The sun is beating down remorselessly as crankandpiston lensman John and I step out of our stead and wander across the car park to meet our latest Driveway Heroes inductee. It’s hot. Really very hot. And as harsh as it sounds, we’re keen to get this shoot over and done with quickly so that we can dive for cover again.[Not a valid template]
This plan of perspiring campaign is stopped dead in its tracks however when we catch a glimpse of the automotive subject matter on offer: a 1965 Ford Galaxie 500. Our astonishment at this sight is clearly amusing the gentleman now standing to my right. Even though he’s owned the car for only three months now, Mark Montecillo is already well aware the impact a Galaxie has on others.
“I get a lot of looks from people at traffic lights,” explains Mark. “I’ve had people posing next to the car when it’s in a parking lot, and even on the highways other drivers don’t overtake as quickly as perhaps they normally would! I mean the colour really catches the eye, plus it’s over 17-feet long, which makes it just a little smaller than a bus!”
The heat on this sweltering Tuesday afternoon is enough to make my notepad wilt, but John has already leapt into action, his artistic eye espying one ‘really cool’ angle after another. The proper thing for me to do here would be to step in and offer my assistance where needed. So instead I ask Mark how he came across this most prized possession.
“A couple of months ago, my girlfriend Kristine and found an early 1960s GMC pick-up that was on sale at Al Aweer [Used Car Market in Dubai], but by the time we got there it had already been sold. But to the side, we found this Galaxie, just sitting there and covered in sand. The paint was really good so I started having a closer look. It looked like it had already had a fair amount of restoration work done to it. And so we just went from there.
“Kristine and I wanted something no later than a 1969 model. She wasn’t too hot about this Ford, but I said, ‘look, it’s in really good shape and to find a car of this year with all this work done to it already is very difficult’. It took a bit of persuasion but I managed to convince her. And now she loves it!”
Buying any classic car though, no matter how well cared for, brings with it a certain amount of risk: fault free journeys in a car nearly 50 years old are hardly a guarantee. Mark though is all too familiar with the perils of classic car ownership.
“Over the years, I think the newest car I owned was a ‘96 registration, and prior to that it was an ‘88! I love classic cars and they can be a lot of hardwork, but the Ford hasn’t really caused too many problems. I’ve replaced the radiator, which gave up pretty early on. It’s had new bushings, new springs, new shock absorbers. We were missing a hubcab on the old 15” wheels, so I put some new 17” ones on instead. That was pretty expensive! Oh, and I put a new radio in, and some new speakers. Nothing major. I’ve basically spent the last three months cleaning her up.”
All fairly straightforward then by the sounds of it. Well, actually, no. There have been a couple of instances where the Galaxie has temporarily called it quits, but before going down that road, Mark addresses a more immediate problem.
“Finding spare parts in the UAE is pretty much impossible: if your car is not current or Japanese, it can be like pulling teeth! The guys at www.summitracing.com have been old friends of mine since I lived in the United States, so any spare parts we’ve needed I’ve been ordering online.
“Everyday I keep working on the car, and on the interior in particular. I still have to get my speedometer fixed, because right now it stops at 65kph. The plastic has melted to the point that the needle can’t move forward! The fuel gauge…kind of works: I mean it registers full and empty, and nothing in between! And I’m going to get the alternator upgraded: at night, I have to turn the headlights off at traffic lights to make sure the battery keeps charging!”
The MOT list it seems, though hardly excessive, does have some corkers on there. And that’s not even including the big one. Engine, steering and electronics are one thing, but what would you really want to be working full beans during the height of summer…?
“One day I went to put the air-conditioning on high and the fuse blew. So I had absolutely no air conditioning during the hottest times of day. Everything else held up so I’d always get where I needed to at least, but I was always sweating bullets when I did! I had to find a place to put a custom A/C unit in. It’s not very nice, but it works, and at least it allows us to drive the car everyday.”
Speaking of heat, the afternoon sun is clearly starting to have an effect. Though it’s very easy to stare at the Galaxie and wistfully its link about its place in 1960s America, remembering what questions I had originally planned to ask Mark is another matter entirely. John’s wandered back over now too, Canon hanging from his right hand and an empty water bottle clutched in his left.
The prospect of getting back into our camera car – which has been getting nice and toasty since we arrived – is not something either of us is looking forward to. Mark though, smile still there, seemingly can’t wait to get back behind the wheel.
“Yeah, it can be a pain to drive sometimes. It’s just not designed for this climate, and quite often I find myself thinking, ‘okay how long will I be at this stoplight?’ or ’how long can I stay in the fast lane of the highway before something goes?’ But all the effort has been worth it.
“I think it’s because unlike a Mustang or Camaro of the same year, the Galaxie is not as common. You just don’t see a Ford Galaxie 500 driving around, and that’s what makes her special to both of us. She’s a part of the family now too!”
*ORIGINAL POST DATE: November 2012