Judge has owned Ford Galaxie since law school days

If you are outside Edmonton’s Law Courts on a fair weather day, you may see a yellow classic Ford convertible heading into the parking lot. It is driven by the associate chief justice of Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, John D. Rooke.

Driving this car is nothing new for Justice Rooke. He first got behind the wheel of his 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 XL 7.0-litre convertible when it was just one year old. He came home from his first year in law school to a big surprise. His father, Dan, a farmer turned auto parts salesman, had something in the garage he wanted to show John.

The springtime yellow factory muscle car with Ford’s newly minted 345-horsepower 428-cubic-inch engine had been sold in Regina at Canadian Motors. The car was equipped with luxury items, including power windows and a six-way driver’s seat. The first owner paid $3,600 for the yellow convertible with its sporty bucket seat interior and black folding top.

The Ford convertible had rolled off the Ford of Canada assembly line in Oakville, Ont. on March 1, 1966. Typically, Ford would build convertibles in March to ship to dealers as a showroom attraction for early summer car buyers.

The 7.0-litre is a rare breed of muscle car offering both high performance and comfort. They were priced $500 higher than the Galaxie 500 models without the performance package. For 1966, the 7.0-litre was a model by itself. In 1967, Ford offered the same performance features as an option package.
Ford featured the 7.0-litre in its advertising with the caption “Either the quickest quiet car or the quietest quick car.” The 1966 production of Ford Galaxie 500 7.0-litre cars totalled 11,073, with only 2,368 of them being convertibles.

According to the International 7-Litre Registry website, 656 of these cars are known to still exist with convertibles accounting for 220. Jay Leno has been a 7-Litre fan since his father bought one new in 1966. The internationally acclaimed entertainer and car collector owns a hardtop model with a 4-speed floor shift transmission.

Dan Rooke loved cars and was a major participant in Regina’s Antique Auto Association. He restored dozens of collector cars, including a 1918 Hudson and 1923 McLaughlin Buick, both touring cars, a 1930 Ford Model A roadster, a 1930 Marmon coupe and a wood-bodied 1919 Chevrolet Depot Hack along with a 1957 Ford Thunderbird and a 1960 Cadillac.

Dan bought a 1958 Edsel Corsair hardtop for John to drive to high school continuing on to his first year of law school in Saskatoon. When the transmission broke, Dan rented a tow bar to bring his son’s car back to his hobby repair shop at the family home in Regina for repairs.

Dan worked for an auto-parts store across the street from the Ford dealership and he had found out the first owner of the fancy 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 convertible needed to sell it.

He bought it for $3,000. He told his son he could pay him back after he graduated and began his law practice.

John loved the convertible and drove it through his law school years.

It was his honeymoon car on a trip to Vancouver and back through Edmonton when he married Gayle in 1969. They drove it to Saskatoon for his third year of law school, pulling a small trailer containing all their possessions.

He became a lawyer at the age of 22, and would become a judge at the age of 43. John and Gayle drove the Ford convertible through his early years as a litigation lawyer in Calgary specializing in regulatory law. The young couple took many vacation trips with the car, including the west coast and into the Alberta foothills for camping trips with friends.

“I put the top down a lot although my wife was not too fond of that,” he recalls

By the 1980s, the Ford convertible was showing its age with serious rust in both the body and frame along with other issues. The car was driven to the family’s cabin in B.C.’s Windermere Valley, where it would remain stored for 25 years.

“I kept the car because I thought it was a keeper,” John says. “Along the way, with life and expenses, I didn’t have the money to restore it, so it just stayed in storage.”

Finally, John made the decision to have the car completely refurbished. He engaged Cars by Nisbet to complete a total off-frame rotisserie restoration. The job took more than four years.

Dale Adams Automotive handled the engine rebuild and other mechanical work. Aristocrat Upholstery refurbished the interior and installed the new convertible top. John is very pleased with the results.

His daily driver is a full-sized Toyota Sequoia SUV which he uses to tow the restored convertible in a 24-foot trailer from Calgary to Edmonton where he works in the Law Courts. He drives the car from late spring until the end of summer. The Ford convertible is stored in winter months.

“I just enjoy it and drive it around town,” he says, adding he may offer to drive his car in the next Calgary Stampede parade.

For the future, John has made provisions for his son Marcus to inherit his much loved Ford convertible that has meant so much to his family over the past 46 years.

“I spent much more money on it than it will ever be worth,” he admits. “But it’s a family asset and my son is excited to get the car someday. Our daughter Laura will get a newer car.”

Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. Contact him at [email protected]

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