Junkyard Gem: 1973 Ford Galaxie 500 2-door hardtop

Murilee Martin


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During the early 1970s, when Americans talked about buying "a Chevrolet," they meant a full-sized Bel Air, Impala, or Caprice. Likewise, when you went shopping for "a Ford" in 1973, you went to the showroom and admired the new Custom, Galaxie, or LTD. Sure, there were smaller machines bearing the bowtie or blue oval logos, but the full-sized Chevrolets and Fords were the most thoroughly mainstream motor vehicles you could buy in this country during the postwar era and well into the 1970s. If you were a rakehell sort of car buyer in 1973, you might have opted for one of the higher-level big Fords with two impractical doors and a thirsty big-inch V8 engine. That's the sort of car we've got for today's Junkyard Gem.

The Galaxie 500 came between the entry-level Custom 500 and the plush LTD in the full-sized Ford hierarchy of 1973. My early childhood in Minnesota featured many miles traversed in big Fords like this one, primarily my father's 1967 Ford Custom two-door sedan and my grandfather's 1968 Ford LTD coupe (sadly, both cars were eaten by the Rust Monster).

The base engine in the Galaxie 500 for '73 was a 351-cubic-inch (5.8-liter) V8 rated at 156 horsepower, with optional V8s of 400, 429, and 460 cubic inches available (163, 197, and 218 horses, respectively). Power levels went way down for the 1973 model year, as Detroit proved hard-pressed to keep up with strict new emissions requirements, and the switch from gross to net power ratings made the numbers look even worse than they really were. The build tag on this car's door jamb shows that it left the Twin Cities assembly plant with a 429 big-block engine, and so some junkyard shopper scored this fairly desirable hunk of iron before I arrived.

While this car was built in Minnesota (just a few months after I departed for California in a new Chevy Sportvan Beauville), the remains of the dealership badge on the decklid indicate an original sale at O'Meara Ford in Colorado. The rust looks more Coloradan than Minnesotan.

A crashed, rusty Malaise Era Detroit full-size car, even with a big-block engine and two doors, just isn't worth very much. This one stood virtually no chance of being put back on the road.

Both the air conditioning and the radio were pricey optional equipment in 1973, even on a big land yacht; the A/C cost $409 and the single-speaker AM radio went for $64 (that's $2,462 and $385 in inflation-adjusted 2020 bucks, though the Philco radio may have been a marginally cheaper dealer-installed unit). We're all spoiled by the generous levels of standard equipment in cars today.

With duct-taped steering wheel and crocheted seat cover, this car soldiered on for many decades past its glory days as a Dearborn prestigemobile.

The Galaxie name went away after 1974, with the LTD name taking over. Still, the Galaxie name lived on in popular culture, with references in songs and even band names.

Ford emphasized the sound insulation in marketing for the full-sized 1973 models, and here we see a creepy Bob Hope on the golf course— of course— pitching the quiet Galaxie 500 as the hand-cranked door glass rolls up.