Off To New Pastures: 1963 Ford Galaxie 500 – Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

On February 28, 1983, CBS aired the final episode of M*A*S*H, the long running series about a US Army hospital in the Korean War.  Titled Goodbye, Farewell and Amen, it was the most watched television episode in American history to that point and sent the show into the annals of history.  Some have called it the best finale ever for a television series.

Just over three years later, on December 26, 1986, a Ford Galaxie would enter my life.  It, too, was a long running involvement, lasting until January 15, 2022.  All in, this involvement lasted 35 years, 19 days, or thereabouts, meaning this Ford Galaxie is now in the annals of my personal history.

Whether what you are about to read is the best finale ever for car ownership remains to be determined.

It’s really hard to know where to start so perhaps we should just start at the beginning.  That warm December day when my father, great-uncle Stan, and I pulled the Galaxie home behind a Ford tractor, it could best be described as inert.  My father had paid my great-aunt (Stan’s sister-in-law) $200 for a car that had been sitting for several years and had not been started in an equal amount of time.

At 14, I was optimistic.  My optimism proved to be well-founded as investing a few evenings over the next month or so had it running.  It ran quite strong – well, it ran strong after we realized upon the initial start-up we had not, for whatever reason, reconnected two or three spark plug wires.  The Ford 352 V8 can be amazingly resilient.

We installed new brake shoes and tires.  That was it.  I never drove the Galaxie to school but drove it enough on weekends to keep everything limber.  The car was repainted during the 1989-1990 school term, having the work performed at the vocational school in nearby Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  My mother taught the practical nursing program there, so she could (theoretically) keep an eye on it.  My father liked the vocational school as the labor was free.

The Galaxie came back from the paint shop just in time for the summer months, prior to my beginning college that fall at Southeast Missouri State University, also in Cape Girardeau.  After college got started, my time in the Galaxie dwindled.

My time in the Galaxie dwindled even further after August 1992, when I transferred to the University of Missouri – Rolla.  I was four hours away and went home infrequently.  This infrequency led to my father dropping insurance on the Galaxie, so it sat even more.

Upon graduation in December 1995, I moved to Jefferson City (I’ve lived here twice) to begin my career.  Thus I was at my parent’s house even less frequently.  In 1997, my father and I pulled the Galaxie out of his pole barn and got it running.  It ran, weakly, although the most memorable moment of that endeavor was sitting in the driver’s seat and having a mother mouse run out from under the seat with several little ones still suckling as she was vacating the premises.

My father hates mice.  Upon seeing the sow mouse, his typical stoicism was overridden when he started dancing around and throwing things at them, screaming “back it up, back it up!  Run over them!”.

That was to be my last time in the Galaxie for over a decade.  In March 1998 I moved to Cape Girardeau, bought my first house in June, and got married in July.  In 2001, my wife and I moved to St. Joseph, Missouri.  In late 2006, we moved east to Hannibal.

In all that time, my father never once touched the Galaxie.  Its mechanical needs were really obvious by 2008.  The only upshot is the car had been stored inside for all but about six months since 1986.  It didn’t even get rained on for years.

Do you ever have pangs of guilt for abandoning projects?  In 2008 my pangs were getting the better of me so I decided to liberate the Galaxie from its neglect.  Hauling it back to my house in Hannibal revealed it to be a little worse for wear than it had been in 1986.  The master cylinder was full of dry, flaky crud and the valves in the engine had stuck shut, so my attempt to start it didn’t yield success.

Did I take steps to correctly start a long dormant engine?  Yes.  Did I do them as well as I could have?  Who knows.

Knowing the mechanical issues would have to wait, I did other needed tasks.  I rebuilt the entire braking system from the pedal out.  The only things reused were the brake drums although I did have them turned.  The brakes, for being drums, were great.  One just needed to keep in mind what they were.

In 2011, a downsizing and restructuring at by my employer dealt me an unsought relocation – back to Jefferson City.  In a perverted twist of fate, my office was (and still is) in a building literally next door to where I had started my career in 1996.  Thus, I had moved to three of the four corners of the state, gained immense experience, and ended up a stone’s throw from where I started.  Talk about the circle of life.

But I digress.

The years of 2012 to 2014 weren’t the most enjoyable ever.  I was in a new location, again, and had a house in Hannibal that took over 18 months to sell.  There were other factors involved during this timeframe, but suffice it to say life was not all rainbows and unicorns.

A positive finally emerged when my wife suggested getting the Galaxie roadworthy again.

In 2013 I had the engine remanufactured.  Given the Galaxie had been sitting at my house in Hannibal, and I was going to have to move it regardless, it only made sense I should drive it to its new home.

At the Battle of Shiloh National Park, Shiloh, Tennessee

After this work was done, I drove the car quite a bit.  I took it on joyrides, drove it to work at times, and was simply having fun with it.  I drove it to Tupelo, Mississippi, in 2015 and to Nashville, Tennessee, the following year.  With its overdrive, the Galaxie was an awesome highway cruiser, netting 19 mpg at a steady 70 mph on the interstate and up to 20.5 mpg on two-lane highways.

Therein lies part of the problem with this Galaxie, as equipped.  Things were such most of my driving was in-town.  That Galaxie had no power steering, no power brakes, and a three-speed on the column.  It could be a handful, especially at low speeds, but it made me a better driver.  Yet the figurative luster was starting to fade.

For the many of you who have never been here, Jefferson City, Missouri, is where several different terrains converge.  It is a convergence of rolling prairie to the west, the Ozark mountains to the south, river bottoms to the north, and hill country to the east.  In other words, nothing is flat.  The Galaxie likes to roll and it often does a little when taking off uphill.  Local drivers, as seems to be the case elsewhere, forget to be aware of manual transmission cars.  So whenever I took off up a hill (which was, like, always) it was a tense situation as someone was invariably on my rear bumper.

Part of my desire to get the Galaxie going again was to have a fun car my wife, daughter, and I could have for family outings.  That never happened.  I was the only person in the car the vast majority of the time.  That led to more of the luster going away.

After much thought and introspection, I decided to sell the car – several years ago.  My first initial foray into selling it was futile and really indicated how much of a niche car this particular Galaxie is.  Few people want a four-door sedan; even fewer want one with a manual transmission.  Inquiries then revolved around it being a two-door (despite the pictures and description saying otherwise) or probing if I wanted to trade, generally for something utterly useless to me.

Price was never a topic of discussion, question, or mention at that time.

In early 2020, I decided to make a go of selling it again.  On March 14 or 15 I had a person who wanted to see it.  I mention this date as it was shortly after the pandemic was announced and I was sent home to work.  Not knowing what is now collectively known about said viral illness, I suggested we wait a few weeks until things calmed down.

Silly me.  I never heard from him again.  Such is life.

So fast forward to the end of 2021.  I figured judicious behavior could minimize concern regarding communicable illness.  So I listed the Galaxie for sale again.

There were more inquiries than ever before, which was refreshing.  Some were from the optimistic, such as asking how reliable the air conditioning is (would no air conditioning be considered as reliable?).  Several wanted to know my bottom dollar before asking anything else; it did not come across well.

The gentleman who bought the Galaxie had inquired about it early on.  About two weeks later we met at the state capital building.  He drove the Galaxie, liked what he saw, and that was that.  I called my wife to come get me as he was driving it away.

The old Galaxie is now in the Kansas City metro area.  That’s the furthest west the car has ever been.  While I have driven it in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, it appears he will likely add a few more to its list.  He mentioned taking it to a car festival in Dubuque, Iowa, this coming summer.

Goodbye old Galaxie.  Farewell to you and Amen on your new adventures.  You’ve gone to a good home.

And I have zero regrets.