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The Ford Falcon was an automobile which was produced by the Ford from 1960 to 1970 across three generations. It was a sales success for Ford initially, outselling rival compacts from Chrysler and General Motors introduced at the same time. The television marketing for this model featured the first animated appearances of the characters from Charles Schulz's acclaimed comic strip, Peanuts, with announcer contribution from Paul Frees.
The Falcon was offered in two-door and four-door sedan, two-door and four-door station wagon, two-door hardtop, convertible, sedan delivery and Ranchero pickup body configurations. For several years, the Falcon name was also used on passenger versions of the Ford Econoline van.
Variations of the Ford Falcon were manufactured in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile and Mexico. Early Mexican built versions of the Ford Maverick used the Falcon Maverick name.
Edsel Ford first used the term "Falcon" for a more luxurious Ford he designed in 1935. He decided the new car did not fit with Ford's other offerings, so this design eventually became the Mercury.
Historically, the "Big Three" auto manufacturers (GM, Ford and Chrysler), focused purely on the larger and more profitable vehicles in the US and Canadian markets. Towards the end of the 1950s, all three manufacturers realized that this strategy would no longer work. Large automobiles were becoming increasingly expensive, making smaller cars such as Fiats, Renaults, Toyotas, and Volkswagens increasingly attractive. Furthermore, many American families were now in the market for a second car, and market research showed women especially thought the full-size car had grown too large and cumbersome.
Falcon wordmark emblem on side
At the same time, research showed many buyers would prefer to buy US or Canadian if the domestic manufacturers offered a smaller car with lower cost of ownership. Thus, all three introduced compacts: the Valiant from Chrysler (becoming the Plymouth Valiant in 1961, and joined by a downsized Dodge Dart in 1962), GM's Chevrolet Corvair, and the Ford Falcon. Studebaker also introduced the Lark, and Rambler downsized its near-compact American in 1960. Ford United Kingdom had begun production of the Ford Anglia in 1939, and the earlier Ford Model Y in 1932, followed by the Ford Zephyr, but they weren't sold in North America. Ford of Germany built the Ford Eifel, followed by the Ford Köln which was mechanically similar to the British Model Y, followed later by the Ford Taunus in 1939, but were also not sold in North America. The European Fords, Anglia, Zephyr, and Taunus, were in production at the same time the Falcon was introduced.
The project which became the Falcon was started and sponsored by Ford General Manager Robert S. McNamara, who commissioned a team to create what by American standards of the time would be a small car but elsewhere in the world considered a mid-size. McNamara, who was promoted to Group Vice President of Cars and Trucks by the time the Falcon was launched, was intimately involved in development, insisting on keeping the costs and weight of the car as low as possible. Engineer Harley Copp employed a unibody atop a standard suspension and sourced parts from Ford's existing bin to keep the price low yet provide room for six passengers in reasonable comfort. The sales success of the conventional Falcon along with slow sales of GM's rear-engined Corvair led General Motors to introduce their own compact car based on the Falcon's principles, the Chevy II.
First generation (1960–1963)
The 1960 Falcon was powered by a small, lightweight 95 hp (70 kW), 144 CID (2.4 L) Mileage Maker straight-6 with a single-barrel carburetor. Construction was unibody, and suspension was fairly standard, with coil springs in front and leaf springs in the rear. Brakes were drum all around. A three-speed manual column shift was standard, and the two-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic was optional. There was room for six passengers in reasonable comfort in the simple interior. Body styles included two- and four-door sedans, two- or four-door station wagons, and the Ranchero car-based pickup, transferred onto the Falcon platform for 1960 from the Fairlane. A Mercury derivative, the Mercury Comet, originally intended for the defunct Edsel marque, was launched in the US midway through the 1960 model year.
The market shift which spurred the development of the Falcon and its competitors also precipitated the demise of several well-established marques in the late-1950s and early-1960s. Besides the infamous tale of the Edsel, the Nash, Hudson, DeSoto, and Packard nameplates all disappeared from the marketplace.
In 1960, Ford's Canadian subsidiary introduced the Falcon-based Frontenac. It was designed to give Mercury-Meteor dealers a smaller model to sell, since the Comet was originally intended as an Edsel, which was sold by Ford-Monarch dealers. Produced for the 1960 model year only, the Frontenac was essentially a rebadged 1960 Falcon with its own unique grille, tail lights, and external trim, including red maple-leaf insignia. Despite strong sales (5% of Ford's total Canadian output), the Frontenac was discontinued and replaced by the Mercury Comet for 1961.
Robert McNamara, a Ford executive who became Ford's president briefly before being offered the job of U.S. Defense Secretary, is regarded by many as "the father of the Falcon". McNamara left Ford shortly after the Falcon's introduction, but his faith in the concept was vindicated with record sales; over half a million sold in the first year and over a million sold by the end of the second year.
The 1961 model year introduced an optional 101 hp, 170 CID (2.8 L) six, and two new models were introduced; a bucket-seat and console sedan model in a higher trim level called the Futura, and a sedan delivery. Also, the Ford Falcon brochure featured Charlie Brown and Lucy from the Peanuts comic strip who remained until 1965.
Ford boasted of the good fuel economy achieved by the six-cylinder Ford Falcon models in advertising. The fuel economy was good, a claimed 30 mpg-US (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp), compared to other American cars at the time.
The 1962 model year had a Squire model of the four-door station wagon with faux wood trim on the sides. The bucket-seat "Futura" model was offered with a slightly upgraded interior, factory-installed safety belts, different side trim (spears), and different emblems. Halfway through the model year, Ford changed the roof line at the back window to more of a Thunderbird design and offered a four-speed transmission for the first time. The two-door Futura sedan (also referred to as an 'illusion hardtop' because of the chrome trim around the side window opening) sported a flat rear window in place of the panoramic (wrap-around) window on earlier models to bring its design in line with other Ford cars of the era. In 1962, Ford introduced the Ford Falcon Club Wagon and Deluxe Club Wagon, an eight-passenger, flat-front, van. Ford also promoted that in a Mobilgas economy run, the Falcon got 32.5mpg.
In 1963, even more models were available. There was now a four-door Futura and a Deluxe wagon. Futura Convertible and Futura Sports Convertible models were also included in the 1963 range. Later, hardtops, and the new "Sprint" model were introduced. Halfway through the model year (February 1963), the Fairlane's 164 hp "Challenger" 260 CID (4.3 L) V8 engine was offered for the first time. The Falcon was climbing in trim level from its budget beginnings, as Ford attempted to wring more profit from the line.
The only time a V8 option was available in a first-generation Falcon was the 1963½ model, and these cars were produced in very limited numbers (Sprint two-door hardtop (bucket seats) 10,479 produced and Sprint convertible (bucket seats) 4,602 produced). These first-generation Falcon Sprint cars were the basis for the 1964½ Mustangs released by Ford one year later. Many (if not most) of the interior, chassis, suspension, and drivetrain components were derived from those used on the 1963½ Ford Falcon Sprint and/or Fairlane models. In simplest terms, the 1963½ Falcon Sprint is nearly mechanically identical to the 1964½ Mustang while being aesthetically different.
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