Vitality and Action: The 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 Is an XL Car for an XL Lifestyle

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
vitality and action the 1964 ford galaxie 500 is an xl car for an xl lifestyle

If it’s not already abundantly clear through snarky asides hidden deep within news stories and reviews, automotive journalists despise PR-speak. We loathe the adjectives and nouns chosen by committee to best express the attributes not only of the car, but of the company and those running it. We’d sooner drink glue than hear the words “synergy,” “synergistic,” or “dynamic” ever again. “Dynamism,” too.

We get it, your new electric self-driving pod is dynamically synergistic. Or something. Please stop talking and hand over the keys, if indeed there are any.

Still, that doesn’t stop any of us from sitting back and delighting in the PR-speak emanating from the car commercials of yesteryear. It’s a guilty pleasure (for some, anyway), a time capsule to a long-ago age when, just maybe, things were better, more enjoyable, and more exciting. These Baby Boom or counterculture-era TV spots promise a limitless future of unending promise.

For many, the past is a patch of grass that never stops being the greenest in the land, if only because we’ve never (and will never) set foot there. Those of us who haven’t slipped over the brink of postmodernism are still able to enjoy these ads and the obsessed-over nouns and adjectives contained within, even in spite of the outdated social norms.

Are you ready to see what a Ford Galaxie 500 XL can do for a single man?

We don’t know his name, only that he’s healthy, fit, Caucasian, and probably about 5’8″. He’s a “modern man” with “imagination and drive,” the voiceover tells us — and, in 1964, that means shaving purposefully with an electric razor, wearing a fedora with the smallest brim you’ll ever see, and donning a formless overcoat like a youth who’s raided his dad’s closet and can’t quite pull it off.

Knowing he’ll soon have to tame the hula hoop-sized wheel of a full-sized Ford, snazzy leather driving gloves are also coming along for the ride.

It’s clear our modern man must have nailed a big raise in return for all of his corporate ladder-climbing. After all, he’s got a Galaxie 500 XL. As the highest falutin’ Ford in ’64, a man in his late 20s would need to score some pretty big accounts to buy that kind of action. And “action” is what he’ll get.

Unlike nowadays, “action” was the go-to automotive buzzword of the mid-to-late 1960s. Action was something drivers pursued, something a spirited driver craved. It was something they found through their car. And, as we see our successful modern man picking up his girl, accompanied all the while by jazzy, Henry Mancini-like music designed to instill the utmost confidence and swagger, it’s clear the horsepower of a (we assume) 390 cubic-inch V8 isn’t the only type of action he’ll see tonight.

Still, this is the early ’60s we’re talking about. The real racy stuff didn’t appear until well after the Summer of Love, peaking when people started becoming “ Dodge Material.”

Also, because this commercial’s not your typical glossy, well-financed U.S. ad campaign — it’s a local Canadian spot — the creators decided to throw every last descriptor, every last noun and adjective that could possibly compel someone to visit a dealership, into the mix. Go nuts, the director said. Yes, that Galaxie 500 XL is truly “the embodiment of her idea of perfection.”

But check out that sexy floor shifter — obviously designed for sophisticated living. And the dude? He’s “got what it takes.” Yes, “a real flair for elegance — confidence and sophistication personified.” And the overall experience? Listen here, this car possesses a “personality of vitality and action,” making it the obvious choice for going to “the best places in town.” It’s a car that “marks its occupants with graciousness and good taste” and “earns the respect of everyone.”

The complete lack of constraint, coupled with a reasonable amount of polish and a fatal yet admirable dose of earnestness, easily makes this one of the most Mad Men-ish car ads I think I’ve ever seen. I’m thinking about getting one of these 500 XLs now — I hear it’s able to do a thing or two for your reputation.

Also, it isn’t dynamic, nor is there any synergy at work. Surely they’d have told us if there was. I like that.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons ( CC BY-SA 3.0)]

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Oct 30, 2017

    I've always liked the '64 Fords. The first thing I would do is take off the fender skirts, and throw them away. Total Performance!

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Oct 31, 2017

    The guy in the commercial also has enough class to open the door for a lady. Some of these millenials could learn a thing or two...

    • Mason Mason on Nov 01, 2017

      Yeah, cuz millennials are the only ones that don't open doors for ladies these days.

  • Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
  • Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.
  • 6-speed Pomodoro My phone never leaves my pocket while driving. This is fine in my daily with bluetooth and also fine in my classic car, but people get mad in a hurry that I'm ignoring them.
  • BklynPete Maverick has had recalls but overall seems reliable. Consumer Reports recommends it for whatever that's worth, buyers think they're better than sliced bread, they're sold out, and look like a long-term success.I suppose you're right that DCT can be laid at Mulally's feet too but as COO Fields was in charge of product. When he got Mulally's job, Fields brought back mgmt siloes and lost shareholder value. Maybe Fields took the fall for other's bad decisions. But ultimately as CEO the axe had to land on him. I cannot believe that Farley won't meet the same fate if 2023 warranty claims make Ford lose money again.
  • Inside Looking Out All that is BS. Nissan just tries to buy time. By 2028 every Tesla will have fusion reactor under the hood. Commercial fusion reactor is under development as we speak 5 miles away from my home in Sandia labs in Livermore.
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