BY CODY FACTEAU
Part of my homeschooling studies involve researching a current event each day to see what is happening in the world. When I was younger, it actually meant the world, Earth as we know it. But now, somehow, mysteriously, I seem to be pulled into the deep dark depths of the vast and all powerful auto underworld. Every gear head out there knows what I mean, to be sure.
One of the places I often find myself is in Jay Leno's garage. Who wouldn't want to live there, right? Now Jay Leno owns a gazillion cars, everything from steam powered to 100-year old electric cars to modern day super cars. His garage is legendary, just teaming with millions of dollars of classic beauties. But, his dream car has always been a 1963 Â½ Ford Falcon Sprint. So, when he came across one just recently, on bringatrailer.com he had no trouble plunking down the $26k for this mint condition, seriously modified Falcon.
According to Leno, this Falcon is built exactly the way he would have built it. It has a 1969 289 cubic-inch small block under the hood with 360 horsepower and the battery in the trunk. It has a stiffened suspension, rally bar under the hood, aftermarket wheels and a five-speed manual transmission (the original came with a four-speed). He had found his "dream machine."
Car History 101: The Ford Falcon was an automobile produced by Ford Motor Company from 1960 to 1970. It was a huge sales success for Ford, to begin with, outselling rival compacts from Chrysler and General Motors. Edsel Ford first used the term "Falcon" for a more luxurious Ford he designed in 1935, but dismissed it. Then in 1960 both Ford and Chrysler came up with the name Falcon. Ford went down and registered the name with the Automotive Manufacturing Association, beating Chrysler to the punch by just 20 minutes.
Historically, the 'Big Three' auto manufacturers (GM, Ford and Chrysler), focused purely on larger and more profitable vehicles in both the US and Canadian markets. Towards the end of the 1950's, all three realized that this strategy would no longer work. Large cars were becoming too expensive thanks to wage inflation, making smaller cars, like the European Volkswagen, attractive to car buyers. History also tells us that women found the full-size cars of the time too large and cumbersome. Research at the time was saying that smaller cars would sell. So, the big three introduced compact cars. Chrysler had the Valiant, Chevy had the Corvair and Ford had the Falcon. The 'father of the Falcon' was Robert McNamara, a Ford executive who commissioned a team to create a small American car (considered mid-size elsewhere in the world), that was low weight and low cost and had room for six passengers in reasonable comfort.
Would this idea work? Over half a million Falcons were sold in the first year, and over a million by the end of the second year. And, to any of you out there who are Mustang connoisseurs, the Falcon was the prototype for the Mustang. Fast, powerful and reliable ... The Ford Falcon, just everything a car should be.
Cody Facteau is a 16-year old homeschooler from East Burke. He enjoys anything to do with cars, particularly the Classics. He loves Le Mans racing, his favorite TV shows are Gearz with Stacey David & Top Gear (BBC), and hobbies are Legos, PlayStation and Xbox 360. He's also a cadet with Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force Auxiliary. Career goals? What else, cars!