It was in the spring of 1966 that Dennis Roxworthy fell head over heels in four-wheeled love. Then 23, he first laid eyes on Ford's newly redesigned midsize offering, the Fairlane 500.
"A neighbor ordered a new ember glow metallic '66," the longtime Elgin resident said. "He let me drive it and I got to see firsthand just how cool it was."
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Two short weeks later the young man went out to acquire one for himself. His first true love, his late wife Connie, provided additional encouragement. The newlyweds had just paid off their used 1962 Galaxy Sunliner.
"With a baby on the way, she said, 'If you want a new car, here's your chance.' "
Roxworthy jumped, and with his pregnant bride in tow, headed to Conlon-Collins Ford in Crystal Lake. While Roxworthy was in Fairlane heaven, most buyers were swooning for another one of Ford's hot-selling darlings. "The dealer wasn't keeping any Fairlanes in stock. He wanted maximum space on the lot for Mustangs," he said.
This dearth wasn't a deterrence to the Roxworthys but rather an opportunity. Sitting down with a salesman, the couple checked the boxes on a special order form and awaited delivery of their budget-minded dream machine. "I really wanted a muscle version, the GT or GTA, but those just weren't in our pocketbook."
Their factory order was an Ivy Green hardtop equipped with such options as a family-friendly bench seat, a floor-mounted 8-track tape deck and a 289-cubic-inch, two-barrel carbureted V-8. To keep costs down, power steering and brakes were left off the order.
"It'd sure make driving easier now but when we were younger, we didn't need them," Roxworthy said. Two long months passed before the dealer phoned the couple to alert them that their fantasy Fairlane was being delivered.
"I can clearly remember seeing the car for the first time. We were so excited. I watched them unload the car from the truck and roll it into the shop," Roxworthy said.
While the vehicle was in new condition, it wasn't quite perfect. "The dealer had to repaint the hood. The factory had applied the paint too thin and the primer was showing through. Manufacturing was very different from today."
Finally ready for the road, the Fairlane went to work for the family and was used on several unforgettable vacations. "It was always a dream of mine to travel on Route 66. It was our first big trip with the car," Roxworthy said.
In 1968, the family loaded up and headed West, driving on the iconic highway to San Francisco on a monthlong trip. Another cherished outing was a summer journey south. The family drove to Orlando, Fla., in 1971 to visit the just opened Disney World Resort.
When it wasn't crisscrossing the nation, the 500 served around-town duties as Roxworthy's work commuter. Even after all these years he's opted to leave a special memento on the car from those career days.
From 1962 to 1990, Roxworthy worked for Paddock Publications and the Daily Herald newspaper, working in the production department at its former downtown Arlington Heights location. In the corner of the Fairlane's windshield, you'll still find an old Paddock employee parking lot sticker.
"I could never peel it off. There are so many wonderful memories behind it," he said.
Roxworthy's Fairlane passion didn't just stop with this first example. He purchased a second '66 in 1971 and several more in recent years. Despite the plethora, this ivy green honey has a special place in his heart.
"It was my wife's favorite car and she loved riding in it. My son was born in 1966 and I've promised it to him."