It was late afternoon and I was needing both fuel and a pitstop. With fueling locations being so few and far between in most rural areas, I was quite happy to stumble upon this station.
Oddly, there was a flurry of activity going on when I arrived.
The fuel here is quite reasonably priced, which likely explains the load of customers. At first, I thought it was due to the MegaMillions lottery having a $400 million jackpot that night and people aiming to boost (or create) their retirement plans.
Knowing I would have to wait my turn for the pump, I went to ask the the police officer about a good local place to eat should I happen to revisit this neck of the woods. Many rural towns don’t have a lot of money to keep their police force in the latest model of police vehicle, but this one seemed older than most.
Despite its age, this ’53 Ford sure looked ready for action. That old flathead is a delightfully quiet engine, which is a nice perk when you spend all day in a car.
The inside looked good, but the officer was a real dummy. A lot of help he was. Yet, no Barney Fife was he, as that pea-shooter was loaded.
Looking around, I began to wonder if I was in some sort of time warp.
This 1975 to 1978 Mercury Grand Marquis, one of the best vehicles to roll from any Ford Motor Company factory during the 1970s, had something about it that didn’t quite seem right.
That’s it; the owner’s license plates are expired.
I bet the dash even has a plaque that says “Ride Engineered.” While looking at this Mercury, all I can say is “be still my heart!” This is 7.5 liters of sheer driving bliss. The color isn’t my top pick, and the fender skirts are the only demerit this car gets from me. There were almost 146,000 Marquis of all flavors sold in 1978 alone; one was sold to some family in Texas (here).
Looking beyond the Mercury, I once again question where I am and what time period it is. How long has it been since a three-digit phone number was used in the U.S.? My lunch was pretty tame and it wasn’t indigestion; besides, beef isn’t known for having hallucinogenic qualities. Something was still seriously amiss.
Despite the oddball phone number, this old Ford F-100 is looking pretty good and appears ready for its next service call.
It looks like this guy has been quite successful in the upkeep of the station’s service truck. I applaud his diligent efforts. But why do all these people keep coming across as being a bunch of dummies? This is so bizarre.
Holy cats! For such a small town, I never would have figured there to be a taxi service, but there definitely is.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a 1965 Ford Galaxie. Ford built 564,000 of them that year, but they are pretty scarce these days. With one still in taxi use, you know it’s getting exercised regularly.
With this taxi being painted in what looks to be factory two-tone colors, it isn’t your typical fleet car. Somebody went uptown and got themselves a nice car for pulling taxi duty. No point in being uncomfortable with a stripped down sedan, is there?
Walking to the other side of the pumps, I see this. These people are a long way from home.
If one wanted to take a trip east from California, I can think of worse vehicles to take than this 1954 Ford. The camper is pretty light, so one likely wouldn’t even notice it back there. It would be interesting to know how its Fordomatic and first year overhead valve V8 performed going over the mountains.
Sadly, anybody who lets their kids stand in the backseat is a dummy. It is no longer 1957.
While I had been gazing upon the ’54 Ford, this LTD had pulled in for fuel. A little wax would do this car a world of good.
These used to be so common. In 1978 alone, Ford built over 241,000 of these full-sizers; they were pretty much identical from 1975 through 1978. While the LTD is quite nice, they just don’t have the raw charisma of its sister Mercury.
Suddenly, a Dodge minivan pulls up to me. Rolling the window down, the driver asked if I liked Lyle’s life-sized diorama. I told him I certainly did. While we chatted, I told him I had seen this a few years ago, but the Grand Marquis and LTD were new editions. He said there are likely more that will be added in the future.
From the sound of it, he undoubtedly knows far more about this than I do. There was a Harley and a Mustang parked in the garage bays and there is still a lot of room on the lot.
Turn around Jason and run.
I have seen this diorama several times. The first time I nearly did as that dummy startled me considerably.
The driver of the taxi looked like a cross between Chewbacca and a chimpanzee.
“Jason Shafer thought he was stopping for gas. Instead, it turns out that he was stopping for a walk into . . . the Twilight Zone.”
It is a cool concept, but kind of sad to watch those straight old cars sit out in the weather. You can tell from the paint jobs that all of them have been there for quite awhile. The 54 Ford still looks nice, but I wonder how long that will last.
I remember being a big fan of that champagne and brown combo that Ford was offering around 1977-78. Unfortunately, it did not weather any better than any similar color that anyone had offered over the prior 20 years.
Must be a stiff guy in the F-100. The name on the door says it all, as “houten” means wooden.
I thought for sure this was going to turn out to be one of those neutron bomb tests.
Sort of vaguely related: http://gettystation.com
my grandfather had a ’77 LTD like that red one, ‘cept his was green-on-green-on-green.
Along the lines of what Mariachi said, my first thought on seeing the policeman in the flathead Ford was the nuclear test scene in the last Indiana Jones movie!
My second thought was that I share your affection for the late 1970s Mercury Grand Marquis. Having been carpooled to school for several years in a same-generation Colony Park, whose vast size was comfortable and reassuring and whose vinyl I mistook for leather, never having experienced the real thing (or maybe it was leather, but I doubt that a 1970s Mercury wagon would come with it), they made an imprint on me that lasts to this day. The cheap Brougham luxury which I would dislike in a Cadillac or Lincoln is inoffensive to me in a mid-market car like a Mercury.
Where is this life-size diorama located? Having been in Missouri only once in my life, I do not know whether I will ever have an opportunity to see it, but I can envision a scenario in which I would be able to swing by it.
It is located in the little town of Clarence, about 30 miles west of Hannibal on US 36.
Our experiences with this era Marquis are similar. The Cub Scout leader would pick us up in her triple black GM plus the great aunt and uncle (link above). The LTD does little for me, but these are different.
I just found your article from 2012 on Sue Ellen’s Colony Park, which I had not seen before. Great story, and the beige-and-Dinoc Colony Park in the last photo is an identical twin of the wagon from my childhood.
The Marquis would look incomplete without the fender skirts.
Not only is this place stuck in a time warp, Ford Motor Company appears to be the only automaker in existence.
That 241,000 figure for the ’78 seems low — it sounds like it may represent only a subset of full-size Fords/LTDs. See the production figures cited in the comments to the post below:
Just like a Quinn Martin cop show of the 1970s – when nearly all the vehicles were FoMoCo models.
I figured Jason was going to survive this by climbing into the lead lined fridge.
I’ll take the truck, just the thing for a cheap Dutch guy like me. Although I know some van Houtens, I’m not related to any..
So….was the camping trailer an Apache?
Thanks. My Uncle had a 64 Apache with the same side profile. but with dual taillights and a door on the back. Wondered if this was a cheaper model, or a different make.
Here’s a picture.
Thanks. Wow, that one is really basic, and rare! I didn’t see anything on the net about Apple campers.
Here in Michigan, most of the camper action in the 60s was Apache and Nimrod, with Starcraft moving in in the 70s
The first Apache in the family was about a 59 or 60. I spent some bone chilling August nights on the shore of Lake Superior in that one.
I like the concept, but the dummies are a little bit creepy.
It does look like a snapshot of 1979, though he might need to update his gas prices just a bit. (How much was gas back then? I remember in my childhood, aka the 80’s, it was usually around $1.00/gallon…) The ’53 police car is a bit anachronistic, but hey, it’s still fun.
I recall about 93.9 when I got my license in early ’79.
Great Scott! The time controls must’ve screwed-up again, Marty. We’re in 1978! And we’ve created another paradox, because Ford seems to be the only auto manufacturer left. We have to go back in time and fix this before the DeLorean disappears!
Very nice ! .
I too like the truck becau7se I’m an expat Yankee Farmer and the utility and economy of I6 powered American 1/2 Ton Light Duty Trucks is a given that hasn’t faded yet , I even like _Fords_ and have owned a few over the decades .
That’s ’54 Ford camper combo if properly tuned would breeze over any mountain even with the two speed slushbox , even if equipped with the venerable flahead I6 .
Keep up the good works ! .
We share similar interests (old Ford six trucks).
Although I’m not sure I can quite agree on the performance of the ’54 Ford. Our family’s first car was just such a beast, including the V8 and Fordomatic. And it did get us up into the Rockies on our first vacation there, but it was hardly a rocket in the process. And it had a nasty propensity for vapor lock in those high altitudes; we spent quite a bit of time enjoying the mountain scenery from the side of the road waiting for it to cool down enough to continue.
Also, Ford went to a brand new OHV six back in 1952. It was actually a better choice than the ancient flathead V8 in ’52 and ’53.
We were still getting flathead V8s in 54 trying to use up old stock I guess but the cars had got too heavy for em.
My Dad actually had a work truck that was a 53 Ford with an overhead valve six. I had several flatties and his six was a better engine.
You’re all correct of course ;
I said those old Fords would easily go over the mountains , not quickly =8-) .
Tuning had everything to do with it, few ever were then or now .
I had two ’59 F-100’s , as seriously rusty one from Ayers AFB in Ma. in 1968 and another one in L.A. in 1988 , both were SB Steppers with the 220 I6 and three on the tree .
I also once bought a cherry ’62 Ford Ranch Wagon , this was the base model station wagon , it was equipped with a nice V-8 and two speed sluchbox , AM radio and nothing else .
This fine car prompted me to acquire another gem , a ’62 Galaxie Coupe from Az. , also I6 three speed equipped , it had over drive and dealer installed AC , I wish I’da kept it but I was young and the cars changed often back then , often weekly or monthly .
Flatheads are junk ~ only good for low speeds , not much good for long distance travel although they sure run quietly .
I had a ’54 Pontiac Super Chief Coupe with flathead I8 engine and the world beating dual hydromatic slushbox tranny , fully optioned it was , missing only a continental kit , I loved it . a whole lot of fine automobile it was with factory color matched skirts & visor , diamond leather seats , two tone paint all for $150 .
A full size diorama is neat ! .
My frame of reference is the Northeast and New England…so correct me if the Midwest was different.
…but when the first run-up happened, Winter 73-74, gasoline spiked to over 70 cents a gallon before settling in around 55 cents for regular and 60 cents for premium with a mid-grade unleaded inbetween.
I remember seeing maybe 69 cents a gallon for regular in 1978 before the Iranian hostage crisis and the second run-up began.
Gas hit a dollar faster than most new cars of that day could accelerate to 60. It finally slowed down but not before getting to $1.30/gallon of regular, which would be close to 1980 or maybe during 1980.
BP owned Sohio/Boron and were sourcing their crude from the North Slope of Alaska instead of OPEC. You could always tell a BP was near because of the lines of cars waiting their turn…since their gasoline was a good 25-30 cents cheaper. But there was legal action taken and BP/Sohio/Boron soon became as expensive as everyone else.
In 1981 I worked the local Amoco at the south end of Brattleboro, VT on Canal St. $1.33/gallon for regular.
Price controls were removed around 1981-82 and prices sure enough rose…by a few cents. Then they stabilized, started to fall a little and crashed in 1986, staying under a dollar for years and not getting too much above…maybe $1.10 for regular where I live now near Pittsburgh. A spike during Desert Storm didn’t last and our dollar-or-so a gallon prices stayed steady or fell a little until 2001 when new EPA regs sent them higher.
From my frame of reference, $0.31 and $0.36…would be no later than summer 1973. Plus there’s no unleaded/low lead gas offered. GM had lowered their compression ratios in ’71, everyone else followed in ’72-’73…all in preparation for the adaptation of catalytic converters for MY 1975. The major oil companies were all lining up to offer low-lead/no-lead products by 1973 (Amoco always had their unleaded “white gas”).
Anyway that’s how I remember it. Generally stations not offering at least a low-lead product by 1973-74 were on their way to closing in 1975 because they couldn’t afford the upgrade to a third underground tank, third pump etc. to sell unleaded gas.
The cheapest I can remember gas ever being (born in 1970, have lived my entire life in Central Massachusetts) was 56 cents a gallon. That has to have been somewhere in the mid-to-late ’70s, in between the 1973 and 1979 oil crisises.
At the other end of the spectrum, I remember a station in my area charging $1.48 around 1981, though they were probably an outlier on the high end at the time.
I got my drivers’ license in 1988. I think gas at that time, and for the next decade or so, was in the general vicinity of $1.00, but I don’t have much of a specific memory. The price probably didn’t change much, and it wasn’t expensive enough to put much of a dent in my wallet, so I just took it for granted and didn’t file anything away in my memory banks. I do remember going to Vermont in the mid-to-late ’90s, seeing a gas station at 86 cents, and thinking that it was about 15-20 cents cheaper than gas was back home at the time.
After having historically run two four-cylinder cars, my wife and I replaced one of them with a six-cylinder Jeep Cherokee in September 1999. I remember thinking that gas prices began creeping upward not longer after we bought it. We took a trip to upstate New York in November 2000, and I can remember grumbling about having to pay $1.35 at a service area on the New York Thruway, though gas stations in toll road service areas are notorious for having prices on the high end.
Enrolled in a junior college at the time (1978), I did motor back with my Grandfolks from Northern California to Missouri where I spent a couple of weeks there and pulling aside the Willys and the old Mercury, the ’65 Ford and late 70’s FoMoCos put me right back to the summer of 1978 in Missouri (the MFA station). I was craning my neck to see if there was a Skelly or Sinclair up/down the road . . .
If I remember correctly, even in Mo. in ’78, gas would’ve been about $0.53-$055 for regular (leaded) and close to $0.60-$0.65 for unleaded . . . one grade in those days . . .
The graveyard behind the station, and the fact Fords were always in Twilight Zone, makes me wonder if Rod Serling’s spirit is wandering around there.
Nice cars ( yes, I am a Ford fan ) but I keep looking at that old Coke Machine. I think it might be a Vendo 126. Put your dime in, open the glass door and pull out a nice, frosty 10 oz. returnable bottle of Coca Cola !
We had one one the shop back in the day. At break we would play “Go For Distance”.
Everyone would put a dollar on the top of the machine and then buy your Coke, turn it up and look at the City & State printed on the bottom of the bottle. Longest distance away from Orlando Florida won the pot.
If we had Google maps back then, it would have saved a lot of arguments.
Used to sort the little Coke bottles back in the bottle yard, when I worked at the local mom & pop market as a kid. Looking at the various cities on the bottoms of the bottles broke up a mind numbing task (well, a little bit, anyway).
I learned to drive in a 1973 Colony Park, bronze gold with the faux wood on the outside (edged in chrome strips, not the fat lighter fake wood of the Ford), the headlight doors, the 460 engine, the whole works. I loved that big beast. The steering wheel had that annoying “rim blow” feature, the only negative on the car, to my eyes.
On a smaller scale, perhaps this is appropriate:
The 31.9 cents is appropriate for regular gas during the 50’s and early 60’s in flyover country. In the late 50’s high school kids rejoiced when there was a “gas war” because a buck would buy four gallons.
Saw the MFA signs and thought “I haven’t seen one of those since visiting my grandparents in Missouri in the 70’s.” And as it turns out, Clarence is about 60 or so miles from Louisiana MO, where they lived. Also, they owned an LTD like the one pictured, but in the color scheme of the featured Marquis.