Despite being about 40 years too young to be a target demographic, I enjoyed reading Reader’s Digest a lot as a young boy. My mother had every copy from around 1979 to 1997, and I read every one of them until they fell apart. Much to my mother’s chagrin, I would also trade them with Ms. Ruth, then the librarian at my school. And trading with her was the best, because she had even older magazines in her collection. And crucially, older ads.
One day not too long after I had started middle school, I smuggled a copy to school in what was my first, and no doubt dweebiest rule violation ever. In my defense I was in the middle of reading about a man called Eugene Zebre, who got stuck for a couple of days in his Chevrolet Cavalier because of snow. I simply couldn’t wait to see if he actually had made it out alive (because the Internet seems to have forgotten about Mr. Zebre’s ordeal, yes he did). Ms. Ruth noticed and told me he that I was welcome to come to the library and pick out from this huge collection, which dated back to 1960. It was there that I discovered the joy of painted ads.
Whereas the ads that I was used to employed photography and shiny, electric colors to convey motion, joie de vivre, and a sense of accomplishment that would stem from buying the product; the ones found in those old magazines were pastel-colored snippets of joy. Page upon page of advertisements for radios (they have transistors in them; high-tech!), typewriters, cigarettes (scandalous!) and the ones that piqued my interest the most, cars. It was one of those ads that first caught my attention while leafing idly through a well-worn 1960 edition.
And here is the ad in question. It took me a couple of days to find it but it’s all worth it just to see it again. I’ll be the first to admit that if you actually lived when this ad was released and were looking for a compact from the Big Three the Falcon was probably the least likely to get your blood pumping with excitement. The Corvair was rear-engined and the Olds F-85 had a novel Aluminum V8. The Pontiac Tempest had rear independent suspension with swing axles, which resulted in exciting handling; not always the right kind, though.
If you wanted novel styling or just were weird, the Valiant was for you. But if you were born in the early ‘90s it was a completely different and interesting car. And look at the people driving it. One of them is wearing a hat; have you ever seen someone in the city wearing a hat. That’s so cool!
I was quite an impressionable kid, to put it mildly. And I didn’t know or care about the endless revisions and extensions the Falcon platform would go through over the decades, much less about its long lease on life granted by Ford’s South American division. All I cared about was that it didn’t look like anything I had seen on the road and that made it instantly cool.
The Falcon was for the uptight citizen that had decided these godforsaken machines have become too big and too flashy and just wanted sensible transportation. In other words, the VW-Studebaker-Rambler crowd. This seemed to work, as of all the vehicles listed above the Falcon was the fastest selling one and more than a few have survived to this day. Like this 1961 shot and uploaded to the cohort by Joseph Dennis in front of the Willis (nee Sears) Tower. As far as I can tell the only differences between it and the one in the ad of my dreams was the requisite yearly revisions to the grille. Being a 1961 there could either be a 144 or 170 cubic inch inline-6 bringing power to the rear wheels through a three-on-the-tree or a two-speed Ford-O-Matic.
Here’s a 1960 example in much better condition by Yohai Rodin to show what I am on about. Miss Ruth and I kept interchanging magazines throughout the school year until summer vacation. She passed away in the middle of it. I was…more shaken than my less literary-inclined classmates. My mother’s collection got flooded and so only a few magazines survived. They’re destroyed and ragged by now. Years after her death and through the magic of networking I found her granddaughter and tried to make a bid for her collection. Naturally, someone had beaten me to it. Hopefully they’re taking good care of them, who knows what other kid may be fascinated by old articles and ads.
The Falcon Platform: 18 Different Wheelbase/Track Variations From Falcon to Versailles
CC: 1961 Falcon – How To Build A Winning Compact
Wow, twenty bucks (for the transistor radio) was a LOTTA money in 1960!
Inflation calculator tells me that $19.95 AM radio (was FM out yet?) would cost you $157.52 today. It doesn’t even have a shortwave band, so I’d have to pass at that price.
Without checking I can tell you FM stations were around in the late forties when I was a little kid. We even had both am and fm stations in my hometown of Warren, Pennsylvania in those days.
I think it is an ok price for the period of time. In 1960, Transistors were still very new technology and the first transistor radio that was offered for sale was released in November 1954.
It was not until the mid 1960’s that the prices dropped dramatically. due to competition.
It’s basically the ipod of that time. I don’t know what those cost anymore, having broken my last one in 2013 and gone over to phone-as-music-player, but I’m sure $157.52 is somewhere in that wheelhouse.
I was pretty excited when I got one for my birthday in fall, 1960. Though it was a plain Silvertone model (no headphone, no carrying case) from Sears, it was still a very big deal. We listed to election night news on that little radio – JFK vs. Nixon. Transistor radios were high tech and pretty aspirational for little kids in the midwest during that era.
Pocket transistor radios were all the rage in the early 60’s. Practically all were AM only. $20 bucks sounds about right for a top American brand. Japanese stuff was still junk at this point. Sony would change that real soon though. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever was a Motorola 8 transistor I received in 1962.
Those old transistor radios were pretty sad performers, but the size was the thing compared to the smallest of the tube radios. My dad sold these old radios from day one, and when one of his stores closed in 1969, I got like 4 grocery bags of the things. When I see what the worst of them (Because of the weird 22V battery) goes for now, I get queasy, because they got tossed when I coudn’t sell them.
Most of the Regency radios I got were slightly later ones that used the now ancient 9volt rectangular battery. Almost every single one of these radios were easily fixed and I sold them at my school for $2 each.
Great read Gerardo,thank you.In the 60s we used to get National Geographic magazine and I can remember the car ads more than the magazine articles.
I spent a lot of time in Falcons,Dad had a 62 and a 64.My parents were American car fans and we were all tall but most American cars were too big and thirsty for British drivers.The Falcons were the only car I remember my little sister not blowing chunks in!
This title photo is stunningly beautiful.
Early falcons prove to have been made just for that kind of atmosphere in images.
Indeed, the car ads. Back in the early 80’s, my best friend Doug gave me his grandfathers collection of Popular Mechanics magazines. They were mostly complete from ’52 to ’72. Just amazing to see the culture shift that happened. And those amazing car ads. Even the tiny little ones, way in the back, in the early 60’s issues, for the “Datsun” pickup
Robert McNamara’s puritanical lack of enthusiasm for flashy cars (which baffled fellow execs) explains the Falcon entirely.
Love that “Powerlift” nonsense; a portable radio like that can’t “fill a room” except with distorted noise, at best. While not mentioned here, it was a common sales trick to brag about the number of transistors, which, like the number of watch jewels, was supposed to imply a superior product.
The Japanese would soon humble RCA, which used to be the hot high-tech stock.
That is correct, in the 1960s we had the transistor wars where radio manufacturers fell all over themselves increasing the transistor count for advertising purposes. (Five or six where all that were actually needed in a portable AM radio.)
I have a small collection of transistor sets including a “Gold Coast” brand 15-transistor AM radio. This set was made in Hong Kong and I’d wager that half of the transistors are probably not even connected!
Extension speakers were a popular accessory to improve tinny sound, I have a couple of these and they actually do help: Tubular extension speaker for transistor radio.
“Tubular extension speaker for transistor radio.”
Ha! That brings back some memories. I had one exactly like the one depicted in the link… over 50 years ago.
I have two of those tubular speakers, one still in the box. I do tend to be something of a pack rat. As with a lot of other guys my age, though, mom tossed out the comic books and baseball cards that are now worth big $$$. 🙂
Transistor radio prices dropped as the 1960s progressed and the imports took over that space. I still have the receipt from my 1969 purchase of a Lloyd’s transistor radio that cost all of $3.97 — a far cry from the 20 bucks of that earlier RCA transistor.
Although certainly not a car guy, McNamara did have an uncanny ability to know what would sell and what wouldn’t. The father of the Falcon was also the force behind the 4 seat T-Bird in 1958 and the classic suicide door Lincoln Continentals of the early sixties. He hated the Edsel from the start.
Too true! If only he had used his powers for good, and stayed in the car industry…
Sigh. What a shame. His next career is proof that even the most brilliant of men can make mistakes.
Spanish always looks so much more formal and elegant than English.
….su rendamiento de hasta 12 kms por litro resulta una fuente permanente de economia.
A permanent font of economy! I want one of those!
Odd that they used km/liter rather than L/100km.
I fell in love with old advertising at an early age. I became an old magazine nerd and could spend hours at a time luxuriating in the ads of Life, Look and National Geographic. The car ads were my favorites, but the full page color ads for almost any consumer product were so cool.
The Ford Falcon is a perfect example of how American consumers will typically clamor for exciting, new, innovative vehicles, yet when they get them and it comes time to laying down their money, most will invariably go with the most traditional, conservative thing available. Of the new 1960 compacts, the Falcon was easily the least interesting and most conventional, yet it was the one that sold the most. The Corvair taught GM an important lesson about this. Even the spectacularly successful and exciting Mustang was just skin-deep, being nothing but a Falcon underneath.
An old, somewhat applicable adage is “Americans talk horsepower, but they drive torque”. Ironically, Ford would be the leader in abandoning this industry standard when they switched wholesale from the torque-rich pushrod V8 to the lesser OHC configuration in the early nineties.
The Falcon was cute when first released the cuteness wore off when it fell apart around the owner, very rare cars here I havent seen a XK in many years.
I’d forgotten that Ford was using the Peanuts characters in its Falcon ads (print/TV) even before that enduring Peanuts Christmas TV show. If that helped create a warm, friendly, unpretentious image for the car, so be it:
I got my hands on some old LIFE magazines from the early 60’s. They were chocked full of car ads with several Peanuts ads. I cut them out and hung them in my pool room. The wife loves Peanuts, I love old Fords… best of both worlds for us!
I took Driver Education in my high school driving a 1960 Ford Falcon with automatic transmission. Three students in the car during the driving period, each taking turns behind the wheel with coach Joe Massa as the instructor. This was a fine car for the purpose as it handled decently around town and was easy to drive. On the other hand, Ford 6 cylinder engines of that period were very wimpy and slow so it wasn’t much for hill climbing. Our family car at the time was a 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon with the Thunderbird V-8 so it was much more satisfying to drive and that is the car used for taking my driver’s test. Passed easily the first time since I had been driving on our own property since age 12.
I wasn’t a big fan of the early Falcon – I preferred the later models. A friend of our family had a ’66 Sports Coupe that I always liked. She bought it new, never drove it in the winter, and owned it until she died in the late ’80’s. Old magazine ads, though, are another story. I’ve always been a big fan of the old ads. My middle school had quite a collection of old National Geographics from the Fifties, and I would read them from cover to cover, including the ads. My favorites were always the car ads, along with the ads for radio and TV sets. I still like checking them out today, and it’s an interesting way to observe how our culture changes over the decades. Speaking of which, I watched that old Falcon commercial. Having read many different Peanuts anthologies over the years, I noted that Linus’ character evolved quite a bit from the kid in the commercial to the more philosophical persona he took on in later years.
I would pore over my parents’s collection of National Geographics dating from the early 1970’s through the 80’s…almost exclusively for the car ads. The one that had the biggest impact on me was a 1972 ad for a Hornet Sportabout that touted AMC’s “Buyer Protection Plan”. I was 13 when AMC was bought by Chrysler Corporation, and one of the things that struck me about the ad was how, at that time, AMC must have had no idea how rocky the rest of the decade was going to be.
(I shot that Falcon early 2010 – I wonder if it’s still on the road. It had Ohio plates, and that must have been quite a drive.)
A Falcon with that much rust for that distance is unimaginable to me.
I worked at a DeSoto/Plymouth dealer in 1960. I’ve Valiant in it’s cheapest models even, had the 3 speed Torqueflite which survived through the ’90s and an alternator, which all cars have today, but Ford kept their ancient generator at least through 64 or maybe later.
Then there was the torsion bar suspension. Oh, did I almost forget the nearly indestructible slant 6 170 cubic inch engine?
I fear I’m the last CC-er to know of this–Ford’s one-year Canadian variant:
What a great pic. Worthy of its own post.
One in England,believed to be one of one.(I’m sure a CCer will let us know of any more over here)
Well..that’s makes two of us. For their one year only production, my good friend just down the road from me in the late 60’s had one. Put endless (or is that mindless) miles on that Frontenac tooling around the ‘hood’, up here in the northland, Manitoba. The Frontenac name always sounded more charming than Falcon. And where are they now? Finding one today would be a huge score.
Lovely photograph by the way.
One of my great regrets in life is not buying a ’61 Falcon Ranchero when I had the chance, back around 1980. It was decent, and $500 at the time.
Nice one Gerardo, Joseph and Yohai. I enjoyed time with an oz 63 XL Falcon, 144 ci same body but with T-bird roof. Prefer the curved rear window with 61 grille. This model cops a lot of stick for being McNamara-bland, but I think it’s a subtle but nicely wrought shape, especially the oz wagons and utes for their better proportioning (hehehe).
Still look for old magazines in thrift and ‘antique’ shops just for the car ads. Got a goodly load of ads clipped out of National Geographic which was chockfull of the VK/AF Pontiac ads and suchlike in the 60s. Then there’s a sharp drop-off from the early 70s which suddenly featured Mercedes-Benz and Fiat ads at the expense of US marques – maybe we were getting an international edition in oz by then.
Don, Adelaide is prime hunting for this sort of stuff- if you get to the Bay to Birdwood run sometime, check out the junk shops. Sorry, antique emporia!
Although I hated the Falcon/Comet when new because they were wretchedly cheap and so bland looking , I do rather more like them now although my old ’61 Mercury Comet with two speed slushbox and anemic 170 C.I. i6 slug engine , couldn’t make it up to the top of the hill I lived on at the time (Anan Way) unless I locked it int low gear and pinned the throttle at the bottom of the hill before I went up….
This didn’t endear me to the neighbors as I was the very last house at the top of that dead end street .
That was one of the very few old 6 Bangers I wasn’t able to tune into good performance .
The deal with showing drivers wearing hats in old car ads is to show how much headroom they had . you’d have be be less than 5’5″ to wear a hat in a Falcon .
The Spanish ad actually says there’s a fountain of economy =8-) .
I too love old radios and have just a few .
In 1964 I thought I’d done a good thing buying a $10 Japanese 10 transistor radio , until my elder Brother explained the uselessness of it..
At least it got good reception although it ate those crappy 9 volt batteries like crazy .
I should perhaps point out fuente can also mean “Source”, which would make more sense, if also considerably less romantic.
It’s interesting how the old, sixties’ Ford Falcon is now the darling of hipsters everywhere. In fact, with the recent old bicycle article on CC, maybe an article on the other favorite hipster mode of transportation, the strippo, fixed-hub (aka ‘fixie’) bicycle is warranted.
The 1960 Falcon I had.
Here’s a link on the 1960 Ford Frontenac:
I remember my aunt and uncle in Windsor, Ontario owning one as a second car in the 1960’s. Their other car was a ’64 Custom 500.
Full-page ad from its debut:
I forgot the Falcon wagons didn’t even appear until March 1960:
Just saw a Falcon yesterday–appeared to be a ’65, strippo 2-door post. Had some wrinkles but still looked relatively good for 40 years old! Wish I could have snapped a photo but I was in the wrong lane…
CC effect strikes again!