- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

In the spring of 1964 newlywed Ken and Barbara Kline went to Edmonds Motors on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington in search of a new “family” car — after all, they were a new family.

Their initial target was a station wagon but after seeing one close up neither young husband nor young wife was prepared to forsake the image their previous flashy cars provided. The wagon would come later.

On the first of April they ordered a Rangoon-red 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 with red vinyl upholstery, red carpeting and a white headliner.

For a total of $2,615, their new Ford was supposed to be delivered equipped with:

• AM radio.

• Vinyl trim.

• Undercoating.

• Deluxe seat belts.

• Tinted windshield.

• Padded dashboard.

• White sidewall tires.

• 195-horsepower V-8.

• Windshield washers.

• Four-speed transmission.

An anxious month-and-a-half later Mr. Kline received word from the dealer that his dream car had arrived. When he went to get the car he found that, indeed, it was all there, down to the last detail — except that the car was painted black.

No amount of cajoling had any effect on him. Mr. Kline was adamant about the color.

Of course, by that time Ford was busy cranking out the first of the hot, new Mustangs, which were gobbling up most of the four-speed manual transmissions.

A month later the dealer again telephoned to say a red Ford with the specified accessories had been found and was waiting at the dealership. He came, he saw and he bought.

The window sticker indicated that the Rangoon-red car had been built a couple of weeks before, on May 28, and that the options included:

• Transmission……$188.00.

• 289-cubic-inch V-8…45.10.

• White sidewall tires..37.00.

• Vinyl trim…………25.00.

• Tinted windshield….21.55.

• Wiper/washer…….20.10.

• Padded dashboard…18.60.

• Full wheel covers….18.60.

• Remote left mirror…12.00.

• Retractable seat belts.7.55.

Mr. Kline scrutinized the list and even agreed to the $63 transportation charge. He pointed out that he had not ordered the $12 remote-control left outside mirror. The dealer quickly subtracted the $12 from the total, probably just to get him out the door. Ironically, that remote-controlled mirror has proven to be one of the most useful options on the car, according to Mr. Kline.

He drove his 16.5-foot-long Ford Fairlane 500 home on its 116-inch wheelbase that June day almost 40 years ago and, with the exception of restoration down time, has continued to regularly drive it to this day.

In 1964 Ford offered a two-year, 24,000-mile warranty, which Mr. Kline was glad to have. After only six weeks the clutch and flywheel had to be replaced.

He reports that was the first and last major difficulty he experienced with his Ford.

Countless family vacations were taken in the trusty car, including annual trips to Florida. “The air conditioner is the wing vent windows,” Mr. Kline says.

At the age of 19 years the Ford was showing signs that hinted it was time to get rid of it or restore it. Mr. Kline opted for restoration, even though he had never attempted one before. The restoration began in 1983 and was essentially completed in January 1988.

As Mr. Kline dismantled his Ford, he discovered evidence of the quality workmanship of 1964 — a paper plate and napkin sealed within each rear quarter panel.

He surmises that his car was built right after mealtime on the assembly line.

The undamaged grille, Mr. Kline says, “was buffed out” while both chrome bumpers and the door handles were replated.

“I took everything apart,” Mr. Kline says. “I still don’t know how I did it.” He concedes the task would have been easier if he had built his garage before, instead of after, restoration.

Spending his working life as a mechanical engineer might have given him a leg up during the restoration.

Rebuilding a 1936 Ford roadster with his father back in the 1950s while he was a student at Washington Lee High School in Arlington probably was a good training ground.

“The original dash pad was long rotten,” Mr. Kline says. So during restoration he opted for a painted metal dashboard without the optional padding. The three-spoke steering wheel continued in its deep-dish safety mode.

Then Mr. Kline, in July 2003, had the transmission rebuilt. That helps the 2,925-pound hardtop Ford with more than 133,000 miles on the odometer keep on trucking.


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