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California Dreamin’ – Running up the coast in a 1967 Ford Country Sedan

Jeff Glucker October 7, 2011 All Things Hoon

1967 Ford Country Sedan pre-trip by Huntington Beach Pier

Long, gray and powerful are three words that can be used as rather basic descriptors of most any ship operating in service of the U.S. Navy. Quite coincidentally, those three adjectives power my elementary verbal rendering of a particular classic station wagon. Despite the different mission statements employed by a naval ship and a 1967 Ford Country Sedan, the two contain surprisingly similar attributes with regards to size, color and powerplants. I’ve only got keys to one of them, however, and it prefers to operate on dry land. Luckily, our country is nearly covered with the stuff.

Still, despite my possession of the ignition key, my name was notably absent from both the title and registration found in a box of paperwork, receipts and maintenance history sitting next to me on the long bench seat. The actual owner was waiting in his new home located hundreds of miles North of the big Ford’s present location… and I had to get the big rig back to him.

Waking up before the sun one Saturday morning, I stuck the key in the ignition then pondered what lay ahead of me. Four hundred and twenty-three miles in a 44-year-old car powered by a massive V8 sporting an AM radio. Oh, and the fuel gauge didn’t work. What could go wrong?

Keep reading to find out.

Seeing as the road trip is an essential part of life in America, it would appear that a new one was required of me. I’ve been on a handful over the year, including a few jaunts from coast to coast. Most recently, I piloted an Airstream Avenue from Huntington Beach up to Pismo for a weekend with a friend. That was fun, but part of the recipe that makes a road trip successful is the vehicle used. The Avenue was fine, yet that trip left me wanting more. My next road trip machine had to be more interesting, and all signs pointed towards the ‘67 Country Sedan showing me a “Hell Yes” on the Magic 8-ball of life choices.

Fate had conspired in my favor. Tim AKA Mad_Science was moving to Northern California and he didn’t want to take his muscle wagon with him. For Sale signs were placed on the 10-passenger battleship, and it wound up in my driveway where I could look after it while his family and the wagon hunted for new homes. That search proved successful for my friend, but the automobile occupying a portion of my life was still without a new owner. Rather than let it languish in my driveway, I decided it was time to reunite the beast to its title bearer.

After a twist of the key, the Country Sedan barked to life before settling into its thumping idle. My tank was filled with 91-octane fuel, as per the owner’s instructions. The carbueratted 390 cubic-inch V8 likes to drink the good stuff. That fuel is converted into 315 horsepower and 427 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to the 3.00-geared nine-inch rear end and out to the black 15-inch Cragar wheels. This is a muscle wagon that, like an aging boxer, can still deliver a heavy punch. For this trip, I just (optimistically) hoped it would deliver mid-double-digit highway fuel economy.

Spoiler: it didn’t.

The Ford Country Sedan is 214-inches long (8 inches longer than a Lincoln Navigator), weighs 4,310 pounds and can transport an entire starting baseball lineup (plus manager) in comfort. That baseball team should get its hand on a gas card, because I was averaging around 10 miles per gallon. That didn’t matter on this trip though as I wanted to spend as much time with the wagon before returning it. Our fuel stops allowed us a moment to take in the scenery of our adventure together.

Rather than take the faster route up the 5 Freeway, I opted for California’s 101. Running near the coast, the 101 travels through beautiful beach towns before ducking into wine country. From my vantage point behind the thin steering wheel, I was treated to one long postcard outside my window for nearly the entire journey. Well, not until I passed through Los Angeles.

Moving away from the City of Angels, the road opens and the 390 is allowed to breathe. In fourth gear, the wagon jogs down the highway like a dog let off its leash. The engine turns at 3,000 rpm, and the speedo needle slides horizontally towards 80 miles per hour. Thanks to the Titanic-grade wheelbase, the car tracks straight as an arrow fired from Robin Hood’s bow.

Despite the eagerness to run, I had to keep one eye on the aftermarket Autometer gauges installed near the steering column. One relayed engine temp, another keyed me in to oil pressure and the third was a volt meter, which decided to take this trip off. No matter, the other two were more important anyway. The two non-union gauges served notice that this 44-year-old hulk planned on making the trip a comfortable one. Oil pressure remained healthy, which was good news for the 390, and the engine temperature performed a wonderful impression of the other side of the pillow.

I was expecting drama on this trip. My pre-trip imagination was filled with a soaring temperature gauge, a diving oil pressure gauge, any random classic-car ownership issue and the myriad of unforeseen items that could pop up when taking something old and driving it somewhere far. There was no drama though, save for the seemingly endless glory of the Pacific Ocean, the golden fields of central California that roll on forever and the view of the open road stretching out in front of the hood of a 1967 Ford Country Sedan.

When asked the inevitable question of “why?”, Tim has an answer ready to go. In 2007, he and his wife were looking to get their first classic car yet they also wanted a vehicle to haul items if necessary. A scan of Craigslist led them to the Country Sedan, and $2,500 later it was their Country sedan.

Big plans were hatched but, as most classic car owners will tell you, those plans don’t always come to fruition. If he could go back and start over, he would’ve done things differently, but that doesn’t change the fact that this was his first and he has strong memories tied to the car. A park ranger once stopped him as he entered San Onofre state beach to engage in a lengthy conversation about how “awesome” his “surf wagon” was, and he can easily recall the excitement felt the first time he heard the secondaries kick in on the new carburetor he just installed. These are joys held by owners that others don’t always get to experience.

I got to experience it for during my brief time watching over this automotive Baby Huey. This time wasn’t spent with a particularly rare car, seeing as Ford cranked out thousands of examples between 1952 and 1974. It isn’t a quick car either thanks to all that weight, but the 390 does a more than admirable job. Despite this, I got to take in a beautiful portion of our country from the driver’s seat of a part of its automotive history. The owner may have paid $2,500 for the car, but his time with the car and my road trip are worth far more as far as memories go.

My destination came into view before I was ready for it. My remaining time with the car turned from hours into minutes. Still, Tim had one last “date” in store for the wagon and myself. We found a secluded road that terminated, oddly enough, at a Pick Your Part junkyard. The place was closed for the day, and the road was empty of both traffic and pedestrians. I was then shown how much life that 390 still has… by way of a few burnouts. They may have been of the one-wheel, get-me-a-posi variety, but they were still impressive for such an elder beast.

 

Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. Perfect. Just perfect.

  2. FЯeeMan says:

    The two non-union gauges

    Classic! Especially considering the time that this beast was built. And now, and… Classic!

    Epic journey.

  3. vwminispeedster says:

    Why do you tease me with such coolness? Those wheels are my new favorite. They look good on anything even My Little Pony Mustangs. http://forums.24hoursoflemons.com/viewtopic.php?p

  4. tonyola says:

    My uncle once owned a maroon '67 Country Sedan. One summer he drove down with his family to Florida to visit us in Titusville, which is located right next to Cape Canaveral. Back in those more innocent days, NASA would allow people to drive around within the Kennedy Space Center on Sundays, so I rode along with my aunt, uncle, and cousins in the Ford barge to tour the facility. There were some officially off-limit areas but security must have been lax because we drove unchallenged right up to a Saturn V sitting on Pad 39A. We even got out for a while, walked up to the base of the rocket pad, got a few pictures, and drove away. It wasn't until later that we realized we really weren't supposed to be able to do that.

  5. Scandinavian Flick says:

    Awesome! It has long been my dream to take a land yacht down the coast. My ideal is a '67 Pontiac GTO convertible. I've done the Northern coast out of San Francisco all the way up to Washington's Puget Sound. South down to San Diego is definitely next…

  6. EscortsForever says:

    Only 214 inches? My Towncar was 219 inches long. And here I thought that car was big! Anyways, looks like you're putting your extra free time to good use. Since I rarely comment and have no problem with being late, I'll put this in here too: Welcome back sir.

  7. PowerTryp says:

    I know I missed you Jeff, you really are a gift to the automotive blogging universe and we are truly lucky to have you here.

    I hope to someday take hairbrained trips like the one you just told us about.

  8. Lotte says:

    Yeah, I like him here more than there churning out press releases. That was a great read; I think my room's dusty or something…

  9. muthalovin says:

    I lurves me some dorky burnouts.

    The parents Gen 1 Lightning sees similar fuel economy. Thankfully, there are 2 tanks to fill with premium.

    • jarque says:

      I tried to talk my dad into getting a (Gen 2, I guess) Lightning. He said the bed was too short. I failed to understand this since he drives a Ranger. I don't think I could get the Ranger to do any dorky burnouts because of the lack of power and the added weight of the toolbox and diesel fuel tank in the bed.

      • muthalovin says:

        The Gen 2 does some amazing burnouts while hauling groceries or whatever. You can fit a sport-bike in the back, and close the tailgate, so I think it is plenty long. However, if you have to fit a toolbox up there, then I could see his point.

  10. dukeisduke says:

    "Fourth gear"? What transmission is in it now? Because the Cruise-O-Matic has only three forward speeds.

  11. jarque says:

    Now I need to go on a road trip. It has been far too long.

  12. pj134 says:

    Dammit, I need to get me a late 60's Country Sedan.

    So cool looking and awesome utility.

  13. yellofury says:

    sweet!!! I love the wheels and flip up jump seats

    This wagon would look sexy in matte black

  14. Rust-MyEnemy says:

    Yeaaaaaahhhhhh. This is the good stuff. I needed this.

    I might quit work tomorrow, and just drive.

    This beer's good, too.

    • jarque says:

      Beer IS good isn't it? It's hard to believe that there are people out there who don't like it. That reminds me I need to buy some malt extract, hops, spring water and yeast. Oh I'm going off topic here, sorry. Is that cool on this site? Or is there an open thread for random musings?

      • Scandinavian Flick says:

        Hey, you came over here too! Welcome! Beer is good indeed…

        I'm still getting used to it here, but it seems pretty lax on the off-topic-isms. There isn't really an area dedicated to it, but musings seem to ramble and deviate at times.

        • jarque says:

          Yeah, I got locked out of that other place and I don't think they'll put much effort into fixing it since I'm pretty sure it has to do with the 6 year old Mac I'm using. I've been lurking for a couple of days and added 178 people on Google+ yesterday. Change is hard but this site has lots to like about it and plenty of familiar avatars.

          • Scandinavian Flick says:

            Not terribly surprising. I'd say compatibility is one of their main issues, which says wonders about their coders' abilities. I put up the finger and decided to take an extended break. My star got yanked, so I decided to put up the other bird as well and leave for good. With time, I'm sure I won't miss it. Their loss.

            The people here are awesome!

      • Rust-MyEnemy says:

        Strip off and get in, you warm up when you get your head under and it's lovely when you're in.

        I think you new guys are in the ground floor rooms. Bar closes at 11 (officially… then it's all up to Charles's room for the fun and games to continue.) .

      • PowerTryp says:

        Don't worry about off topic, the commenter base isn't big enough here to make us go over 100 comments on non-hooniverse asks or very special topics.

        Now do go on about brewing your own beer.

        • jarque says:

          My in-laws got me a nice brewing kit for Christmas. There is a lot of cleaning and sanitizing involved and then following the recipe and waiting for the yeast to do its thing. I have made two batches (about 6 gal. each) and results have been good. I'm planning on making either a Double IPA or Altbier next. I'll probably make up my mind when I get over to the brewers' supply store and see what they have in stock.

    • Jeff_Glucker says:

      Ha… I just got back from a mini brewery tour. My bro in-law is in town, and the wifey just drove us from Stone to a new small spot called Cismontane.

      • Mike_the_Dog says:

        Stone has got to be the greatest small brewery outside of Michigan. Their Bastard brews and the Ruination IPA are frickin' AWESOME.

  15. SalesGeek says:

    Sweet! Almost like the one I learned to drive in when we lived in suburban Philadelphia in the 1970’s. The first time I got to drive it solo, I invited a group of friends out to enjoy some pizza with my newly-minted license. The wagon promptly blew a power steering hose mid-trip and I had to call home to get a ride for myself and my stranded friends.

    Thanks to intermittent bouts of reliability I learned to do the basic maintenance on this car up to and including changing out the starter in blowing snow. That one I had to do three times since the local parts shop sold us a rebuilt starter with a cracked housing. I installed it twice (what could go wrong? three bolts that were either in or not in) before spotting the big crack that had been painted over during the quick-and-dirty rebuild.

    That ’67 wagon took the beating that any 16-year old would dish out. Street races with other low-powered parentally-owned cars, catching air at the right spot in the nearby country roads, etc. It was cheap, easy to fix and except for the starter solenoid (we just bought several and kept them in the car) was pretty reliable.

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