The license plate frame on Roamin Angel Peter Franchino’s ‘63 1/2 Ford Galaxie 500 says “Together Forever.”
While it mainly has to do with wife Barbara and him, it also has to do with Peter and his Ford. He bought it new in 1963 after his ‘56 Chevy was broadsided. He describes the Chevy as “the proverbial ‘Little Old Lady from Pasadena’ car,” but in a negative way: better for toodling around town than drag racing. So when he had a choice in replacing it, he opted for performance.
Peter was still in college, so he had limited funds. To get what he wanted, he special ordered his Ford. While the Galaxie 500 was the top-of-the-line model, things we now assume to be standard on such a model were not, and Peter could not afford them. He went for a four-speed trans (best for drag racing), but went for the smallest of the FE blocks, a 352 CID V-8 with a two-barrel carb, for economy. The XL model had bucket seats, but cost too much. When you were a young man in the ‘60s, power steering and brakes seemed a luxury, so he didn’t order them (although he says now that he has to make an 18-point turn to make a U-ey, he wishes he had). For paint color, he chose a sporty Rangoon Red. When all was said and done, the price was $3,300, with payments of $85 per month. Peter gulped as he signed the papers, hoping he could scrape up that much each month.
When his Ford arrived, he loved it — all except the gas mileage. The salesman had told him the two-barrel would give good mileage, but he averaged 9 MPG. Even with the cheap price of gas, it cut into his budget. Oddly enough, when he changed the intake manifold and went to a four-barrel carb a year later, his mileage went up to 15 MPG and he could live with that. It also improved the Ford’s performance and, as a drag racer, that was a nice plus.
When he started dating Barbara, she used to borrow it when she went out with her fellow nurses, claiming it was because it had more room for passengers than her Chevy Malibu. One morning as Peter was driving to work on Glenoaks Blvd. in Glendale, a Corvette pulled up to him and the driver asked, “Is that your car?”
“Sure is,” Peter replied.
“Funny,” the Corvette guy said, “I raced it last night, but it was full of a bunch of girls.”
After Barbara and he married, the Ford was their family car. Even when he went into the Army, he drove it to Washington, D.C., and then back after he was discharged. He used it for everything, including towing trailers. Their kids grew up calling it “Dad’s special car.” But Barbara liked it too. Peter tells of when Barbara was picking up their son Devon from high school and another student came up beside her in a Toyota, repeatedly revving the engine. She turned to Devon and said, “Fasten your seat belt.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because your friend wants to race.”
Devon fastened his seat belt and Barbara blew the doors off the Toyota.
Over the years it has had seven repaints and three engines, the latest a 390 CID, giving it more power, which both he and Barbara appreciate. However, things change with time. Being older and wiser, Barbara and Peter no longer drag race, which has gotten much more dangerous than in the old days. Now you can usually see it at the Elam Biggs Bed & Breakfast Inn on Colfax Ave., the business he and Barbara own. Although they now also have a van for the B&B, Peter still regularly drives his Ford Galaxy 500. After all, they’ll be together forever.
For more about Ron Cherry and his writing, see www.rlcherry.com. For more information about the Roamin Angels Car Club, go to www.roaminangels.com, call 432-8449, write to Roamin Angels, PO Box 1616, Grass Valley, CA 95945, or just stop by IHOP on Taylorville Rd. some Friday at 6:30 am for breakfast.