My Dad Gave Me His Old Ford With 320,000 Km on the Clock—And Wished Me Luck

That rickety old '63 Galaxie suffered everything from minor mishaps to major malfunctions—but they were all memories in the making.

1963 Ford GalaxieDave_7 / Wikimedia Commons
A Ford Galaxie similar to Tim’s fondly remembered (and sometimes not) very first car.

As a young college student transitioning to the work force, I realized I had to have a car to get around. I had a part-time job at a discount shoe store in St. Catharines, Ontario, while completing my broadcasting course at the local community college. I had to hitchhike and cadge rides to and from school, located miles away in another town, with no bus service to it. I wanted a car but couldn’t afford it.

My dad came to the rescue, sort of. He had a dark purple 1963 Ford Galaxie 500, but was getting a newer car to better suit his job as interior decorator for Sears Canada. He gave me the old Ford, with over 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometres) on the odometer, and wished me luck.

I did not have my driver’s licence at that time, only my learner’s permit, but I became familiar with the Ford Galaxie by driving it up and down the driveway, saving my money for car insurance. Getting my licence at last in 1973, I was thrilled to be able to take to the open road. One day shortly after becoming street-legal, I went out to the Ford and started ’er up. It was only a six-cylinder, but out came a mighty roar as the engine turned over—I had blown out the muffler!

So, no driving for me until I could save up enough for a new muffler. Getting that car drivable was now urgent because I had been offered a part-time reporting job at the radio station where I did my work placement for college.

Finally getting that old beater on the road, I started my broadcasting career. I was young but the car was not. It didn’t like my driving style as I rushed from school to get to my radio reporting assignments and back again. I pushed that old high-mileage engine for all it was worth.

One spring Sunday I had to be at the radio station by 6 a.m. to prepare the morning newscasts. It was a windless day, absolutely calm at that time of the morning. The sun was barely up. My route took me downtown past the main firehall. I had to wait for a light to turn green, so I sat there in the Ford, engine idling. I was a bit amazed that a light fog was forming. Suddenly, there was a loud knock on my window—and a firefighter yelling at me that
my car was on fire!

I quickly put the car in “Park” and jumped out. Smoke was billowing out from under the car in great white clouds. The firefighters lifted my hood, extinguishers at the ready, and then they started laughing.

The car wasn’t on fire. It was burning so much oil that in the calm morning air, with no breeze to disperse the smoke, it looked like it was ablaze. There was clear air all round it, but it sat in its own little island of man-made fog. It was an embarrassing moment.

I was taken on full-time at the radio station shortly after, which enabled me to get a bank loan I needed to purchase a new-to-me used car, which turned out to be a V-8 Buick LeSabre.

Before purchasing it, I made sure to really run the engine and check that that the exhaust was functional and clean. That car cost me a whole $1,000. The dealership took my Galaxie in trade and gave me a whopping $25 for it. I’m sure even at that, they were doing me a favour.

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Originally Published in Our Canada