Story and photos by Brian Earnest
When Russ and Sandy Kuenstler were snooping around for a new collector car to play with a few years back, there wasn’t much doubt what kind of car they’d wind up. Sandy had already settled on mid-1960s Ford Galaxies as her favorite machines, so it was almost a forgone conclusion that the New Berlin, Wis., couple would wind up with another one.
The latest, and best, of her stable of Galaxies is the pair’s striking 1965 Galaxie 500 XL convertible, outfitted in bright red with a gleaming white interior. The car makes the rounds of the Wisconsin car show circuit in the summertime, and the Kuenstlers are happiest when they are caravanning from show to show, top down, enjoy their glorious convertible cruiser.
“This is my fourth one,” Sandy notes proudly. “One of them was a Ford Custom, the other three were Galaxies. I just like that car. It’s my favorite…. And the top stays down. Always! About the only time we ever put it up is if we get caught someplace and it starts raining.”
The Kuenstlers almost always travel with a vintage child seat in the back to add to the fun. It’s complete with a steering wheel in case any little backseat passengers want to practice their driving.
Sandy bought her first Galaxie from a friend back in the 1960s for $100. This one cost a bit more, but it’s been worth every penny for the Kuenstlers. They found it when it had about 76,000 miles on the odometer back in June of 2004. By then the car had been restored once and been through a succession of owners, beginning with an optometrist in Waterloo, Iowa, who bought in new. Just a year later, in 1966, the car went to a couple in Waverly, Iowa, who kept it until 1988, when they sold it to a man in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
The Wisconsin Dells owner had the car restored, but the job took until 1997. That was a lot longer than the owner wanted, apparently, and he got rid of the car in 1998. “It was fully restored. The fella that owned it got fed up with the car because it cost so much and was taking so long. I saw it in [an advertisement] in Old Cars Weekly. I saw that the guy had a local area code — we were in the Milwaukee area — and I called the guy and he had the car up in Door County [Wis.]. So we went up and looked at it and bought it. The guy had kept it up there in Door County and used it mostly for parades.”
Since then Russ has only tinkered with a few minor things on the big Ford. He’s added an electronic ignition to make it more reliable and put headers on the 390-cid V-8. The odometer now shows 119,000 miles and counting.
The droptop was one of 9,849 Galaxie 500 XL convertibles assembled for the 1965 model year. They carried a base price of $3,426. A two-door hardtop was also offered for $3,167 and production of the closed cars was almost triple that of the convertibles at 28,141 assemblies.
The Galaxie 500XL was the sport trim version of the Galaxie 500 and included all Galaxie 500 trim plus bucket seats and floor-mounted shift lever, polished door trim panels with carpeting on the lower portion of the doors, dual-lens courtesy/warning lights in the door panels, rear reading lights in hardtops and Galaxie 500XL badges on the body exterior.
The 1965 full-sized Fords were billed as “the newest since 1949.” Luxury and comfort were emphasized in the new Custom, Custom 500, Galaxie 500, Galaxie 500XL and Galaxie 500 LTD series. It was the first year for coil spring rear suspension and promotions were geared towards the new LTD being quieter than a Rolls-Royce.
Clean, sharp, square lines characterized the fresh new body styling that was set off by a radiator grille with thin, horizontal bars and dual headlights stacked on top of each other. There was a slight “Coke bottle” shape to the rear of the body. The Galaxies came with two keys to aid in valet parking — one key opened the trunk and glovebox, the other the doors and ignition.
The 289-cid/200-hp V-8 engine and Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission were standard in both XL body styles. The 240-cid six-cylinder was stock in the base Galaxies. The optional 390-cid V-8 was rated at 300 hp and was a $246 upgrade. A 352-cid/250-cid V-8 and four-barrel “Interceptor” 390 were also on the options list, as was the 427-cid/425-hp Thunderbird Super High-Performance V-8 preferred by racers and horsepower junkies.
The Kuenstlers’ car is equipped with all the goodies they desired for pleasant cruising, including and AM/FM radio, console and clock with second hand. The top is new, but it rarely sees daylight.
The license plate reads “1 Hot Gal”, which the red Galaxie certainly is. It continually reminds Sandy of her younger days and her first car, which she needed to get to work. “This one’s in a lot better shape and it’s the reverse colors — my first one had a white exterior and red interior,” she says.
Even though Russ does most of the driving, he insists its his wife’s car. He’s reminded of that anytime the subject of ever selling the car arises.
“If you see this car for sale in the paper, and you don’t see my death notice, you can look for his death notice,” Sandy says.
“If he starts selling it before I’m gone, he’s probably going first!”
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