1963 Ford Galaxie station wagon still makes road trips
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John Hernandez began his search for a full-size wagon not looking to haul a large family, but rather to stand out from the crowd.
The West Dundee resident already owns a 1965 Mustang Fastback, so classic power wasn't his goal either.
"I wanted something unique and different. I go to many cruise nights each summer and all you usually see are the typical muscle cars."
While numerous automakers produced station wagons during the glory days of motoring, it was the design of the 1963 Ford Galaxie Country Sedan that caught Hernandez's eye.
"I looked for several years and fell in love with the back of this car. With the 'turbine' taillights and metallic tailgate, it's reminiscent of jet engines and just plain cool," he said.
The Corinthian white behemoth was located in Oakland, Calif., in 2008. It's West Coast heritage, Hernandez says, kept from "turning it into a pile of rust."
As soon as the all-original wagon arrived in the Midwest, the enthusiast was eager to get to work transforming the cruiser, following some of his wilder ideas.
"Initially, I was going to make it look nothing how like how it sits now. I had plans for two-tone paint and other radical elements." His ambitions were reined-in after discussing with fellow enthusiasts.
"After showing it at several events and telling friends of my plans, everyone talked me out of it. I came to realize it's only original once and worth preserving."
His new mentality didn't call for a completely hands-off approach; several minor cosmetic items were addressed. Hernandez located and installed a factory AM radio and removed the stalled dash-mounted clock, and after a through disassembly and cleaning, was able to get it ticking right once again.
A characteristic of these massive family haulers was an optional third-row seat, which was missing. After a thorough search of a Wisconsin bone yard, the auto aficionado located a perfect match.
"I found the exact seat I needed, complete with matching color and pattern. This was a big find and close to being a miracle!" Hernandez said.
Another iconic feature of 1950s and '60s station wagons was the roof rack. Hernandez found his in Arkansas. Despite his living in landlocked Illinois, a vintage California surfboard was procured and is strapped on for added personality.
"The car came from the West Coast and it seemed like a natural addition. It also dates to the same year as the car."
Other tweaks to the Ford include exhaust headers, new brakes and aftermarket vintage Superior wheels with wide whitewall tires. Underhood resides a factory installed 390-cubic-inch Thunderbird Special V-8, rebuilt to original specifications.
He says driving the Galaxie is like taking a trip back in time. "Growing up, my family had station wagons and I remember vividly piling in to go the baseball games and other family outings.
"Wagons were the vehicles for moving stuff -- we didn't have SUVs."
Hernandez's machine has been active during its decades on the road, and those needing proof can simply check out the windows on the side of the vehicle. "The car has traveled all over the Western states and has the original vacation decals to show where it's been."
There's plenty of room on the glass for new additions to continue this time-honored motoring tradition.
"I'm eager to pile in my family and take a long road trip to the Grand Canyon."
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