In 1965, Ford designers made a stylistic change from rounded edges and round taillights, to angular and sharp edges. One of the new angular Ford Galaxie 500 sedans reportedly was sold to a traveling salesman in east Texas. That four-door sedan was by far the most popular model that Ford produced. A total of 181,183 such cars were manufactured. The base price was $2,678.

Seven years later, the 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 was sitting on a used car lot where it was spotted by 17-year-old Shelton Riggins. The teenager had $200, but the price of the Ford was $695. He convinced his grandmother to pay the remainder, so that he could have a car for his senior year at Chapel Hill High School.

On July 27, 1972, he started the 352-cubic-inch V-8 engine and with 250 horsepower at his command, Riggins drove the turquoise car home. The summer was hot and the car didn’t have an air conditioner, but he did not care because, he says, “It was a good running car.”

The following autumn he drove his Ford 500 miles to Plainview, Texas were he as a student at Wayland Baptist University. After his freshman year he went home for the summer for much needed repairs to his car, including a new short block. With most of the mechanical parts replaced Riggins returned to school. “After my freshman year,” he says, “it was pretty much a new car to me.”

With the new parts the Ford Galaxie 500 performed flawlessly on the return trip to Plainview. “It took me 8 hours,” he recalls. “It was a beautiful ride.”

The 119-inch wheelbase provided a cushioned ride. He has never pushed the speedometer needle up to the 120-mph limit but he says, the car has never lacked for power.  The Ford has never been equipped with a heater, but Riggins is quick to point out that his car does have a radio and power steering.

After graduation in the spring of 1977, Riggins parked the Ford at his grandmother’s house when he joined the Army and was stationed for three years in what was then West Germany.

When he returned home in 1980 he found that his Ford had not fared well in his absence. He took his car to a trusted mechanic who, he says, “Got it back in tip-top shape.”
When he was dating Barbara, who would later become his wife, the Ford was in storage, so she was only aware of its existence. After the wedding in 1989 Riggins got his car out of storage.

In 1990, Riggins had the original green cloth upholstery replaced. In 1996, the then 31-year-old paint was showing its age so Riggins had the car repainted in the original color. While preparing the Ford for repainting no rust was located anywhere. Also absent were any dings or dents in the body. Stacked headlights flank the grille above the bumper. So far Riggins has not had to have either bumper nor any of the trim rechromed on his Galaxie 500.

Ten years passed before Riggins decided in October 2006 that his Ford needed to be repainted. The process of respraying the car in 2006 was a repeat of the task in 1996, with one exception: one of the original wheels was damaged and the distinctive 1965 wheel covers proved to be irresistible to some unsavory characters. Riggins solved both problems by installing a set of aftermarket wheels until he can replace the original equipment.

These days, the owner says, “I mostly drive my Ford on weekends.” In the 38 years that Riggins has owned the Galaxie 500 he has driven it only about 40,000 miles. “It has served me well,” Riggins says. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters

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