By: Tyler Clarke
Posted: 07/28/2017 3:00 AM
Babying their 1967 Ford Fairlane 500 XL for 50 years, married couple Ray and Pat Harris’s classic car remains in pristine shape to the average onlooker.
Ray knows the car inside and out and is able to pinpoint minor defects it’s unlikely most people would notice.
A minor chip at the front of the car was recently acquired, which Ray expresses frustration over, and there is some very minor cracking in the leather seats, which he has routinely oiled throughout the car’s life.
Proud of his vehicle’s near-pristine condition, these minor things weigh on him.
“If that’s what he has to worry about …” Pat began, offering a knowing chuckle.
Ray still bitterly recalls an incident in the late 1970s, when he was rear-ended at 18th Street and Victoria Avenue and had to get the back end of the car replaced.
A lifelong “Ford man,” Ray’s interest in automobiles dates back to his childhood in Kindersley, Sask., where his father operated a garage.
His first Ford car was a 1940 model he purchased at the age of 15 for $25, selling it the following week for $75, which he used to procure a 1951 model that he kept until totalling it en route to the Calgary Stampede.
His next vehicle was a 1954 Ford Sunliner two-door hardtop, which was used in his and Pat’s wedding in 1965, after which Ray said the “motor blew out of it.”
Then, the couple bought their dream car — the very same 1967 Fairlane they still own today.
Ray still has its original bill of sale, showing he paid $3,600 in cash for the vehicle at Canadian Motors on Victoria Avenue, which he said was $600 less than its posted asking price.
The convertible served as the couple’s day-to-day vehicle for its first three years, during which they welcomed a baby girl into their family. Her first experience with the car was under the passenger-side dash, where she was placed on the floor within a car seat.
A baby boy came a few years later and was transported in a similar fashion — something Pat said parents certainly can no longer do without legal consequence.
Their fondest memories with the car date back to its first several years, when they’d travel throughout Canada and the United States on family vacations with a camper in tow.
Ray said that their most memorable trip was one they took out to a beach in Tofino, which is located on Vancouver Island, in the early 1970s, where they were greeted by several Hells Angels, who they watched get hauled off by police.
After three years, the Fairlane was relegated as the family’s secondary vehicle and was subsequently only taken out during the summer months.
The couple maintained the vehicle primarily by themselves over the years, with Ray doing as much mechanical work in their garage as possible, keeping up to date with its needs along the way to prevent any major work from being required.
While Ray might fuss a bit in pointing out minor cracks on the seats, to the layman they still appear as if they were brand new; a testament to Ray’s dedicated treatment of the material with oils.
Next to the Fairlane in their garage is a 1989 Ford Thunderbird, and their day-to-day vehicle is a 2010 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.
But the Fairlane remains their favourite, with the couple taking it out to as many automotive shows as they can, whenever they’re not spending their weekends at their cabin.
It’s a unique vehicle which Ray said he has never seen another of, with only 1,943 Ford 500 XL convertibles produced in 1967.