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Time Machine

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Dave Cooper was floored when he first saw the 1969 Ford XL his buddy was trying to unload.

It was a number of things that contributed to that initial reaction—the near-pristine condition, the original paint and hubcaps, the extremely low price—but more than anything else, it was the wave of memories that hit him.

“It was the same car that was my first-ever vehicle, when I was 16,” says Cooper, owner of Dave’s Auto Service Inc. in Cedar, Minn. “Getting in that car was like going back in time.”

Cooper, 48, got his first Ford XL in 1979, when he traded someone in his hometown of Bagley, Minn. The swap? The car for a cow.

“I lived on a farm, grew up on a farm, and that guy wanted meat, and I wanted a car, so we worked out a deal,” he says, laughing about it now. “It worked out pretty well.”
This time around, Cooper paid just $4,000 for it, less than a quarter of its set value. Between purchasing and fixing it up, he spent about $5,000 total, he says.

“It was a unique situation, where the guy I was buying it from took it on as payment to a loan someone never paid back,” Cooper says. “I just got lucky”
And it didn’t take long for Cooper to get the car in “like-new” shape, he says.

The Ford XL is a fairly rare full-size muscle car, made only from 1962 to 1970. Originally a subseries of the Ford Galaxy 500 model of the same era, Cooper’s ’69 XL features a unique semi-fastback-style “SportsRoof” that has sail panels flanking an almost upright rear window, giving it a distinct look.

The exterior of the car—which is dark green on top and a lighter green over the body—was in great condition when he bought the car, Cooper says, only needing some buffing to get its shine back.

The only significant work he did was replacing the Holley carburetor on the 390ci V8 with an Edelbrock carb. He also added some chrome valve covers to “dress it up a little bit” and switched the vehicle to synthetic fluids from bumper to bumper.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “You drive that car, and it feels like it’s brand new, maybe better. It runs so much nicer now.”

In fact, Cooper says he gets about 22 miles to the gallon when driving it.

And, as one might expect, the car can hit high speeds.

“I know my old car, the first one I had, would do 140, and that had a two-barrel carburetor in it. This has a four-barrel, so it has a little more power. It’s geared pretty high, that’s why I get some good gas mileage in it. It takes off and it goes. At the top end, it’s just phenomenal,” Cooper says.

Cooper tries not to drive the XL too often. It has about 110,000 total miles on it.

He still thinks back to that first time he saw it—and to the drive home after buying it, when his then 5-year-old son summed it up in a little less salty terms than he did.

“My little boy, on the way home, he looks at me and says, ‘This is like the angels built this. Do we get to keep it?’” Cooper says with a laugh. “And I said, ‘yeah, it’s our car now,’ and he says, ‘I’m so happy I could cry.’ That’s the way I felt, too.”

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