Matt Stone
April 23, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy Galpin Ford

Herbert F. "Bert" Boeckmann has been selling cars most of his working life. He joined already established Galpin Ford, in Southern California, in 1953 as a line salesman, becoming general manager in 1957 and eventually purchasing the company in 1964, just about the time Ford was coming out with the '65 Mustang.

Nearing the occasion of the Mustang's 50th anniversary, we sat down to chat with Boeckmann and his son Beau, a Galpin Ford VP and president of the company's Galpin Auto Sports custom shop and Premier Collection. Countless Crown Vics, Thunderbirds, Edsels, F-150s, Pintos, and Mavericks have trundled through the Galpin showrooms, and the elder Boeckmann is largely responsible for inventing and popularizing the notion of pre-sale personalization and customization at the dealer level. In the 1960s, they called it "Galpinizing," including custom paint jobs and bodywork along with some of the first van conversions. This concept lives today in a much more developed form with the Galpin Auto Sports shop that can build nearly anything you can dream up. For a time, the GAS shop was home base to television's popular "Pimp My Ride" series.

Wouldn’t you like to stumble into Galpin’s showroom today and see this for sale? Galpin was one of Shelby’s top dealers, one of the reasons the Galpin company collection today owns so many 1960s era Shelby Mustangs, a few of which were sold by the company new.

Galpin relocated to much larger quarters in 1966, since taking over much of Roscoe Boulevard near the 405 Freeway in the San Fernando Valley, and now sells Ford, Lincoln, Volvo, Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lotus, VW, Subaru, and Honda brands from a fleet of dealership locations. Galpin has always been extremely "customer-involved," launching and supporting many car clubs over the years, hosting massive open houses, sponsoring and often building race cars, producing a much-in-demand garage calendar that's given away free of charge, and even publishing its own magazine for some years.

We asked Bert about his earliest impressions of the '65 Mustang when it first arrived at his dealership. "I loved the look right away and knew we had something special on our hands by the reactions of everyone who saw it," Bert said. "It appealed to such a wide variety of people; young people, older people, kids. Not only men but women wanted one too. I was sure Ford had a winner. People waited in line just to see it on the showroom floor."

It wasn't long before Bert met and became friends with Carroll Shelby. Galpin, along with Tasca Ford, became America's first Shelby dealers. Boeckmann ultimately built a specially equipped off-road truck for Shelby, which Carroll, ever the adventurer, intended to use in his hunt for the Sasquatch "big foot."

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This vintage photo shows at least four Galpinizing touches; the trunk conversion to a Rumbleseat (popular on Ford Model As back in the day), a dealer-installed sunroof and vinyl top, and a three-eared custom gas cap. 

"Carroll was always such a good friend to our family and to Galpin," Bert continued. "He was great about coming up to the dealership for autograph days, meeting our customers, autographing cars, or providing us with a supply of autographed sun visors for our customer's cars. We miss him terribly."

We asked if Bert ever saw a new Mustang that he thought wasn't going to be successful. "I did," he replied, "and that was in 1974 with the Mustang II. I was on the dealer board at the time, which gave us input and a look at what was coming. The Mustang II was smaller, it felt heavy to drive, and it had no power. I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be a complete waste of time.'"

Boeckmann, whose automotive intuition is honed to laser-like accuracy, missed on that one, of course. Even though the '74 Mustang II wasn't a big hit with enthusiasts, who lamented the absence of a V-8 engine and performance models, it was a successful seller, far out-pacing the last of the "big Mustangs" for '72-'73. In an effort to whip some excitement into the Mustang II, fully Galpinized models, featuring custom bodywork and wild paint schemes, sold at a fair clip.

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We asked Bert if he had a favorite from all of the Mustangs customized, raced, and otherwise Galpinized. "Indeed," Boeckmann recalled. "If you'll remember when Ford launched the first Fox-platformed Mustangs in '79, it was offered as a hatchback and a coupe with no convertible. We always liked the Mustang convertible, and they always sold well here in Southern California. So about 1980, we built our own in partnership with ASC (American Sunroof Corporation, with whom Galpin had done a lot of business installing power sunroofs in Mustangs before they were offered as factory options)."

Boeckmann is particularly proud that Ford president Philip Caldwell came to visit Galpin and spied their convertible on the showroom floor. Caldwell asked if he could borrow the car to take it to Dearborn to show Ford execs and the Mustang design team. "The car was crated for transport to Dearborn, and a few years later the convertible body style made it back into the factory lineup."

This ad appeared on the back cover of the Galpin-published San Fernando Valley magazine. In spite of the considerable value of Shelby’s name and brand, this ad referred to the car as the Mustang GT 350 yet also still mentioned the Cobra.

Boeckmann also speaks highly of Edsel Ford II, past Ford president Lee Iacocca, and current Lincoln Motor Company executive Henry Ford III.

Now in his 80s, Boeckmann continues to work every day, still firmly at the helm of his company. He has little other than fond memories of Mustangs; for many years, Galpin was the number one Mustang dealer in the world. He recalls, with a chuckle, one slightly prickly moment when son Beau, a few years back, purchased a barn-find '65 Shelby GT 350 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale for over $300,000. I told him, ‘Son, I sold these things brand-new and in perfect condition for $5,000. And now you went and spent all that money for one that's been sitting abandoned in a garage for decades and looks terrible!'"

Today, all the “Galpinizing” takes place at the Galpin Auto Sports shops. While GAS works on any brand of vehicle, it’s only logical that Fords, and primarily Mustangs, are the most frequent customers. 
Galpin general manager Steve McCord and GAS president Beau Boeckman with the Galpin Collection’s ’65 GT 350 garage find, which Boeckman purchased at Barrett-Jackson. The Shelby still wears its original paint, interior, stripes, Shelby/Cragar wheels, and chrome. The car was purchased new from Galpin in 1965.

The car was sold new by Galpin and Beau knew it would be a crown jewel in the company and family collection. Bert didn't "get it" then, and really still doesn't, but fortunately they laugh about it now as the car sits proudly on display at Galpin. Bert still scratches his head: "It amazes me that people gravitate to that car and really seem to like it. I have no idea why or what the hell they are looking at."

Does Bert Beckmann have a personal favorite Mustang? "Oh sure, that's easy: a red '65 convertible."