When most people are asked to picture a 1960s American Ford, the Mustang will almost certainly be the first model that springs to mind. It is the Falcon, however, which was not only Ford’s big seller before the release of its motoring icon, but is the car that can be partly thanked for the Mustang’s success.
Sold as a ‘compact’ car in North America (interestingly, the Falcon actually measures within a couple of centimetres of a modern-day BMW 3 Series in all dimensions), the Falcon gained popularity thanks to attractive styling, a wide range of body configurations and a cruising ability that – for its day – offered competitive mpg figures.
The Falcon was initially a great sales success for Ford, outselling rivals from both General Motors and Chrysler. The introduction of the Mustang – which borrowed many of the Falcon’s mechanical and cosmetic components – led to a gradual decline from 1964 onwards, before being phased out completely in 1970.
The Mustang’s success means that the Falcon has always been slightly overlooked as an American classic, though this helps to keep values at a more attainable level.
Which one to buy?
Ford produced three generations of the Falcon over a ten-year period, and it was offered in a huge range of body styles. Both first and second-gen cars could be bought as a two or four-door sedan, a three or five-door station wagon, a coupe or convertible, a ‘coupe utility’ (a pickup) or a ‘sedan delivery’ (a van).
The range began in 1960, powered by an 85bhp inline six engine. Gearbox choices consisted of either a three-speed manual or the wonderfully named ‘ford-o-matic’ two-speed auto. The manual shifter was column-mounted, which meant that most models allowed room for six people on the front and rear bench seats. Some versions of the station wagon offered two extra seats in the back.
Power increased first with the introduction of a 101bhp 2.8 (perhaps optimistically claimed to achieve ‘up to’ 36mpg) and later a 4.3-litre V8. With 164bhp, this improved performance significantly.
Coupe and convertible models are seen as the most desirable today, particularly Futura and Sprint models. These gained individual bucket seats, and many mechanical and interior parts were shared with the mustang. V8 models were known as the sprint and were distinguishable by wire-effect wheel trims, a tacho and coloured rocker covers.
The second-generation model brought about styling revisions which led it to be known as the ‘square shape’ Falcon. Available to buy in all of the same body styles as the first gen ‘round shape’, mechanically the two versions were similar under the skin. The Sprint package now gained a larger V8, plus a louder exhaust and stiffer suspension, which led to it becoming popular for motorsport use. The Falcon was now offered with an extensive options list, which included power steering, power brakes, a remote boot release and a radio.
By the third generation, the success of the Mustang was significantly eating into Falcon sales. As a result, the range was slimmed down with only coupe, sedan and station wagon body styles offered. Third-gen models are easy to distinguish thanks to sporting a longer bonnet and shorter bootlid design.
Regardless of generation, very few examples are likely to be standard anymore. Many Falcons have since been treated to engine, suspension and cosmetic upgrades.
Performance and spec
Engine 4267cc V8
Power 164bhp @4400rpm
Torque 258lb ft @ 2200rpm
Top Speed 100mph
Fuel consumption approx 16mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
● Rust may be an issue for Falcons. Check the floor pans, wheelarches and all external body panels for any signs of rot. The ideal solution is to find a car that has spent its life in one of the dry states
● Ensure all of the panel gaps line up correctly. Any wonky shut lines could be a sign of previous accident damage, or poor restoration work
● Check condition of hard to source parts, such as dashboard switches and seat trim. While they won't be hugely expensive (replacement shock absorbers cost approx £50) many spares can be hard to source outside of the US
Sep 1959: Ford Falcon unveiled to US public, due for 1960 release.
1960: Falcon production starts. Available in a range of body styles, powered by a 2.4-litre inline-six
1961: A larger, more powerful 2.8-litre i6 introduced
Feb 1963: The first V8 engine debuts, displacing 4.3 litres
1963: Convertibles and hard tops models added to the range
1964: Second-gen Falcon introduced, gains revised styling though very few mechanical changes
1965: Range refresh included updated front grille, front seatbelts standard, and a three-speed automatic gearbox to replace the previous two-speed
1965: Larger 4.7-litre V8 replaced 4.3 in Sprint models
Jun 1965 Convertible production ends
1966: Third-gen Falcon debuts, range diversity slimmed down and more cosmetic changes to the styling
1968: Small styling revision brings square tail lights
1970: Falcon phased out in US market
Key clubs and websites
• www.americanautoclubuk.com - UK-based owners' club and forum for all types of classic American vehicles
• www.falconclub.com - US-based owners' club dedicated to the Ford Falcon
• www.mustangmaniac.co.uk - First-gen Mustang Specialists who also supply parts and expertise for the Falcon. Based in London
Summary and prices
In the UK, Falcons are so few and far between that sellers effectively name their own price. Clean two door V8 models are likely to be priced around the £35,000 mark. Prices in the US are much lower (very clean 'restomod' examples are priced closer to £20,000), so if you're willing to put in the legwork of importing a car yourself then it might be possible to save a significant amount.
Words: Alex Ingram