserated their current dull existence and shared stories of those wild days at the hands of the car jockey before being delivered. It screams everything that seventeen year-old rebellious me hated about Towson in 1970, so it does my heart good to see one living out its last days like this. It’s a fitting punishment for it to be pounded into the ground by a kid hauling a load of hot buffalo wings.
It’s not like the ones I drove got any better treatment: my spite for them and what they stood for induced perpetual full throttle, full brake pedal, and full steering wheel inputs whenever possible; even simultaneously. How else does one learn about the more bizarre aspects of vehicle dynamics and become an accomplished driver? Actually, I was just following Ford’s new car break-in recommendation: “avoid steady state speeds”. I’m on it!
Not that full throttle accomplished all that much anyway, especially in the barely-running state they arrived in. Every new Ford back then was ferried by yours truly to a special bay where a full-time dedicated mechanic gave it a thorough tune up! Well, minus the new parts, that is. And he made sure there weren’t any obviously loose parts ready to fall off at the first pot hole. Although the whole front clip looked like it was going to separate at each bump as it fluttered away. A soft frame and chassis for a soft ride; Ford’s engineering mantra for the seventies.
Which also explains the Bunkie’s Beak on the nose of this car. Knudsen made his career with Pontiac, or vice versa, as the case may be. He ended up at Ford in ’68 when he was passed over for the GM Presidency, and lasted just long enough to graft his version of what was Pontiac’s key to success in the sixties on the front of the ’70 T-Bird and this Ford. Umm, that was almost a decade ago, Bunkie.
Hank II never took a liking to him, and reportedly sent Ford’s vice president for public relations, Ted Mecke, to Knudsen’s home at night to inform him that he would be fired, telling Knudsen that “Henry sent me here to tell you that tomorrow will be a rough day at work.” It led to an inversion of Henry I’s favorite expression “History is bunk” to “Bunkie is history”.
Good riddance. Although Ford in the seventies after Knudsen didn’t amount to all too much either. Iacocca’s legendary innovation in the early sixties turned into legendary imitation, inflation, degradation and stasis. Ford stubbornly kept big cars while GM was investing in downsizing, which finally lead to a big flirt with bankruptcy in 1981. After Henry canned Iacocca in 1980, it was up to a very different sort of guy, Donald Petersen, to clean up and get Ford back on track. And concede that quality really did deserve to be Job #1.
Let’s stop the speculation and get back to hammering throttles. As I was saying, there wasn’t a whole lot of zip in these “Total Performance” Fords, despite the racing efforts. Theoretically, this Galaxie 500’s standard engine was the 240 six and a three-speed column-mounted manual; but I never had the privilege. Sounds intriguing. Most came with the 351. But Josh wants to make sure your pizza arrives piping hot, so his green bomb sports a 400 (6.6L) V8, which was rated at 260 (gross, for the last time) hp.
It had sufficient torque to get the tires piping hot pulling donuts on the far-distant back lot of Towson Ford, out of ear and eye-shot of the office. And it would barrel down (then uncrowded) York Road out to Timonium or the Beltway fast enough, until it ran out of breath or threatened to become airborne. But the real test was the trip to the body shop, which was not an uncommon stopping point before delivery. In 1971, Quality was Ford Job No. 472947658489.
Towson Ford’s body shop wasn’t anywhere near Towson at all, but way down Falls Road, a windy old trail-turned-road that followed the eponymous river. That’s where my hate for these barges really blossomed. It felt like I was trying to plow furrows into the pavement with the rims through those tight curves; give me a Pinto, please! No question about it; the big Fords were the sloppiest handlers of the Really Big Three.
And by far the ugliest, if you hadn’t already picked up on that between the lines. That leaves the question: does the ’71 Ford have any redeeming qualities? No. But if you don’t believe me, call 541-461-9714, and ask for the BigCheesyFord Special, and confirm it for yourself.
Postscript: Obviously this was all just a spoof, as I went on to buy an almost identical 1972 green LTD to prove my true love for these.