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1960's Ford Falcons



  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I wonder why my Falcon wagon with the 144/85 felt so much more gutless than the car I owned before it, a '60 Corvair with the 80-hp 140.

    The numbers seem to favor the Falcon. It had stick with 3.89 gears while the Corvair had Powerglide and 3.27s.

    My Falcon's engine was in good shape while the Corvair had mostly STP in the crankcase the night I totaled it.

    Even the weights were roughly comparable, 2305 pounds for the Corvair 500 sedan (but add a few for Powerglide) and 2558 for the Falcon wagon.

    Of course the Corvair's flat six was inherently balanced while the Falcon six was a thrashy four bearing thinwall wonder. You heard, felt and sincerely believed it was working hard.

    It also could be that (gasp!) the Falcon six wasn't putting out near its rated horsepower.

    And it's long been my contention that in normal driving an underpowered car feels less underpowered with automatic. I know this flies in the face of accepted wisdom, but I think with automatic you're not always fighting to get the car rolling so you're less aware of the lack of power. You had to work with the Falcon to get it from Point A to Point B.

    But most likely it's because the 'Vair was faster than the wheels I had before it, a Raleigh ten speed.
  • I remember an article in Popular Science or Popular Mechanics way back when that indicated that the true horse power figures for cars those days was highly exaggerated. Like the acclaimed 271 hp for the "hot" 289 V-8 in the Mustang only delivering 115 when measured in what the article claimed to be a "truer" test. So, the mighty 85 from the 144 I-6 was reduced to a mere 33!

    Makes me wonder about the 140 hp rating for my one-time 1979 Mustang 302 V-8.
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,778
    You've got to be kidding. Any Schwinn with two functional wheels could hole shot the Falcon and be half a block away before any torque got through the torque converter and to the rear wheels. In all fairness, I distinctly remember the Falcon hitting 60 on special occasions, so it would probably eventually catch and pass the Schwinn. Might come down to which one ran out of gas first, though.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv, 2001 Jaguar XK cnv, 1985 MB 380SE (the best of the lot)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    I have an electric bike and I'm sure I could dust a 144 from 0-25.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Sure, very few engines in the '60s put out near their advertised horsepower. The Hi-Po 289 was putting out about 220 hp according to Roger Huntington, about 50 less than its hp rating. That's at the clutch--breathing underhood air, all accessories hooked up, stock exhaust manifolds and mufflers. By the time you figured in friction in the transmission, U-joints and rear end maybe you were down to 115 hp.

    But with some engines their net was closer to their advertised gross than others. Pontiacs were usually under-rated to make them more competitive in class drag racing, while Fords were often over-rated for better ad copy.

    I have a feeling the 144's 85 horses were malnourished. I've driven many a gutless dog--'50 Plymouth and '54 Chevy pickup come to mind--and nothing was quite as slow as my Falcon.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    with the 170 automatic, delivering mail back in 1967, I was happy that I was in a Falcon, instead of one of those Cushman mailsters the PO used then [what a POS!] 0r even those little Willys vans, that some guys got on the mounted routes. They were always having trouble with the Cushmans and the Willys-but not with the Falcons. Heck-there was nothing there to go wrong! Actually, I'd never driven one of those Falcons before that, and using them to get around town as a mail carrier, I came to like them for what they were-a simple, economical,easy to handle small car to get around town with-and with pretty decent room too! But, of course, ANYTHING was better than driving one of those dang Cushmans!
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...they still play around with hp numbers, I read that the 2.7 that Chrysler uses in the Intrepid, Concorde, etc, and is rated at 200 hp net, only puts out something like 150 hp at the wheels!

    I always got confused, I guess, because I thought net hp WAS at the wheels. Anyway, here's my take on it, so correct me if I'm wrong...

    Gross hp: engine only: no exhhaust, alternator, water pump, intake restriction, transmission, etc.

    Net hp: engine with alternator, water pump, stock intake/exhaust, etc, but not accounting for transmission, driveshaft, and the rest of the driveline

    Wheel hp: whatever's left over by the time the power gets to the wheels.

    So if something like a Falcon 144 is rated at 85 hp gross, I guess it's down to 60-65 net, and maybe only 30-40 or so at the drive wheels.

    As for gutless wonders, I think the worst I've ever driven was my college buddy's 1980 Accord. We timed it from 0-60 once with a stopwatch. It took something like 30 seconds to hit 60, but that was with 3 people on board.

    Falcons must have been pretty durable cars. I remember seeing them on the streets all the time when I was a kid. The herd seemed to thin out in the late '70's/early '80's, but I guess that says something for a car that ended production in "1970 1/2"!
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    I was watching "Horsepower TV" the other day [Saturdays on TNN] and they had a 5 liter Mustang from the early 90s they were tweaking. The car was stock, and had some miles on it. It was rated at 225HP net. They tested the rearwheel HP before they tweaked it, and it came out 134. I was surprised-thought it would be more than that. So, if the Intrepid is 200 net, and gets 150 at the wheels, it's better than the Mustang anyway.
    After they made these modifications to the Mustang [I forget what they were, but they mentioned it cost $1000] the rearwheel horsepower had gone up to 188, I believe. Anyway, it would be interesting to see a table with all the HP ratings for cars-net and at the wheels.
  • In the mid-60s, my boss at the gas station also was a part-time contract mail carrier for USPS on a rural route. He used his '64 Sprint, which was certainly a lot faster than the 170 Falcon S/Ws, Cushmans, and Willys. He got a per-diem car allowance in addition to his regular pay.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    My own car at the time was a 65 Plymouth Belvedere, with the 383/330 horse 4speed. Sometimes I would drive that car, under contract, on my route. The mail got done faster, and I sure had more fun!
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    With all this talk on horsepower, I should note that the old Volvo B18 engine from the '60s was rated at 115 hp. The 5-cylinder in my '93 850 is rated at 168 hp. I know nothing about gross or net ratings. How many hp would those engines put out at the wheels?
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,294
    ...the midsize Falcon? Ford produced a car called the Falcon on the midsize Torino chassis in 1970. It was pretty much a Plain Jane.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...that was commonly referred to as the "1970 1/2" Falcon. I think the car was fielded mainly to use up extra Falcon trim, badges, etc.

    The Falcon actually shared quite a bit with the intermediate Fords starting around 1966 or so. Whereas a Dart and a Coronet were on completely different platforms, same with, say, a Chevy II and a Chevelle, the Falcon became a truncated Fairlane. The similarity was especially striking with the Falcon wagons, which were on the same wheelbase as the Fairlanes, but with the Falcon fenders, hood, and grille.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    one was a white 64 4dr sedan-the low level trim line-for sale. Not a real desirable car, but I thought "now there's a simple ride, that could be fairly reliable, cheap transportations for someone."
    Later that day, a guy passed me going the other way in a red 63 2dr-again, the cheaper looking one. I could see and hear him shifting the 3spd on the column [winding out first gear to about 7mph!] and I remembered what it was like to drive those [or any 60s Ford] with the 3speed column shift. They were particularly clunky to drive just because of the shifting and clutch action. That's why floor shift conversions caught on so fast in the 60s. But that clutch linkage was also so cumbersome, and the clutch action itself hard to get used to. I think Ford could have made a lot better car to drive if they'd worked on the ergonomic things like that. Not to mention the slow steering.
    Anyway, we've done a lot of bashing here of those early 60s Falcons. But, I was thinking-back in 1960, in the $2000 price range-if you wanted a car that would hold 4-6 people, room for luggage, get good gas mileage, [high 20s] and be fairly dependable and cheap to repair, what were your choices?
    Just look at the imports available at the time-in that price range [$2000-plus or minus a little].
    Would it be a Simca, a Panhard, Opel, or maybe a Vauxhall? A Renault, or a Hillman? The Peugeout and Volvo cost a bit more. The Japanese cars weren't even around yet. How 'bout a Fiat 1100, or a Skoda? When you think back to the 1960 context, and what else was available at the time, the Falcon looks pretty good. Never mind it was gutless and not fun to drive. Some of those imports weren't much either. People didn't buy Falcons for that. For just reliable, basic transportation, with the support of a huge dealer network/service/parts, hey, it was OK.
    I think I might have bought a Valiant, though.
    Just think, though-the Falcon was the basis for the Mustang, and with some upgrading/tweaking, the Mustang was fun. Look at the Shelby GT 350.
    I wonder who will buy that forlorn little white 4dr I saw for sale.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    The Falcon was built to compete with the VW Bug, but the idea was that Americans would never drive small cars, so they made it bigger and more powerful and charged more for it.

    Still compared to a Falcon, a VW Bug was built like a Mercedes Benz, wheezy engine though it might have had. Most of the other imports were no great shakes that's true. Well, little Borgwards were good cars, and the Volvo 544and Mercedes 190s were excellent, albeit more expensive.

    Basically, American car companies refused to believe that you could make money building small cars. Their slogan was "small cars = small profits"

    The Japanese proved them very very wrong about ten years later. Also, the Japanese got lucky with the 1973 oil embargo and with the wonderful little Honda CVCC.

    And American companies STILL didn't get it about smaller, good handling, economical cars until the 1980s.

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  • crosley4crosley4 Posts: 295
    Mayb the big 3 got it together on small cars in the early 1990's........

    I see a couple of Falcons and a Comet on the road here weekly. Actually see them on the I-10 headed to down town PHX, AZ

    Besides my 62 Falcon that I see daily... LOL

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...that the Falcon, Corvair, Valiant/Lancer, and Chevy II were built not only to compete with the Beetle, but to serve double duty and go after the likes of the Rambler and Studebaker Lark. The compact Rambler was a hot enough seller to push the nameplate into the #3 slot for a few years, and the Lark gave a temporary reprieve to Studebaker's death sentence.

    Just out of curiosity, what kind of demographics did the typical Beetle driver have back in, say, 1960? I'd imagine that most people bought the Beetle as a spare car, or it was bought as a car for high school and college kids who hadn't started a family yet. GM, Ford, and Chrysler seemed more intent on making a car that could substitute for a standard-sized car or even replace it, rather than merely accent it, as the Beetle seemed more suited to do.

    As for the Big 2.5, sometimes I question whether or not they've gotten it together with their small cars, even today!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    The Bettle cut across all demographics, which is what so confused the Big Three. Rich people, poor people, city people, country people, it didn't seem to matter.

    Of course, the VW advertising was truly brilliant, and this played a large role is re-fashioning American drivers' attitudes about small cars.

    In this sense, VW probably helped the American compacts. I say this because resistance to small cars was so fierce in the 1950s that no American company dared to try and sell one, even Falcon sized.

    You'd think that when cars as cheap, bad and homely as the Rambler sold in large numbers, that the Big Three would have awakened and said "My god, if they can sell THAT, we can sell anything!". Hard to believe, but people were buying Rambler Americans with flathead engines in the 60s!!

    I remember these cars. The labels for the dash knobs were actually glue on decals, and right side sun visor was optional.

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  • bretfrazbretfraz Posts: 2,021
    And talk Falcons with y'all.

    The first car I ever owned was a 1964 Falcon Sprint. Bought it about 2 weeks after getting my licence for $575. It had a 260 V8, 2 speed Fordomatic, buckets, and all the Sprint trim (chrome engine kit, center console, fake woodgrain steering wheel, wire wheel covers, etc).

    One of the many things I learned about old cars is that they always seemed to need new batteries and radiators. I got pretty good at replacing those after a few cars....

    Anyway, after a clean up and whatnot my best friend and I took it cruising on Van Nuys Blvd. This was 1981 and the whole cruising phase was winding down on places like Van Nuys Blvd due to massive police presence. Still, growing up a car crazy kid in LA meant Van Nuys was a critical right of passage and had to be cruised; kinda like earning your Combat Infantrymen's Badge.

    On the way home I "raced" a friend who had a '68 Camaro SS with a 396 in it. Driving north on I-5 leaving the Valley I was doing about 105 and the car was allll over the place. My friend must have been doing 130+ because he completely blew my doors off. Ahhhhhh, youth.

    I kept that car a good long time. Had it repainted in the original color (that 60's gold color), had some interior work done, and eventually put in a 289 and C-4. It was fun to drive in a wild and wooly sort of way. Pressing on the manual brakes was a real adventure - you could feel each wheel cylinder doing it's job one at a time and with 3/4 turn loose steering, it was a real chore bringing that car to a straight stop.

    My roommate eventually killed it by driving a U-Haul truck into the LR 1/4 panel and messing up the best part of the car, the body, which was arrow straight and totally rust free being a CA car its whole life (it was built in San Jose and was sold originally in the SF Valley). Ended up selling it to a parts guy for $1000, IIRC.

    Still, Falcon's are pretty cool in their own right. I get the urge every once in awhile to dig up another one but there are soooo many cars vying for my attention.

    Great thread.
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    I remembered a story myself, after my last post here. When my sister and former brother-in-law were in college, his car was a 1960 Comet 4door with a 3spd stick. Now if you think a Falcon was gutless, try the heavier Comet! Same car with those weird fins and extra length.
    Anyway, my sister had borrowed that car once to drive home from Stockton, CA to San Francisco-a 2 hr drive or so. On one part of the trip, she came to a hill, and had to shift to second gear to make it up the hill. As she shoved the lever in to second, it came right out of the column in her hand, leaving her stranded. Had to get towed.
    My bro-in-law traded that car soon after, for, um, a 61 Rambler American 4dr, flathead 6 and 3sp stick. This was in 1968.
    Some of us used to joke about the cars he had in those days, and the stories that went with them...
  • crosley4crosley4 Posts: 295
    I own one of those too. A 4 door at that!


  • bretfrazbretfraz Posts: 2,021
    That car look awesome!

    Now all you need are American Racing 17" wheels, a little more rake, have Ernie Elliott build you a 340 stroker, pop in a Jerico Slamshifter (do they still make those?), about 500W of stereo, some flames.............

    But as it is it looks very cool.

    EDIT: This is the tranny I'm thinking of:
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I think I would have bought a Valiant or Lancer too, instead of a Falcon. The 225 was a strong engine and it could be modified. And the styling, whatever the purist might think of it, isn't appliance-like.
  • crosley4crosley4 Posts: 295
    The Dodge Lancer I posted the pic of is powered by a 350 chevy with a Ford rear diff. It will push your eyes back into their sockets.

    I have all 3 of the major manufacturers covered in the car........LOL
  • carnut4carnut4 Posts: 574
    Awesome! I knew there was something different about that car from the picture-those American mags, and that slight rake. Now that's a ride you won't see every day. What did you do to the front suspension-anything?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038 hard was it to get a Chevy 350 in that Lancer? I know Chrysler had to rework the '64 compacts, compared to the '63's, to get their own 273 in.

    What kind of tranny do you have in it?
  • bhill2bhill2 Posts: 1,778
    There was something about that engine that made it hard to fit into a bay. Chrysler had the same problem when they bought Rootes. They couldn't wedge their 273 into the engine bay of the Sunbeam Tiger in place of the Ford 260/289 that was there.

    2009 BMW 335i, 2003 Corvette cnv, 2001 Jaguar XK cnv, 1985 MB 380SE (the best of the lot)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 57,338
    If it was heavier than the 260 that would have made the Tiger even worse to drive. It's a bear as it is. Best to steer with the gas pedal.

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  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The 273 is a bigger engine, particularly in width--seven inches wider than the 289. It's also a bit heavier, although I can't remember by how much. The Ford is around 490 lbs., the Chevy small block 560 lbs. so it's somewhere in there.

    IIRC the 273 is the old polysphere 318 with newer heads circa 1964, which would explain the size of the block, but I may be wrong.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 23,038
    ...was the first of the LA engine blocks. I've heard that it's about 100 lb lighter than the old A (277/301/318/326/and some others, I'm sure) engine. Not sure how much narrower it is, but I can definitely tell the difference between a 318 wideblock and a 318 LA, like what's in my Dart or Gran Fury (or the 360 LA in my NYer).

    One of the quickest visual cues is that the old A engine had heads and valve covers that had kind of a sawtooth pattern on the outer edges, whereas the LA engine has normal rectangular valve covers.

    Just from eyeballing it though, the 273/318/360 engine looks bulkier than the Chevy smallblock, which then looks a bit bigger than the Ford smallblock.
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