For some guys, an old set of wheels can bring with it a brand new lease on life.
At least that’s the way John Blizzard of Alexandria, Va., sees it. He insists that he’d be a whole lot worse off if he hadn’t spotted a 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible for sale in a serviceman’s parking lot at Fort Belvoir one day back in December 1998.
Blizzard, 74, served in the U.S. Army for 20 years, then put in another 20 years as a civil servant with the Postal Service before entering retirement. Not being employed was not all it was cracked up to be, however.
“I sort of went down after I retired. I wasn’t doing well — I didn’t have nothin’ to do,” said Blizzard. “So I went back to work part-time at Fort Belvoir, and that’s when I saw the car. That really brought me back to life! I got the bug again like I had when I was 17 with a ’49 Ford convertible.”
When he spotted it, the Galaxie was showing its age, but it was almost entirely original, right down to its working eight-track tape player. It was red with a black ragtop and immediately got Blizzard’s attention.
“I told my grandsons then and there that I was going to buy that car,” he said. “I jotted down the phone number and wrote ‘sold’ on the ‘for sale’ sign so no one else would call. I know, that was a bit deceitful, but I really wanted that car.
“The owner was a warrant officer with orders to go to Germany. He had no place to store the car and therefore was selling it. I arranged to meet him at the car. My wife and I took the Galaxie for a spin around the post. It was a bit rough riding, it rattled and made some squeaking noise, but it felt so good to me. It had the original eight-track tape player, AM radio, clock, heater, defroster, two-speed wipers and washer …. [Everything] worked wonderfully.
“My wife asked me, ‘Are you sure want to buy this piece of junk?’ but I didn’t see it that way.”
The Galaxie 500 occupied the intermediate trim level for 1966 and included all the Custom trim plus a chrome hood ornament; Ford crest in the feature line on the front fender; stamped aluminum rocker panel moldings; and a stamped aluminum insert between two chrome strips on the vertical section of the trunk lid, with Ford in block letters spaced evenly across. Two-tone vinyl trim was used on the inside of the doors and on the seats. Simulated wood appliques were used on the instrument panel trim pieces.
The Galaxies came with both six-cylinder and V-8 engine choices for ’66, ranging from the 223-cid six all the way up to a hi-po 427 that cranked out 425 horsepower. Buyers could pick from four different body styles: four-door sedan, four-door fastback sedan, two-door fastback coupe and two-door convertible. The convertible was the least common, with 27,454 examples leaving the factory carrying a base price of $3,041 for the V-8 model, and $2,914 for the six.
With a little TLC and not much investment, the Blizzards could have had themselves a nice cruiser and “driver,” but John has turned the car into far more than that in the past decade. One step at a time, he has replaced or restored almost every part of the car, from the brakes, to the interior, to the paint and chrome, to the original 390-cid Thunderbird V-8. The car was originally equipped with a few popular factory options, including the 390 4V power plant, Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and power steering and brakes, so it was plenty nice when it left the factory. The black top has been replaced with a flashy white version — which was a factory option for the ’66 Galaxies — and Blizzard has gone on to add every other factory add-on he could find.
“There was no chrome on it when I got it. It was bare,” he said. “I put all NOS chrome on it that I got up at Carlisle. It was very expensive, because it was NOS stuff, but it’s what I wanted.”
The continental kit in the stern was an aftermarket item that Blizzard couldn’t resist. “I had no idea about doing that,” he said. “I saw an advertisement for them in Old Cars Weekly, and went ahead and ordered it.
“Then I couldn’t get anybody to put in on for me. [The local bodyshop] wouldn’t do it because they didn’t want to be responsible for the paint if the car got scratched. So I had to do it myself, and it went perfect. Now the car is 21 feet long.”
“Once I got it pretty well safe to drive, I started taking it to shows … and being around the other cars made me want to keep going and do more things. I just kept adding to it and I started winning trophies at the car shows. I’ve just kept adding to it for 10 years. I went up to Carlisle and got third place, then third place again, then second, then I won. I’ve got first about three times up there, and there is a lot of ’66s up there. Then I started getting “best of show” at some shows.
Under the hood are shiny chrome valve covers and a matching air cleaner cover. There are twin spotlights and outside mirrors, twin rear antennae and rear fender skirts. The paint is several coats deep with two layers of clear coat. It basically has everything but the kitchen sink on it, and if a kitchen sink were offered by Ford in 1966, Blizzard would have one.
“We just love it, and we drive it everywhere,” he said. “The kids really go crazy for it, and it’s got a wolf whistle, and I blow that and everybody just roars.”
The odometer on the bright red Ford shows 80,000 original miles, and Blizzard says he has no plans to ever make the car a trailer queen. These days, the Galaxie also shares a garage with the couple’s 1957 Fairlane 500, “but I bought that one in showroom condition,” Blizzard says. The Fairlane will have a hard time stealing away Blizzard’s affections from the car that gave him a new direction in his retirement, however.
“I’m very proud of bringing [it] back to life, for myself and for the people that are happy to see a great car from the past, and for the youngsters who may never have seen anything like it before,” he said.
“It took a heck of a lot of work and a lot of money. But it’s worth every penny. Mostly because it makes me feel so good.”
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