My 1963 Ford 300 page

This picture was taken shortly after purchase, November of '88.

What's a Ford 300?

Excellent question.  On the bad side, a Ford 300 is a "scaled-down, fleet version" of the Ford Galaxie.  Where the Galaxie had luxury appointments like reverse lights, door moldings, and an interior light that came on when you opened a door, the Ford 300 has not.  The Ford 300 was used as a fleet vehicle.  Many police departments used them.  If you ever watch old episodes of the Andy Griffith show, Andy and Barney regularly drove a Ford 300.  On the good side, Ford manufactured less of them.  I see '63 and '64 Galaxies around all the time.  I've never seen another Ford 300.

How and why did you end up with a 1963 Ford 300?

This is a very good question, worthy of an answer.  In 1988 I was dating a girl named Jamie Harp (the girl responsible for getting me into the band "Della Street").  She lived in a house just off Carlisle Blvd., just North of Central Avenue (old Route 66) here in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  One day as I was driving to her house I noticed this old, abandonded car sitting in the front yard of a house on her street.  At the time I thought, "Man...that's a kewl lookin' car."  Don't ask me why I thought the car was kewl...I think she was calling out to me (the car, not Jamie).  The tires were flat, the rear window was broken out, there were cobwebs all around and under the car as well as a large oil spill under the engine.  For all intent and purpose, the car looked ready for the junk yard.  Yet still...there was something about this car...I don't know what it was.  I just knew I wanted her.

After about a month of driving by this car almost every day I finally said to Jamie, "Ya know, I think I'm going to make an offer for that car."  Well, my if on queue, the very next day there was a "For Sale" sign in the rear window (the rear window was broken out, if you recall).  I definitely took this as a sign from the Gods that I was meant to have this car.  My brain started racing, "What should I offer this guy?  How am I going to get this thing back to my house?  How much work am I going to have to do to her to get her running?"

I decided that, since I was going to have to tow her back to my house, that I would offer the owner (unbeknownst to me at the time, Avery Kimbrough) $200.00 for this junk heap that I thought was so cool.  I called the number on the For Sale sign and left a message.  The next day Avery called.  I asked him, "How much do you want for the car?"  He retorted, "Make me an offer."  "Okay," I said, "I'll give you $200.00 for her."  Avery replied, "Well...that's a lot less than I was going to ask for her.  I was thinking more like $700.00."  At this point I was thinking, "There's no way I'm paying 700 bucks for that car."  I said, "I'm sorry...I don't think the car is worth that."  He then said, "I'll tell you what...I'll meet you half way.  How about 400 bucks."  "Hmmmm," I thought, "400 bucks, eh???  Hmmmm...."  "Okay...It's a deal!"

Arrangements were made to meet Avery that weekend.  I would have the money and would make arrangements to have help towing the car back to my house.

The following Saturday I was shocked to see the hood up and the tires aired up.  In addition there was a charger hooked up to the battery.  I asked Avery, "What are you doing?"  He said, "I thought you'd like to hear her run before you purchased her."  I literally exclaimed, "She runs?!"  I was thrilled!  This meant that I wouldn't have to tow her!  I could drive her home under her own power!

After a few minutes, Avery got in and cranked her up.  Sure as shit, she started!!!  Smoke was billowing everywhere, but she ran!  Not only did the engine run, but she was driveable, too!  Avery offered to take me for a test ride around the block.  As we were driving he told me that he had purchased this car brand new in Albuquerque at Rich Ford in 1963.  I was to be the second owner.

As it turns out, that oil spill was from a previously parked vehicle.  The engine and tranny were oil-tight.  She was firing on 5 or 6 of her 8 cylinders, so the first thing I did when I got her home was give her a major tune up.  She got new points, plugs, condenser, wires, cap, rotor, filters, oil, antifreeze, and a hell of a cleaning.  After my major tune up, she was firing on like 7.5 cylinders.  She actually ran quite well.  And though she still smoked, the smoke wasn't bad.  After a few days of driving, she actually almost stopped smoking completely...almost.  In less than a week I found a rear window for her at the junk yard and had it installed.  Almost immediately she needed brakes, so I gave her a complete brake job.  At the time of purchase the bias-ply tires were almost brand-new.  After years of excessive tire wear due to bad alignment due to worn front-end parts, despite constant rotation, I finally sprung for a new set of tires in like 2002.  Yes, she had been driving on the same tires for 14 years.  What a difference those new, radial tires made!

My 1963 Ford 300 gets a nickname

Sometime during my Della Street days the guys in the band decided that my Ford 300 should be a low-rider.  They all got a big kick out of making fun of me and my "ugly" car (which I still think is beautiful).  One day one of the guys called my Ford 300, "LaBamba," no doubt after the movie which was popular at the time.  I decided to give the nickname a French twist so "LaBamba" became "LeBamba."  The name stuck, and that has been her nickname ever since.

How I got the bug to rebuild her

When it came time for new tires, I decided that, since the old wheels were 14", I would go for lower profile tires on 15" rims.  I found a set of 15" wheels off of a Plymouth Police Intercepter.  I added beauty rings and moon caps.  They look pretty kewl, eh?  The switch from high-profile bias-ply tires to low-profile radial tires changed her handling from poor to "not bad!"  I couldn't believe how much better she drove and handled after the new tires and wheels.  This prompted me to get a dual exhaust system installed.  Shortly after the new exhaust system she really started smoking badly.  The smoke was starting to become embarrasing.  This prompted me to rebuild the engine.  And hell...while the engine was out, I might as well do the front end.  And hell, while I'm doing the front end I might as well paint her and on and on...  The rest, as they say, is history.

Here's some pictures of LeBamba.  This first picture was taken the day I started the restoration project, August 18th, 2002.

You may notice a "Galaxie" emblem on the front quarter panel.  This was added by a repair shop after an accident Avery had some time in the '70's.  It will be removed post-restoration.

Here's a picture after the hood, engine, and front wheels were removed.

Here's a picture of the freshly picked engine.  I am the doctor giving LeBamba a heart transplant...<:^)

Here are some various pictures of the engine rebuild.

                      Raw 352 engine block bored out to a 360                                                               And here's the milled crank

                                                    Pistons!                                                                                   Crank resting in a painted block.

                                              Timing set added                                                                                       Installing pistons

                                                Pistons added                                             Pistons, crank, timing set, timing cover, oil pump, and sump installed!

                                        Final mock-up with heads (intake probably going to be replaced with aluminum, 4V).

This page is up as of May 5, 2005 - 2:00 AM.
This page is still under construction.

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All pictures & material Copyright © 2005 Donnie Frank