By Brian Earnest
Ken Anderson answers to a lot of different names: Barney, Barn, Lt. Fife., Deputy Fife … he’s got a long list of handles. Mr. Mayberry works. But Anderson prefers “Mayberry Guru”, especially when he’s talking about his favorite subject, The Andy Griffith Show, and cruising around channeling Don Knotts in his sweet 1965 Galaxie 500 Mayberry patrol car.
Anderson, a resident of Eau Claire, Wis., has long been a devoted fan of the show and all it stood for, but that connection reached a whole new level in 2010 when Anderson added to his Mayberry memorabilia collection with the ultimate prize — a replica Mayberry sheriff’s car. The ’65 Ford isn’t quite an exact replica of the cars used in the show’s sixth season — when the series finally went color — but it’s close. Anderson’s car is a Galaxie 500, while the car used on the show in 1965 was a base-level Custom sedan. But the car looks great, is wonderfully authentic, and more than fills the bill at the many appearances Anderson makes each in year, in full police uniform, spreading the Mayberry gospel.
“If it was the real thing, it would have the Police Interceptor engine [390 cid, 330 hp], but it’s only got a  in it,” Anderson says. “I talked to some officers from here in Eau Claire who said it basically looks just like Galaxies that they had.
“I’ve always been a fan of The Andy Griffith Show. I had to retire early from teaching due to some health issues, and it has sort of become my hobby. I put together a Barney Fife outfit and thought, ‘Boy it would be great to put together a squad car.' A number of my Mayberry Internet friends have squad cars, especially on the East Coast in North Carolina, and it was always in the back of my mind that I kind of wanted one. I also have a ’66 Impala convertible that I’ve owned for 30 years, so I enjoy classic cars.”
Anderson eventually found the car in neighboring Illinois and bought it after seeing it on a Youtube video. “I trusted the guy and he drove about halfway to meet me and I picked it up, and I’ve never been sorry. But I had no idea it would turn into something this popular around here. It’s been quite a surprise.”
According to Anderson, the Galaxie 500 had originally been all white and was converted to a Mayberry TV car clone by a man in Tennessee. The Ford has the proper black-and-white paint job, police decals, siren, vintage Motorola police radio, and single flashing red light on the roof. “Mt. Pilot Ford, Mt. Pilot, N.C.” is stenciled on the edge of the trunk lid for some added authenticity. He even has an authentic “JL 327” North Carolina license plates. “They changed the law here and now I can put those plates on the car for shows and events as long as I have regular plates with me,” Anderson points out.
A bunch of squad cars were used on the Andy Griffith Show and its spin-offs, and most were Ford Galaxie four-door sedans. “I wanted a ’61 or a ’63, but there were just none available,” Anderson said. “This one was done up nice, and it was pretty much an exact replica of the ’65 from the sixth season. It just turned 70,000 original miles. I’m trying to keep it looking exactly like it did on the show. A lot of people say I should go with the chrome hubcaps, but I always say no, this is the way they looked. About the only thing I’ve done is have the black repainted, and I’ve had a lot of the chrome redone. Oh, and I put in a new headliner. The seats are all original. It’s pretty much like it came off the assembly line.”
The Galaxie 500 was the middle trim level for 1965 full-sized Fords, above the Custom line and below the Fairlane. The Galaxies had the Ford crest in the center of the trunk lid, chrome window frames, the Ford crest on the roof “C” pillar, "Galaxie 500" in block letters at the front of the front fenders, chrome rocker panel trim, hexagonal taillights with chrome "‘cross-hairs" trim and back-up lights. Two-tone vinyl trim was used on the insides of the doors and on the seats. The base 240-cid six-cylinder offered a modest 150 hp, but the majority of buyers went with one of the V-8 choices.
Galaxie 500s were offered as two- and four-door hardtops, two-door hardtops and convertibles. Prices ranged from $2,730 to $2,996 for the six-cylinder versions. The four-door sedans like Anderson’s were the most plentiful and they were among the country’s most popular vehicles with more than 181,000 assemblies for the model year. In addition, the engine choices the Galaxies could be equipped in a myriad of ways. Popular options included Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission; four-speed manual; power steering, brakes and windows; tinted windshield; air conditioning; vinyl roof; and whitewall tires.
One of the first things Anderson did when he got the car was get in touch with local law enforcement to make sure they knew he wasn’t going to be chasing any real criminals. “I met with the Sheriff’s Department and the city police to explain to them what I was buying and how I was going to use it. The only thing they advised me was not to drive it too much at night,” he says. “People who don’t get a good look at it at night might think it’s a real police car and that could pose a danger to me. I get lots of positive feedback from the police. They say I’m their back-up. Most of them are really good sports about it. They really enjoy seeing the car.”
The dressed-up Ford has allowed Anderson to tie together three of his favorite subjects: cars, The Andy Griffith Show and raising funds for the library in his tiny hometown of Dorchester, Wis. He says any money he collects from his appearances go to help fund the library, and his many appearances give him a chance to deliver a message about what modern society can learn from a simple TV series that aired five decades ago.
“I have a Power Point [presentation] and it’s kind of a nostalgic thing where we take people back to a little town … and really stress the values that the TV program presented. I tell people I’m a motivational speaker, and I try to motivate people to slow down and remember the simple things that are important in life.” He has written a book about the show, “Mayberry Reflections, The Early Years” and has a website of the same name (www.mayberryreflections.com).
Many of Anderson’s appearances involve taking kids for rides and letting them crawl around in the car and test the siren and light. “I guess I’m not as careful as I would be if it was totally restored,” he admits. “I want it to look like a police car. It’s my fun thing and I want to be able to use it.”
Anderson says he let’s his wife, Linda, drive when the car is in parades so he can walk behind in the street “and arrest people.” He says his next project will be equipping the Ford with a PA system that will whistle the Andy Griffith theme song when the car rolls down the street. “But I make it very clear when I make appearances that I’m not [imitating] Don Knotts!” he insists. “I wear a uniform to remember him and honor him, but I don’t try to imitate him. There’s no way I could do that… But people call me Barney all the time. ‘Hey Barney, where’s your bullet?’”
When he’s not busy with other Mayberry engagements, Anderson takes the car to car shows, and usually comes home with some hardware in the backseat, even if he insists he isn’t seeking any. “I win so many trophies with it and feel guilty because there are so many cars that are perfect and have had frame-off restorations and everything,” he says. “And my car gets the trophies because of what it is. I feel guilty, but I’m very honored that I get the trophies.”
Eventually, he hopes the car winds up in a museum or collection of another enthusiast who would enjoy the feel-good Ford as much as Anderson has so far. He’s had plenty of people inquire about buying the car, but he’s having far too much fun to consider parting with it.
“I don’t want to just sell it to anybody who’s not going to appreciate it for what it is,” he says. “It is a special car and it’s very unique.”
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