Curbside Classic: 1962 Ford Galaxie 500 Town Victoria – A Favorite Of Mine; My Grandfather Too

(first posted 4/22/2013)     Ford got off to a bit of a rocky start at the dawn of the Sixties. While the understated 1959 Galaxie was a big success against the wild, crazy and wonderful 1959 GM lineup, the 1960 Ford was perhaps a bit too much of a me-too General Motors wannabe. Fortunately, the rushed ’60 model (and its fit and finish troubles) were short-lived, and just a few years later the big Galaxie was again a sharp, reliable and well-regarded automobile. Indeed, all the early ’60s Galaxies command my attention at shows and, well, Andy Taylor certainly wouldn’t have picked a loser…and neither did my grandfather.

My maternal grandfather, Fred Stamp, was a Ford man. I have a picture of my mom posing in front of his 1957 Ranch Wagon when she was about five years of age. Every two or three years, Fred would trade his current FoMoCo for a new version, and in 1960 the wagon was replaced with a brand-new Galaxie Town Sedan. Our own JP Cavanaugh certainly  would have liked it, given that it was painted Aquamarine. Fred was a sensible, middle class family man who ran a tavern, right off of the Centennial Bridge, named, appropriately enough, Fred and Mae’s. Can you guess what my grandmother’s name was?

He loved full-size Fords, and starting in the ’60s, always got the fanciest model, be it a Fairlane 500, Galaxie or Galaxie 500. But he wasn’t about to get a Town Victoria, Ford’s term for four-door hardtop. More money for more rattles and drafts? With the kind of winters we got in Davenport? No sir.

The 1960 Ford had a bit of a rough time, as its design, inspired by the Quicksilver design study, did not translate well to the 1959 Ford chassis. Some proportions were thus a bit wonky, but I’ve always liked them myself. But Ford really hit their stride starting in 1961, with lovely new lines, albeit still based on the ’59 chassis. The ’62 continued that tradition.

While the ’60 and ’61 look very good to me, my favorite is the ’62. For the first time, all 1962 big Fords were Galaxies, as the Fairlane 500 moniker was appropriated for the new midsize Ford. The small fins of the ’61 were traded for an smooth, flat quarter panel. The taillights–Ford’s trademark jet-tube units (how about bringing them back, Ford?) were now recessed into the rear panel. In addition, they were also sunk into the rear bumper, and combined with the smart vertically-ribbed trim panel between them, resulted in a very clean and modern look.

Up front, the concave eggcrate grille of the ’61 was with a flattened out crosshatch version. Flossier models got a cool “gunsight” ornament on it, while all models were adorned with a Ford crest on the leading edge of the hood. Galaxie 500s got these nifty gold ping-pong ball fender ornaments, too, in addition to chrome A-pillar moldings, window trim, rear quarter panel extensions, and a C-pillar garnish molding with a Ford crest adorning it.

While I also love the 1960-61 and 1963-67 Fords very much, I must admit that the 1962 Galaxie 500 is my favorite Sixties big Ford. The Thunderbird roofline, those cool taillights, and the lovely deluxe full wheel covers with the red, white and blue centers all draw me in. These wheel covers (seen above on a friend’s immaculate ’62 Galaxie 500 Sunliner) might well be my favorite Sixties wheel cover too!

So many Fords to choose from during these years. While Paul’s dad may have chosen a stripper base Fairlane, Fred stepped right up and picked a Galaxie 500 Town Sedan. While I was taking notes for this article, my mom asked if I was writing about that maroon Galaxie in East Moline. When I told her yes, she said that Fred’s ’62 was the exact same color. It might well have been his car, until I told her it was a four-door hardtop. No, she said, he never got one of those!

Perhaps my love of ’62 Galaxies is due to the dove gray ’62 Galaxie 500 Club Victoria I got at an antique store off Locust Street in Davenport when I was twelve. My mom and I would go there every now and then to browse. I had gotten several old model cars there in the past, including a Husky Sunbeam Alpine which I still have.

One day in about 1992, they had three Ford promos in the display case: A dark blue ’60 wagon, the gray ’62 and an aqua ’63. Despite the rather high price of (I think) $35, I bought the gray one and took it home. As I recall, the ’60 was more expensive and the ’63 had one black wheel (no wheel cover–maybe a part from a car kit?), so I got the ’62, despite the damaged A-pillars.

Normally, my grandfather would have traded the ’62 in on a ’64, but there was a little problem. Around the time he would have traded it in, he cracked up the car on the way home. He came home, parked the car in the driveway, laid on the couch in front of the TV (as usual) and gave no indication that anything unusual had occurred.

Shortly thereafter, a couple of Davenport’s finest stopped by the house. They were friends of Fred’s (as a bar owner, Grandpa Fred knew lots of folks downtown and a few Davenport police officers were known to occasionally stop at Fred and Mae’s when off-duty) and explained to my Grandma Mae that he had sideswiped a parked car on his way home. He hadn’t noticed that anything had happened until he got home and saw the damage.

My mom also told me that Grandma Mae read Fred the riot act when she saw the crunched Galaxie and became even more livid when his cop buddies arrived and gave her the rest of the story. Mae was not a woman to be trifled with (as my mother and my Aunt Candy can attest), and Fred was, again according to Mom, in the doghouse for quite some time. He never again cracked up any of his cars.

As you might expect, bar owners close down very late at night, and he may have simply been tired. At any rate, he didn’t get in trouble with the law, and I believe his insurance company paid for the other car and his own, but the delay meant that by the time he got around to buying a new Galaxie, the new model year had debuted and ’64s were not in stock anymore.

Thus, the car he drove home from the dealer in late ’64 was a 1965 Galaxie 500 Town Sedan in pale yellow. My mom really liked that car, but it was to be the last big Ford in the Stamp household. In 1968 it was traded for a red Torino GT hardtop with a black vinyl top. That was the car Mom learned to drive on, and the beginning of smaller Fords for my grandparents. Their last car was a 1977 LTD II sedan (CC here), in triple emerald green.

When the 1962 Galaxies debuted, the Galaxie 500 was initially the top of the line model. The base Ford was, as previously mentioned, the plain ol’ Galaxie, with no “500” suffix. This was the only year for that distinction, as an el cheapo 300 series was ushered in for 1963–to the delight of fleet managers, and skinflints everywhere, no doubt.

But about halfway into the model year, an even flossier Galaxie 500/XL joined the roster. XLs came as a Club Victoria or convertible and featured bucket seats, a floor shift with console, and engine-turned trim on the instrument panel and exterior side spears. XLs ran about $300-400 over equivalent G500 models.

It may have been a response to the growing interest in “bombs,” meaning a sporty full-size coupe or convertible, often with a big engine. The 1961 Impala SS was more or less the first, and Ford was close on their heels in ’62, along with Pontiac’s Catalina-based Grand Prix.

As a result of the all-Galaxie-all-the-time plan for ’62, 500s like our featured CC were suitably plush, with full carpeting, fancy upholstery and plenty of chrome trim. While it still looks nice inside this particular Town Victoria, I fear for the integrity of the mauve vinyl and tweed seating, as the car is still sitting here as I write this (March 30) and a whole winter’s worth of slush and moisture has entered the cabin since I took these photos last fall. Come on, unseen owner! How hard is it to get a new window made? It’s flat glass, for crying out loud!

Judging from the mid-’90s antique plates and general good condition, this car must have been someone’s well-loved baby for some time. Sadly, sometimes new custodians of classic rolling stock do a rotten job of caretaking. But it’s not too late for this one. Even if the car doesn’t run, I’m sure plenty of Ford guys could get it mobile in no time. Add a new rear door window, a set of those lovely deluxe wheel covers ($26 a set when new), new tires and a good polish, and it would be a great car for a pleasure cruise down a two-lane this spring, all four windows lowered, of course.

That interior looks great in mauve, and look! It even has seat belts. Perhaps an early ’60s Ford fan can tell us if they are factory or aftermarket. Front seat belts were available from Ford, for $21.00 They had to be a rare installation in 1962 America.

This Town Victoria ran a reasonable $2739 with the 138-hp 223 CID six-cylinder, or $2848 with the base 170-hp 292 CID V8. The four door hardtop was not commonly seen even when new, as only 30,778 were made.

Compare that to 174,195 Galaxie 500 Town Sedans like my grandfather’s and it’s easy to see that the pillared sedan was far more popular. It has been noted before on CC, but it bears repeating: Sedan folks tended to want pillars, while coupe folks preferred to go without them. Most folks who wanted a ’62 Galaxie hardtop got the two door model–to the tune of 87,562.

One interesting artifact was this Moline city sticker on the windshield. This car apparently has not gone far in its fifty-one years of existence, as it was sitting in Moline when I took these pictures. Perhaps it is a lifelong Quad Cities car…

…which is confirmed by the Lindquist Ford tag on the trunk lid. Lindquist is still in business, although they moved from downtown Bettendorf to the city limits on the northwest side of town about a dozen years ago. The original dealership building survives today as a collector car dealer.

I shot these photos back in October. As of mid-March it is still sitting in the very same spot, and appears to have incurred some damage (a crease) along the driver-side fender and front door, perhaps from a passing snow plow or debris swept up by one. Here’s hoping someone will rescue this poor Ford before it becomes a parts car. A Galaxie four-door hardtop like this one would be a great “fun car” to take to the upcoming cruise-ins this summer…