Car Show Classic: 1970½ Ford Falcon – Flipping the Bird

Like many of us here, I like to enjoy the occasional car show. I must say that hanging around Curbside Classic over the years has changed my automotive tastes, for the better I like to think. Endless rows of over-restored Tri-5 Chevies do nothing for me anymore: I walk past them without giving them a second thought. But an oddball, base-model, half-year-only Ford with just the right amount of patina? Excuse me while I reach for my phone…


So what exactly is the deal with this “obviously a Torino and not a Falcon” Falcon? The 1970½ Falcon has already been covered fairly thoroughly in these virtual pages, and I recommend you follow the links and the end of this piece for the full deets, which includes a surprising amount of FoMoCo corporate boardroom drama. (Quick recap: The compact car we normally think of as the Ford Falcon went out of production on December 31, 1969, midway through the 1970 model year, because it didn’t meet federal safety standards that went into effect for vehicles produced after January 1, 1970).

The Falcon name getting pulled up from the minor league of the compact segment to the majors of the mid-size segment was quite unheard of in the day, even if the Falcon was just a price leader model. Indeed, nameplate debasement was the order of the day back then, with names like Galaxie and Bel Air starting out at the top of the line models, while an escalator of ever higher model names would push these once-storied nameplates towards the bottom of the lineup before disappearing altogether.

In contrast, the Falcon name, after receiving its brief field promotion in 1970, would go out on top, disappearing at the end of the model year (well, technically it went off to live in exile in Australia).

LengthWheelbaseWidthBase PriceBase Price (2023)
1970 Falcon (4-door)184"111"73.2"$2,438$19,615
1970 Maverick (2-door)179"103"70.6"$1,995$16,051
1970.5 Falcon (4-door)206"117"
1970 Custom 500 (4-door)214"121"79.8"$2,872$23,107
1971 Pinto163"94"69.4"$1,919$14,410
1971 Maverick (4-door)186"110"71"$2,325$17,766

How big of a promotion was this for the Falcon name? Check out the table above comparing the relative dimensions of various 1970 Fords. The 1970½ Falcon/Torino is within swinging distance of the full-sizers, being much closer dimensionally to the full-sizers than to the old compact Falcon platform.

There has been endless speculation about why the Maverick wasn’t tapped to carry the Falcon name, or why the half-year Falcon was even needed at all, but the answer is right in the table above. I previously thought the 1970½ was a placeholder for the new-for-1971 Pinto at the bottom of the lineup, but the Pinto was a subcompact car (Ford’s first in the US), and not a compact like the Falcon or Maverick.

Looking at the chart above, a 4-door Maverick would have slotted in perfectly where the Falcon had been, both size-wise and price-wise. The only problem was that there was no four-door Maverick sedan until 1971. The Maverick, as introduced in 1970, was available only as a short-wheelbase two-door coupe, while the compact Falcon had been available as a coupe, sedan, and wagon. So for the latter half of the 1970 model year, the cheapest four-door Ford sedan you could buy was the $2,627 Fairlaine 500 sedan, or it would have been were it not for the introduction of the $2,500 1970½ Falcon sedan (just $62 more than the $2,438 compact 1970 Falcon sedan).

Now Ford wasn’t about to give buyers a mid-size car for compact car money without demanding something in return, so of course that something was standard and optional equipment.

For starters, the interior of the 1970½ Falcon is the most humble you will see this side of a Studebaker Scotsman. Next, the Falcon was available only in three body styles: two- and four-door pillared sedans, and a station wagon, with the two-door pillared sedan being exclusive to the Falcon. Hardtop and convertible body styles were reserved for the Fairlane and Torino models.

Standard equipment was sparse, with niceties like carpet and an AM radio being relegated to the option sheet. To prevent buyers from using the Falcon to “back door” their way into a cheaper Fairlaine or Torino, options on the Falcon were limited.  While items like hidden headlights, passenger side mirror, bodyside and wheel well moldings with were either standard or optional on the Torino and Fairlane, they were not available at all on the decontented Falcon. Power windows were only available on the Falcon Wagon.

The optional tachometer in the lower left gives a clue as to the original mission of this Falcon

There was one place, however, where the ’70½ Falcon option sheet was not limited, and that was in the powertrain department. Every engine and transmission that was available on the Torino, from the lowly 250 six to the (conservatively-rated) 370 HP 429 Cobra-Jet V8 was available on the Falcon. This would have made the Falcon by far the cheapest way to get the 429 V8 in 1970, and likely one of the best bang-for-the-buck muscle cars from any manufacturer in 1970.

Ford clearly knew what they were on to here with cheap performance, so not surprisingly a significant number of the on the 1970½ Falcon were performance related, including a Hurst shifter, tachometer, wide-oval tires, and a “drag pack.”

License plates never lie, do they?

Back to the featured car. I was unable to find the owner, and there are no engine callouts anywhere on the car, but if the license plate is to be believed, then it sports either the Cobra or Cobra Jet 429 V8. It certainly looks the part, with dog dish hubcaps and optional tachometer. Other options appear to be an AM-FM radio and the Cruise-o-matic 3-speed automatic transmission.

Alas, the 1970½ Falcon represented the swan (falcon?) song not just for the Falcon name in the US, but for cheap performance in general. Buyer tastes were rapidly changing in the early ’70s as the Great Brougham Epoch was reaching full stride. Emissions and safety regulations, rising insurance costs, and soon-to-come fuel crises would quickly finish off the muscle car for the few interested buyers that were left. The Cobra Jet would be gone from the lineup after 1971.

Related Reading

Curbside Classic: 1970 1/2 Ford Falcon Sedan – Needle, Meet Haystack

1970½ Ford Falcon: Mission Implausible