1960 Ford Falcon (Stock)
|Season||A Return to Form|
|Air Date||June 6, 2016|
For the finished product, please see Vagabond Falcon.
Robert McNamara's love-letter to bean-counting.
>Mr Regular inserts the keys into the iginition and starts the car. >Cut to the engine running. >Cut to the tailpipe. --- INTRO SOUND by THE FALCON >sounds from the tailpipe --- MONOLOGUE by MR REGULAR This is a 1960 Ford Falcon in stock form. It's Robert McNamara's love letter to bean counting. The Ford Falcon was America's first modern economy car. I say “modern” economy car because the Model T and Model A were also economical but in a farm tractor, Old Testament, mass and Latin hand-cranked Tom Joad way. See, the Falcon was designed to be easy to drive, easy to assemble and easy to repair while Model Ts were just designed to be assembled easy and repaired easy. Flash back to the mid-50s and Robert McNamara, who later became the future Secretary of Defense under the Kennedy administration, he was the president of Ford's vehicle division. That doesn't mean he's the president of Ford – the vehicle division was responsible for number-crunching and combing your hair. Combing your hair- remember that episode of old Top Gear where Jeremy Clarkson was making fun of a 1980s Lincoln Town Car and he said something to the tune of, “I'd like to see the designer's part in his hair” and he goes fwwsss? He's talking about Robert McNamara. McNamara was so uncool, to borrow a line from Calvin and Hobbes, he had a head for numbers and not much else. Lee Iacocca said of McNamara, “McNamara didn't have a passion for cars. He viewed them as just numbers on a spreadsheet. McNamara never wanted to party or even enjoy his Ford money. He didn't. He didn't believe in luxury, in cars or in life.” Ever use a McNamara Condom? It's just wax paper and a rubber band. What McNamara liked was reducing cars to their most basic forms. That's why, when McNamara flew across the pond to check on Ford's European division, he got so excited by the plain baked potato simplicity URETHRAL SOUND AND AN UNSHARPENED DIXON-TICONDEROGA and began to work on the Falcon. Did you know Robert McNamara had a porn collection? Yeah, it was just a stack of black and white anatomy textbooks. People get all excited about the Mustang, how it was an incredible seller. And yes, in 1964 and a half, for half the year, it sold 121,538 units and for the full year of 1965 the Mustang sold 556,451 cars. Yes, that's huge. But don't forget the Falcon, in its first year, sold 417,000 units of a basic economy car that had, aside from the Peanuts, no marketing. To put that in modern terms, the last time the Mustang sold over two hundred thousand units in one year was 1989. And in 2014, the Mustang only sold 134,082 cars. Iacocca didn't like the Falcon. I'm gonna quote directly from his autobiography: “McNamara believed in basic transportation without gimmicks and with the Falcon he put his ideas into practice. Although I didn't care for the car's styling – I don't really think it had any – I had to admire its success. Here was a car priced to compete with the small imports which were starting to come on strong and it had already reached nearly ten percent of the American market.” (That was in 1960.) “But unlike the imports, the Falcon carried six passengers which made it large enough for most American families. And we at Ford weren't the only ones to challenge the imports. Around the same time, General Motors came out with the Corvair and Chrysler offered the Valiant. But the Falcon was the easy winner, in part because it carried the lowest price tag. “In addition to good price, the Falcon also represented good value. Although fuel economy was certainly not a high priority item in 1960, the Falcon had excellent mileage. More important, it boasted a fine reputation as a trouble-free, rattle-free, carefree car. Its simple design made repairs relatively inexpensive when they did occur, so much so that insurance companies were willing to offer discounts to drivers who owned one. “But despite its enormous popularity the Falcon did not bring in as much money as we'd hoped. As an economical small car its profit margin was limited. Nor did it offer many options which would've greatly increased our revenues. Robert McNamara didn't believe in options. He only included them in cars because it increased revenue and even then he did it begrudgingly.” Today the equivalent of a Ford Falcon would be a four-door Focus. A base one. And when you think, “an American four-door in the 1960s,” you think boats. You think of the Ford Galaxie. The Falcon is no bigger than a modern Toyota Corolla. This car is smaller than my father's Toyota Cressida. It doesn't look it but it is. And in the 1960s big American cars sold. So what it was, was a small car that didn't feel small. And it certainly doesn't feel small on the inside. It has bench seats that go across and the seats are heavily sprung. In fact, they're part of the suspension. To my knowledge, power steering was never an option but the ratio is so easy, you don't need it. You can, if you're determined, steer this car with one hand when it's barely moving. It does that through the old reciprocating ball steering method which is very smooth. Although... I can't do evasive maneuvers in this. There is none. And it's weird to think that way but you can't do it in a Falcon. You almost need one complete turn to do evasive maneuvers. If you want to do evasive maneuvers with this, you need to do hand-over-hand at least once to work that wheel enough. The brakes are good if your standard is a Honda Nighthawk 250 with mechanical drums. That's all this has, four-wheel ten-inch drums all driven by a single master cylinder. That means if anything goes wrong, all your brakes stop working. And you bounce in these seats. You bounce like an old school bus. They feel like a college dorm room cot. Boing, boing, boing. What don't you see on this car? Side mirrors. Optional. They were considered safety options in 1960. What else don't you see on a Falcon? Reverse lights. Didn't have 'em. From my knowledge they didn't have reverse lights until 1962. Y'know what else this car doesn't have? Hazard lights. You either have the left side blink or the right side blink. In an odd sort of forward-thinking way its turn signals in the front are white. Yep, white lenses and white bulbs. I'm gonna change these to yellow – yeah I know it's gonna be period incorrect but it's just confusing at night when you see this car. You have to sorta look to- to see which- which bright light coming forward, coming toward you is slightly strobing on the inside. Yeah you should really have amber in the front. Let's get to the engine. Those familiar with the channel know all about it but this is a 144 cubic inch straight-six engine fed by a single-barrel Holley carb and in 1960 they claimed this made 80 horsepower and that is horseshit. In the 1960s, when they rated horsepower? They rated the horsepower of the engine with the engine out of the car and with all of the accessories removed INCLUDING THE WATER PUMP. They just had a big tank that had water going... Yes, they made the maximum amount of power they could with no- anything. And yes, I concede in that way this engine could make 80 horsepower. I'm pretty sure this thing makes 50. And it's also a reverse-flow head with the carburetor ON TOP OF THE INTAKE AND EXHAUST MANIFOLDS. Oh yeah, and the fan. Not shrouded. That means it just pulls air from everywhere, it's nowhere near the single-core copper radiator. Oh yeah, the copper radiator, it doesn't have an overflow tank. None of 'em did. That meant when it got hot all the antifreeze in your 50-50 mix just pees on the ground! Just pees on the ground. There's no EPA in 1960. Just- just there for the- and it'd pool up and dogs in the parking lot would lick it and die. I- I- and yeah, no evap. The- not even a catch can. The- your oil cap doesn't seal all the way. In fact, it has vents in it. And so all the gas jus- just comes out. You open the hood of this and you see fumes and you think something's wrong, is it- nope, it's just venting the atmosphere. All the crankcase fumes and everything just comes out. Catalytic converter? Nope. This thing smells like gas all the time and all sorts of stuff. Interestingly enough, technically it's a unibody. This is not body-on-frame. It has a partial frame in the front, partial frame in the back but then they're welded directly to the body, they don't come apart. And the frame disappears in the middle of the car- in the middle of the car, there is no frame. The body holds this whole thing together. Even Mustangs were like that – first-generation Mustangs, they had no frame strengthening. This engine was so terrible, the 144, Ford got rid of it after 1960 and, uh, bored it out to 170 cubic inches and later stroked that and made it the Thriftmaster 206 that became the stock motor for the Mustang. And by the stock motor I mean the base motor. But like Ford Tempos and old Subaru Loyales, you don't see the falcon anymore. You see plenty of Mustangs. You see plenty of Corvairs. You see plenty of Chevelles because they were all sexy and unique cars. While Falcon, that was just- whouh... Who saves Ford Escorts? Mm? The rarest thing at Cars and Coffee today is to see a bone stock Honda Accord from the 80s, that would take the entire show. The only option this 1960 had was its transmission. Two-speed Fordomatic. For America, around the mid-20th Century, having an automatic transmission was a huge deal. That was prestigious. I know it's not that way in other countries where some other countries view automatic transmissions as those for the weak but for whatever reason, in the United States, the automatic was seen as the thing to have. So whoever bought this car skipped all the other options and went for the most expensive one. 'Course, the Fordomatic two-speed was Ford's original automatic transmission which was designed in the 50s. Reverse is your lowest gear. In fact, if you start slow enough, this transmission will start in second gear and second gear is 1 to 1. There is no overdrive. You can click this down but that'll only get you to 30 miles per hour. After that, you've hit the end of the rev range and it has to shift into second. So when you're pulling a long hill what will happen is either you keep it in drive and you go up the hill and you start slowing down, slowing down, slowing down, slowing down, slowing down to thirty miles an hour, thirty, twenty-eight and then uuuuuh it kicks into high gear and it goes up to thirty again and eeeeeh and it can't go any farther and it drops down again uuuuuh and it drops back down to twenty. So what you have to do is shift it into low and just hold it there at 29 miles an hour and that's all it can do. And you hope that... I wou- I would pull over on the shoulder. Like, jus- just go by me. But this is how- this is the way the worl- the people lived that way. If you had a basic, small car, you did not expect it to go fast, you were happy to have any vehicle to begin with. And maybe that's where America's love affair with the V8 came from. You didn't slow down when you went uphill. Oh, you had POWER. I could keep this video goin' on and on and on about all the stuff we've learned about the Falcon. But this is now our flagship car. This is the face of Regular Car Reviews and I am devoted to this vehicle. And I will do whatever it takes to keep it running. Because the world must understand that classic cars are not all Chevelles and Boss 302s and Oldsmobile 442s and Grand Nationals and rat rod Cadillacs. Some classic cars are just regular cars. --- OUTRO SONG by THE ROMAN She's automatic, she's automatic She's only two speeds, only two speeds She's automatic, so automatic She's only two spee-eee-eeds