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  1. #1
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Tales from the (not so very) fast lane ~ part 5

    Part 1 of Tales from the (not so very) fast lane part 5
    AMC Javelin to Galaxie 7 Litre

    I finished Part 4 of 'Tales from the (not so very) fast lane' with me selling the 1965 Ford Galaxie 4 door hardtop and looking for something more powerful and 'muscle' orientated.

    It was now 1976/77 and I bought a 1968 343 cu in Javelin from from Albert Road Service Station Romford only ½ a mile from where I was lived at that time. I still think that the design of the Javelin and its 'sawn-off' sibling the AMX were some of the nicest looking American 'pony' cars of the period.



    The owners of Albert Road Service Station were Jack and Albert. It was a place where a few of us budding petrol-heads would gather in the evening after filling-up with petrol. Albert would get the occasional American car in for service, repair or re-sale. My first memory of Albert was from couple of years prior to buying the Javelin when he was working on a fantastic two or three year old 69/70 428 cu in dark metallic blue Mach 1 Cobra Jet Mustang. The Mach 1 had an ignition or HT lead issue and seemed to only 'fire' regularly on six cylinders with the full eight occasionally 'kicking-in'. Some 40+ years later I can still mentally 'see' Albert doing a smoky burn-out in Victoria Road, Romford in that Cobra Jet (firing on six cylinders). I'm sure it was this very car that 'cemented' my future yearning for big block American muscle cars.



    I paid £485 for the AMC Javelin, quite a fair price at the time with the car being only 6 or 7 years old. It was finished in bright red with a parchment coloured vinyl roof and optional factory Magnum/Rostyle type wheels. The car had previously suffered some form of interior fire and had been repaired, resprayed and (oddly to my eyes) converted over to RHD, using (presumably) components from a RHD Rambler Ambassador or similar car. Whilst the conversion all worked reasonably well enough the electrics were a bit of a nightmare with the seemingly bodge-job RHD conversion and frequent recurring electrical problems.

    I had sold the blue '65 Galaxie 4 door hardtop to my buddy Colin Turner who lived in Leyton, East London. Prior to buying my Galaxie Colin had a Corsair 2000 V4 which he had fitted a set of extended spring shackles to jack the rear end up. The shackles were so long that the rear leaf springs started to curve the opposite direction. He also had major issues with UJ's failing from the acute angle of the prop-shaft.

    The Galaxie was Colin's first yankie motor but he didn't like the 15 x 7 Woolferace wheels that I had originally fitted on the back-end of the Galaxie, selling them back to me to use on the Javelin. Fortunately American Motors vehicles had the same pcd as Ford and Mopar. So one of the first things I did was to stick Colin's Woolfies on the rear end of the Javelin.
    As funds improved I went along to Deals On Wheels in London Road Romford a few months later and bought a new pair of 8 1/2 x 15 Woolfies c/w L60 General Grabber bias belted tyres to go on the rear end of the Javelin. A pair of G60 Grabbers were also bought and fitted to the 7 x 15's which then went on the front end of the car. The rear tyres were much larger in diameter and significantly wider than the stock rear rubber originally fitted to the Javelin.

    With car fashion at that time dictating a dragster type look with jacked-up rear ends and huge rear tyres I made my own heavy duty 9" extended rear spring shackles, adding a pair of Monroe air shocks to keep the rear end up in the air and out of the way of the rear fenders. A pair of steel traction bars were added for that final 'drag' look. I have to admit that I was quite proud of the way it looked at the time and with the smaller body of the Javelin the effect of big 'n' little wheels and tyres was more pronounced.
    With the 'rake' of the car (and reduced castor angle) the handling could be rather 'interesting' although never really a real problem like some of the 'jack-ups' (like Colin's Corsair) being carried out on 'home grown' cars at the time!

    About this time we had moved to local authority flat with a small, standard sized garage in a block. Whilst the Javelin would just about fit length wise the garage was so narrow that the only real way to get the car in the garage was to drive (or physically push) the car in as close to the right hand side of the garage as possible (RHD car remember), then wind down the l/h passenger side window and roll out of the open window. I would struggle to open and close the doors or even lock the car when in the garage so 'enhanced' security was sourced in the form of a huge ex-government 12 volt Gents fire bell that I had bought from a salvage yard. This was mounted in the engine compartment and linked up to a fairly rudimentary pendulum alarm system. It actually did the job quite well with the fire bell being surprisingly load (normal duty would be for use in a noisy factory environment) It did however have an amusing 'party trick'. When driving out on bumpy and poorly surfaced roads the 'clapper' on the fire alarm sounder would frequently strike the bell. This would cause much confusion and ultimate amusement to pedestrians and other road users expecting a fire engine to come past!

    The quality of trim and seating in AMC cars of the period was quite poor quality and the foam filling of the stock seats was crumbling away (perhaps as a result of the cockpit fire), there was always a pile of what looked like breadcrumbs under the seats so I replaced the seats with a pair from a Camaro sourced from 'good ole boys' Terry and Andy (of T & A Motors) who were then based in Plaistow, East London. As was the fashion of the period I re-trimmed much of the interior with mock Ocelot fur for that 1970's custom 'look' (I have to admit being really embarrassed about doing this – fortunately no interior photographs are known to exist!)

    Fitting headers on a RHD car that were designed for LHD proved a challenge but was worth the effort when the Thrush mufflers were fitted and ending just short of the rear axle they sounded great inside the car for short journeys but very tiring on longer runs from the constant droning.

    With its 240 HP 343 cu in engine like most AMC vehicles the Javelin was surprisingly good on gas - usually doing 16/18 mpg around town and 20/22 mpg at motorway speeds. On a trip up to Santa Pod on the M1 motorway I managed to 'wind' the Javelin up to an indicated 123 mph – this was flat-out. One of our car buddies at time, Russ Ward was in his 70' 440 cu in Dodge Challenger and had been keeping pace with me on the journey. Russ then drew alongside me (at my indicated 123 mph), simply waved at me through his side window, floored the gas pedal with the front end lifting up a bit - and just pulled away and last seen as a small dot on the horizon!
    Thinking back on that 123 mph shown on the speedo the larger diameter L60 tyres were probably making the gearing much higher so perhaps the 'real' speed was higher than indicated. Who knows?
    Watching Russ 'power away' over the horizon in that modified 440 cu in Challenger, the penny should have dropped then about the Javelin.

    It was more of a 'metric' penny that dropped a few weeks later when returning back from a few drinks at the 'poser' pub of the day (the Volunteer, Chigwell Row – now a housing estate) in the 'shape' a fairly new 16v Triumph Dolomite Sprint at a set of traffic lights. Dolomite Sprints had an outdated body design from the ailing British Leyland corporation and was considered an 'old mans' car. The 2 litre 16 valve engine was its best part. Anyway, the lights went green and both the Dolomite (and myself) in the Javelin 'went for it' to the next set of traffic lights, probably 1/2 mile further on. Well, I didn't beat the Dolomite and the Dolomite didn't beat me – so neck and neck. This was too embarrassing for me - 5.6 litres and 240 HP of V8 power couldn't beat 2 litres of British tin - so the Javelin was put up for sale.

    My next vehicle came to me from an unusual source – my mother! Having only been widowed a few years earlier my mother wanted to upgrade from her little Fiat 500 to something a bit more 'sporty'. She had a little bit of money put to one side and asked me to help her choose something suitable. We eventually found a two year old 1973 Vauxhall Firenza 2300 SL Sport Coupe. This choice was a very bad mistake on my part. I really should have been warned by the fact that the car had four previous owners in only two years. Fed up with seeing her in old bangers I just wanted her to have something fairly new and reliable. The problem was that she just couldn't seem to handle the car. With a 2.3 litre engine the Firenza was a much quicker car than any of its contemporaries of the period. Living close to the Ford plant Dagenham it was Ford vehicles of all ages that were the most popular cars in the area. As one can probably imagine the 'locals' in their Cortina GT’s and 1600E's used to get very upset being totally thrashed at traffic light 'grand prix's by the Firenza. Performance wise it was probably on a par with the 3 litre Capri.




    It wasn't so much the power (120 BHP) of the car but for some reason mum seemed to keep running in to the rear of other cars. The first time ended up being an insurance repair for minor front damage on the Firenza after re-ending another car in Ilford. Second time was when pulling out of Gants Hill roundabout on a damp day she spun the car and walloping a kerb, causing the cooling fan to hit the radiator and 'hole' it. Mum unknowingly drove back the car back 7 or 8 miles to Romford with no water and a (literally) red hot engine!I had the radiator repaired and bought a set of DTV (Dealer Team Vauxhall) 'hard' engine mounts to stop the fan hitting the radiator (due to the 'floppy' rubber engine mounting blocks) But, yet again one evening going down to Ilford once mum amazingly managed to run in the back of yet another car!

    Her insurance loading was now starting to be problematical for her and she decided to sell the Firenza. I found her another older car (Mk 1 Cortina 1500 GT from my buddy Colin Turner) which she ran for several years with no issues (or rear-ending other cars) I decided to buy the Firenza from my mother myself and got to work of repairing the latest damage, pulling out the front end and bonding-in a chin spoiler to hide the damage, replacing the bonnet etc and respraying it (as in the picture).

    This car was to be the most problematical, unreliable difficult car I have ever owned.
    People talk about Friday afternoon or Monday morning cars and jinxed vehicles – this was all of them put together. I had already seen the three 'incidents' with my mother – I should have been warned-off the car.



    The first problem was to be the brakes. There was nothing wrong with the brakes as such, it was just that I thought that with my mother continually crashing the car it would be a good precaution to overhaul them. So accordingly I went down to Jessops in London Road Romford (our local Vauxhall main dealer) to buy new pads for the front brakes with new linings plus wheel cylinders for the rear wheels.

    When the parts department went through their spares manuals it showed that the Firenza had been supplied from new with Girling front brakes and Lockheed rear (or was it visa versa?) - anyway Jessops didn't actually keep rear cylinders, brake linings or front disc pads. Staggeringly they were not even listed in the Vauxhall parts book (and the car being less than three years old!)
    I managed to source the parts from local motor factors, Romford Brake Service in Brentwood road Romford (now defunct) who actually carried all the parts I needed on the shelf. As an aside these people were unbelievable. You could take any set of brake shoes along to them (including American) and a member of the counter staff would spend a few minutes looking at them and then tell you exactly what car they came off! - and if they didn't have them on the shelf they would re-condition your old brake shoes and rivet-on or bond new linings within a day – amazing!

    A few weeks later I was driving the Firenza between Roneo Corner and Oldchurch Hospital in Romford when there was an almighty great bang from the rear of the car and the differential seized-up. The impact of this was sufficient to rip the rubber bushes out of the trailing arms. Several weeks later with new bushes and a factory exchange differential we were up and running again.
    This situation did not last very long and within a week or so the gearbox was now starting to make nasty grinding noises and obviously on the verge of seizing-up. So the gearbox was removed, taken down to the main dealer (Jessups once more) who would presumably would send it back to Vauxhall for a factory exchange or rebuild. A couple of weeks later and a replacement gearbox was collected from Jessops, installed in the car and duly road tested. This gearbox unfortunately had exactly the same grinding noises as the one I had taken in for re-conditioning or exchange several weeks previously. It turned out that Jessops or Vauxhall had somehow returned my old gearbox to me, untouched! To pacify me Jessops offered to get another gearbox, remove the dodgy gearbox and install the replacement in the dealership workshop at their cost. So things were OK (for while)

    I was fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at it) to had been made redundant fairly recently from Civic Stores (at that point the UK's largest electrical retail group with more than 400 branches). I left Civic's with a fairly good severance package. It was only this 'package' that enabled me to afford the continual repairs to the Firenza.

    Decided to buy a set of American 5 spoke wheels (being a 4 stud wheel on the Vauxhall they were actually 4 spoke) and visited the late Tony Dickson of Marshall Dixon Racing. Tony at that stage was working out of a home address in Shirley, near Croydon – before setting up Gasoline Alley in Wrotham (not too far from where Claremont Corvette is located). Tony shipped in a brand new set of 13 x 7 chrome ET mag wheels at the heady price of £100 (very serious money in the mid 70's!). I bought the widest UK manufactured radial tyres made at the time (185mm x 13) and attempted to fit the wheels and tyres to the Firenza.
    I now had a major problem. The new ET wheels were 2” wider than the standard Rostyle wheels but also had an additional 2” offset causing them to stuck out of the wheel arches an additional 4” each side of the car. This also had other effects. Firstly the additional offset had the effect on lowering the front suspension about an inch or so. The other effect was a major difference to the 'castor' effect of the steering and actually removing any self-centering from the steering.. Effectively this meant that when exiting a corner it was necessary to physically return the steering to a central position (rather that letting the steering wheel 'slip' through your hands.

    The 'issue' with the wheel offset was going to require major body surgery. Fortunately at the time I had got a new job with another electrical TV and white goods store they had a number of old refrigerators out the back of the shop where I was now working. The old fridges were left over from from old part exchange deals and had been scheduled to go to the dump long ago. Well, they did eventually go to the dump but not before I had used a pair of 'nibblers' to remove the sheet metal from the fridges to make my new hand made AVO lookalike wheel arches.
    The front and rear wings of the Firenza were then cut out to accommodate the modified, fabricated and widened wheel arches, riveting and 'glassed-in' the new arches and leaving them in primer ready for spraying.

    I was now starting to spent a lot of time and a serious amount of money on the Firenza and the 'jinxed' nature of the car didn't seem to be going away any time in the rear future. One Saturday evening visiting my girlfriend (then – but now wife of 35 years) at Leytonstone I parked as usual on the grass verge outside her flat. This was a fairly busy road with no parking available on street. The grass verge was a good 10 foot inside the pavement and usually a very safe (and legal) place to park. Well, it had been safe until this particular Saturday evening. Someone lost control driving a Granada or similar car, careered off the main road and drove straight in to the rear-end of my Firenza complete with its new wheel-arch extensions only completed a few days earlier (and just needing that final paint job).
    The police were called and the badly damaged car was towed away to a compound. The next problem was to be an insurance issue. My insurers were refusing to pay for the Firenza to be returned back to the condition it was in pre-accident (i.e. with the big wheel arches)
    To cut a long story short it took over five months to get an agreement with the insurers and have the rear-end of the car and its newly fabricated wheel arches repaired and resprayed etc.
    The next shock was when I eventually got the car back from the repairers. My lovely new and very expensive chrome ET mag wheels were now red rusty. It then transpired that the repairers had stored the car in an open compound for the 5 months I was waiting for the insurers to agree repairs.
    It didn't stop here though as although the body repairs had been done (seemingly) quite well and all the door shut lines were good the car just didn't sit right on the road. From certain angles the body seemed slightly 'twisted'.

    I had planned to buy a big valve head, quad Dellorto's carbs and other tuning parts from Bill Blydenstein who at the time were racing a modified Firenza, 'Big Bertha' driven by the late Gerry Marshall with considerable success. By now though I had enough of the aggravation with the Firenza and just wasn't prepared to spend any more money on it. So, with very little regret decided to sell it, fortunately not taking too much of a loss. Six months after I sold the car I received a phone call from the new owner – he was enquiring about the manufacturers warranty on the gearbox, it was failing again!

  2. #2
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Part 2 of Tales from the (not so very) fast lane part 5
    AMC Javelin to Galaxie 7 Litre

    So it was back to U S Fords again, this time a super rare 1966 Galaxie 7 Litre 2 door fastback. This was a one year only model that featured the hi-line XL interior package but featured Fords 'new' for 1966 428 cu in engine. The model was actually called the Galaxie 7 Litre.




    The Galaxie came stock with many heavy duty components, suspension etc and my one had the close ratio 4 speed Top-loader gearbox. I bought it from Ian Wildblood, a Barking based steam and traction engine enthusiast. Probably avoiding excessive import tariff's at the time the car had originally come over from the 'States as accident damaged salvage via one of the East End car dealers with several replacement body panels on it. Barely 10 years old it had what we call nowadays the 'Rat' look. Ian had put a set of black painted wide steels with low profile General Scrambler tyres for that Nascar racer 'look'. He replaced the camshaft with an aftermarket high performance item but left the stock FoMoCo 4 barrel carb in place. It needed the idle screws opened up about 6 turns just to get it to tick over. I replaced this carb with a Holley off a later 428 Cobra Jet Mustang and made changes to the ignition curve and carb jetting to get it to run better with its 'rumpity, rumpity' camshaft.

    A coil was removed off each spring to get the Galaxie much lower to the ground and completing that Nascar look. Despite physically being a large car the Galaxie surprisingly wasn't a lot heavier than a big block Mustang or Fairlane (or big block Corvette for that matter) from the same period. The major advantage it did have over the Mustang and other Muscle cars was far better weight distribution and, accordingly traction. With the larger body and heavy duty factory suspension it actually handled better than many of the 'pony' cars if 'set-up' correctly for corners (although this usually meant using much of the available road surface to do this!)

    I made up a large bore twin exhaust system using the now almost obligatory Thrush straight-through mufflers. With its 'extreme' camshaft the Galaxie had a very low frequency exhaust note, so much so that when visiting my girlfriends flat she never actually heard me coming up the street as such – but more like 'felt' me coming up the road with all the house windows and items of crockery on shelves rattling in unison with exhaust note of the car!







    For the time the Galaxie was a seriously quick car and easily a match for any other muscle car of the period. During the couple of years or so I owned it there was nothing locally that could beat it out there on the street.

    Some of our 'older' Essex and East London readers may remember the Sunday night cruises that started from the car park in Seven Kings close to the railway station and Jakes burger bar.
    There would be as many as 20 to 30 American cars gathering at the car park ready to cruise out to a pub in Navestock or Coxtie Green just outside Brentwood. This would always a nice gentle well organised procession going out to the pub. The return journey however would always be very different with everyone wanting to get back to Jakes burger bar to be first in line for the burgers and effectively an 'all out' race back to the Seven Kings car park with everyone 'going for it' on the A127 Eastern Avenue between Romford and Ilford'. I do remember frequent 'triple digit' speedo readings.


    Circumstances change. We had only been married for a couple of years and were living in a single bedroom first floor flat in Romford. The Galaxie was parked in the open all year round and we were struggling to afford to keep it. With a young baby we now had only one wage coming-in and moving to a larger two or three bedroom property was now essential. So the Galaxie was regrettably sold to help fund the move, now to a three bedroom terraced house (without garage) just around the corner.

    The Galaxie 7 Litre was sold to a greengrocers son in Harrow (possibly Ruislip). As the new buyer drove away my words to him were “don't over-rev the engine - it's a big block 5500 rpm is the upper limit – don't exceed it!”. Ten days later and he had thrown a con-rod through the engine block and grenaded the engine. A 'cooking' 352 cu in engine was subsequently installed c/w a custom 'tuck 'n' roll interior – a rare car that is no longer with us.

    It would be several years and another property move to a 'semi' with a garage before any 'special' cars other than daily drivers could be afforded.

    Oddly enough whilst writing this episode my son texted me details of a 1966 Galaxie 7 Litre with 4 speed for sale on UK Ebay at £30K. This is the first one of these I have ever seen in the UK for sale. Martin now in to his mid 30's has gone down the 'Ford' route having been through the turbo'd Datsun/Nissan 'ricer' stage and has been 'settled down' for several years with a '62 Thunderbird. He has installed Edelbrock heads, headers, camshaft and a rare OEM Cobra dual quad inlet manifold c/w with twin Holleys and a set of aftermarket wheels.



    Next episode ~ Tales from the (not so very) fast lane part 6 – from 429 SCJ Mustang to 'flathead' Cadillac.
    Last edited by roscobbc; 05-01-16 at 09:09 PM.

  3. #3
    Might as well be part of the furniture.
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    Very cool - thanx for posting. Agree on the looks of the Javelin - have always liked them. My 'adopted' little brother drag races a SC/Rambler - all steel, all AMC on 9" tyres, stock suspension and has gotten it down to 9.98 once. Leaning on the bottle for sure, but still... He has a couple of AMXs also; one might find its way south when he decides to sell...
    Love the look of that Firenza - part Opel Manta A, some Holden thrown in with maybe a dash of Hillman Avenger [?] We never got those over here, and judging by the amount of headaches you had, maybe thats a good thing! DEFINITELY a Monday car...
    We DID get the 7 Litre Galaxies tho...also a very cool car. Personally I really like 'big' cars - Impalas, Galaxies, Catalinas etc. I remember an acquaintance having a maroon one with an automatic trans and a black interior. I was fairly young and dont remember ever even riding in the car, but I remember that interior and those '7 Litre' badges like it was yesterday. Very cool.
    Like 'Bullet Birds' too - my Aurora A/FX slot car track had a dark green one in the set.
    Looking forward to the next installment

  4. #4
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    I remember seeing the Galaxie in The Mart when you sold it, didn't realise where it went and what happened though. A very cool car.

  5. #5
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Wow - good memory Steve! - this is the first one I've ever seen on UK Ebay - not too sure about it though.................
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/2720905174...%3AMEBIDX%3AIT

    Of course the real 'trick' would have been getting hold of a 427 cu in powered '65 or '66 Galaxie. Reputedly the breakers yard on the the south side of Blackwall Tunnel (Freddie 'Clowns Trousers') had a 4 door '65 Galaxie 'pass through' their yard c/w 427 cu in power (don't know if single or dual quad) - story went that the engine was removed, had the block 'hard filled' and used for drag racing.

  6. #6
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    I was thinking about buying a 66 Galaxie XL Coupe earlier this year before I chose the Capri instead . 'Only' a baby 289 though

  7. #7
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    Hi Kev - buddy of mine at the time had (and still has) a '65 Goat with 4 speed - his and mine were fairly even performance wise except once we got in to three digit speeds where the Galaxie would pull away from the Poncho. 'Maxed' it out one evening on the 'Mad Mile' section of the A12 Eastern Avenue (between Moby Dick and Mawney road traffic lights) - indicated 135 mph - seriously scary handling!

  8. #8
    Carburetion 'sucks' !
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    'Nother story from back then. I was coming home late one evening down the A12 Eastern Avenue from the Gallows Corner junction past Pettits Lane junction with the North Street 'light next. 'Picked-up' a small capacity Jap bike behind me who made it clear he was up for a 'thrash'. We waited for the North Street 'lights to turn green and I promptly left the little Honda 'in my dust' and exhaust condensation (it was a misty, cold winters evening). I drew-up at the next traffic lights (Mawney Road) which were now red. The biker pulled up to my open drivers window and said "that goes well mate - but I think you have something badly wrong with the engine - the exhaust is blowing out red smoke"
    Anyone that is familiar with a Galaxie from that period will know that it had huge square ('65) or rectangular ('66) rear lights. This idiot was following in my 'wake' and with the large red brake lights shining through all the exhaust condensation he thought it was red smoke!

  9. #9
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    Great stuff. I just love the way these mini-blogs are going.
    And, amazingly, I was made redundant with the collapse of Civic Stores too. As part of my redundancy I bought my company car, an escort estate, and flogged it for a profit, and my dad's (who worked there too) escort van, which started me on my journey as a vanner.......
    Small world, huh ?
    Last edited by KerbyCrewGary; 06-01-16 at 01:54 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by roscobbc View Post
    'Nother story from back then. I was coming home late one evening down the A12 Eastern Avenue from the Gallows Corner junction past Pettits Lane junction with the North Street 'light next. 'Picked-up' a small capacity Jap bike behind me who made it clear he was up for a 'thrash'. We waited for the North Street 'lights to turn green and I promptly left the little Honda 'in my dust' and exhaust condensation (it was a misty, cold winters evening). I drew-up at the next traffic lights (Mawney Road) which were now red. The biker pulled up to my open drivers window and said "that goes well mate - but I think you have something badly wrong with the engine - the exhaust is blowing out red smoke"
    Anyone that is familiar with a Galaxie from that period will know that it had huge square ('65) or rectangular ('66) rear lights. This idiot was following in my 'wake' and with the large red brake lights shining through all the exhaust condensation he thought it was red smoke!
    Now THATS funny, I dont care who you are! [he says in his best 'Mater voice...]

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