(Another new COALer begins his journey) I’ll begin my COAL with the first car that I actually held title to, and the first one I have much photographic documentation of. In the mid-1980s, I was partway through college at the University of California at Santa Cruz. I’d been keeping an eye open for cheap, reliable, and interesting 4-wheeled transportation (or at least something cheap with at least one of the other attributes), and scanning the local paper, I came across an intriguing candidate in the form of a 1968 Ford Falcon 2-door with a 289 V8. The asking price, if I recall correctly, was $350.00. I was definitely intrigued.
My roommate gave me a lift in his Dart to check it out – the Falcon was in Felton, a community in the hills near Santa Cruz. Defying conventional wisdom that had been passed down to me, I went to look at it at night since the seller worked days and we weren’t able to coordinate a meeting on the weekend.
The Falcon was covered in pine needles and had dents and creases on almost every body panel, and there were spots of red oxide primer all over the car, as well as spots of surface rust. Most notably, there was a just single bucket seat on the driver’s side. The seller explained that the bench seat was completely shot and he’d pulled out the bench and put in a bucket seat from a Ford Fiesta. He had been using it to commute and had never bothered putting in a passenger seat. It started up, ran, and drove well, and the brakes seemed surprisingly good for a 60s American car – as it turned out, it had factory disc brakes, which were very unusual on cars of that vintage, especially budget leaders such as Falcons. Looking the car over and talking with the seller, it seemed like he’d kept up on basic maintenance – it had recent belts & hoses, a fairly new battery, and the tires were good. And despite the somewhat dinged and dented body, I saw no serious rust or major collision damage when I examined it under the lights of a gas station canopy. I had a Consumer’s Guide used Car book and it passed the basic mechanical checks in their buying guide. It also had a cheap Kraco cassette deck which was a definite bonus for the then 20-year old me. After some back & forth, I bought it for $300 and drove it home.
At the time in California, cars of 1966 and later needed smog checks when they were sold. You needed to provide a smog certificate when you transferred the registration at the DMV, and though the seller was technically supposed to provide a smog certificate on sale of the car, in practice, buyers generally took care of this, at least on cars like this at the lower end of the price range. This was not as much of a problem as it seemed, as California at the time had a glaring loophole in the smog laws for older vehicles. They would be considered compliant if an aftermarket setup called a “KAR Kit” was installed. These sold for around $15.00 and consisted of a pair of stickers and a pair of vacuum caps to block off the vacuum advance. One sticker went under the hood indicating that the kit had been installed, and the other sticker was stuck to the speedometer warning not to operate at sustained speeds above 60mph. If I recall, you were supposed to retard the timing but nobody really bothered. The Falcon already had the stickers installed from an earlier check, so I picked up a pair of vacuum caps, blocked off the vacuum advance, drove to a local gas station to get my certificate, and then reattached the vacuum line a block from the station, which was the usual practice at the time. To this day, I wonder if anyone ever actually drove a car with one of these kits installed farther than to and from a smog check station.
I drove it for a few weeks with just the driver’s seat and the rear bench but the lack of a passenger seat made it a bit awkward carrying a passenger, so I scouted the local junkyards for a Fiesta that could donate a passenger seat to match the bucket on the driver’s side, but finding none, and having a hard time even finding a pair of buckets that weren’t trashed on the driver’s side, I settled for a passenger bucket from a Mustang II, in blue brocade which somewhat matched the blue vinyl upholstery of the rest of my Falcon’s interior. The driver’s seat from the Fiesta was saddle tan, and though it didn’t match the rest of the interior, it was surprisingly comfortable.
I did some basic maintenance like an oil change and dropped the transmission pan to put in new trans fluid and a new screen filter – getting AT fluid all over my hair in the process.
The car proved reliable and managed duty as my daily driver around town as well as trips of 50-100 mile drives to destinations such as Oakland, San Francisco, and Monterey without a hitch.
The ’68 Falcon was the third generation of Falcons, coming after the 1960-63 round body and the 64-65 square body. Unlike the first two generations, the 66-70 Falcon shared the same basic platform with the intermediate Fairlane and was substantially larger than the previous generation. This was in keeping with other US compact platforms – the Dart grew larger in 1967, and the Nova did the same in 1968. My car was a base (“Falcon”) model in what Ford called the Club Coupe body style, which was essentially a 2-door sedan with a B-pillar rather than a true hardtop. 4 door sedan and wagon body styles were also offered that year, and the higher-trimmed Futura also offered a Sport Coupe version, which was the club coupe with a vinyl top and some additional chrome geegaws.
The 68 was the last Falcon restyle and can be distinguished by the introduction of square taillights in place of the round “rocket exhaust” taillights that had been a Falcon styling cue since 1960 (and had appeared on other Fords since the 1950s).
Living with the car, a few other unique features became evident. Both shock towers had small, square holes about the size of a postage stamp that looked to have been neatly cut with an acetylene torch. These allowed easy access to the grease nipples on the upper control arms. I subsequently owned another 60s Falcon and I’ve learned that right-angle grease nipples can solve this problem in a far neater and less invasive fashion.
Pulling the air cleaner early on, I was surprised to find a rock holding the choke butterfly open. I pulled out the rock, adjusted the electric choke per the manual, and benefitted from easier starts from that point on.
The car had an unusual rear window defroster. Rather than an electrical element in the glass as on current vehicles, a small blower was located under the parcel shelf which blew slightly warmed air onto the rear window. It worked fairly well, although it seems to have been a dead end as far as defroster technology went.
While the car drove well, it was far from pretty with all the dents and primer spots on it, and the appearance bothered me the more I drove it. This was likely a California car since new, and cars here rust differently than in parts of the country that have serious winters. Here, parking a car outside will rust it from the top down – rain accumulates on the roof, trunk, and hood and slowly eats them away. The trunk, floorpans, and lower parts of the doors generally stay blessedly intact.
I’d watched friends do crude bondo and primer bodywork on cars in high school, and decided to tackle the bodywork myself. I picked up a slide hammer and a sanding disc for my power drill at the local flea market, as well as some bondo & primer at the Grand Auto in town, and went to work on my unsuspecting car. The car had quite a lot of low-speed dents and patches of surface rust & primer, but no serious damage or rust-through.
Bodywork is easy to do poorly and hard to do well and looking back I wince at how many “wrong” things I did. Nonetheless, after some work and several cans of Bondo filler and a few tubes of glazing putty, the bodylines of the car were relatively smooth, or at least not as irregular. I drove it for a while in a patchwork of primer before deciding to spray it entirely in rattlecan black. I found that while it’s easy to lay down a square foot or so of spray paint and have it look good, getting an even coat on a large surface like a hood or trunk lid is a little trickier and there was a lot of sanding and respraying. I worked at it a few hours here and there in my spare time, eventually, the car was resplendent in a coat of satin black. Looking back, I’m not sure all my work was actually an improvement but I was happy with it at the time.
(As a side note, one of my roommates was taking an art elective in college and incorporated Bondo as a medium in one of his projects)
When I had purchased the car, the seller warned me that the hood needed a firm push down for it to latch all of the way. I had apparently forgotten to do so at one point and on a trip back from Oakland, the hood popped up as I was tooling along in the fast lane of Interstate 580. It was unsettling to have the hood fly up, but I remembered from driver’s ed class to look through the gap between the hood and the cowl, and I steered to the side of the freeway and unbolted the crumpled hood. I briefly wondered if I could fit it in the back seat but it was clear it was way too big, and I left it leaning against the median barrier and drove back to Santa Cruz sans hood.
I drove it without a hood for a month or more – at one point, I was due for a smog check, and I plugged the vacuum advance and drove it to a gas station to see if smogging it without a hood was possible. I told the smog guy that it had a KAR kit, though was missing the hood sticker since it was missing a hood. He shrugged, took my money, and 20 minutes later I drove away with a smog certificate.
During this time, I’d been continually checking junkyards for a new hood. Finally, I found one from a maroon Futura at a yard in the nearby town of Capitola. The lot was just a fenced-off yard full of junked cars, and I recall the guy who seemed in charge of the yard was cutting up an axle housing with a torch, using an old pair of sunglasses for eye protection rather than goggles. He offered to help me pull and put on the hood if I’d buy him a pack of cigarettes at the nearby store – I took him up on his offer and I drove away with a maroon hood on my black primer Falcon. Gun-shy from the hood blowing off, I quickly put on a set of chrome hood pins from Grand Auto.
With the amateur black paint job, hood pins, and the dog dish hubcaps it had come with from the factory, the car now had a low-rent musclecar/hot rod vibe, at least in my youthful eyes, even if the low-compression 2-barrel couldn’t cash the checks the appearance wrote. Out of youthful enthusiasm, I decided to push up the vibe a notch and flame the hood.
A couple of cans of spray paint, a roll of narrow masking tape, and the Sunday edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel later, the deed was done. I taped off flames on the hood, laid down a base coat of orange, and then fogged a layer of red around the edges of the flames. I let the paint set up and gingerly peeled the tape and newspaper away. It didn’t look bad to me, though later in my ownership of the car, a neighbor asked that I not park it in front of their house – they didn’t like seeing it when they looked out their front window.
The biggest repair I recall doing was replacing one of the rear axle bearings. I’d noticed the car had started making a disconcerting growling/whirring sound that increased with speed. A friend I was giving a lift to diagnosed it from the back seat – a car in her family had apparently had an identical problem in the recent past. She even suggested driving the car in an S-pattern to figure out which side the bearing was going bad on. The car had come with a S=shop manual – “Fix Your Ford”, and I still remember the whimsical cover illustration of tiny, elf-like men in mechanics’ coveralls clambering over a full-sized Ford. The manual outlined how to pull an axle shaft and replace the bearing, which seemed involved but not all that difficult. I borrowed a floor jack and jack stands from a neighbor, rented a slide hammer axle puller from a local auto parts shop, and set to work pulling the axle– when it came out, the bearing was clearly disintegrated, with the cage falling apart. I rode to a local auto parts shop on my motorcycle with the axle wrapped in newspaper and jammed in a backpack to have a new bearing pressed on, and then reinstalled the axle. As the drums were off, I also installed an emergency brake cable that had been missing when I bought the car. The car was missing some of the parking brake hardware, and I improvised an equalizer out of part of a muffler clamp.
It continued to deliver reliable transportation for some time until I noticed the front tires were wearing alarmingly on the inside. I took it to a local alignment shop and was told I’d need several hundred worth of front-end work. Reading the cautions in the shop manual about compressing and removing coil springs, I decided working on the front suspension wasn’t something I could tackle on my own, and at the time, the idea of spending more on repairs than I’d spent on the car seemed foolish (there would be numerous future instances where I’d reverse my thinking here)
I took out an ad in the paper, got a number of calls but ultimately sold it to the young woman I mentioned earlier who had diagnosed the rear axle issue. Her family was, to put it mildly, into cars, and didn’t seem put off by something that needed some front-end work. I recall her dad test driving it and saying it was nowhere near as loose as the Econoline he drove to work. I had dinner at their house a few times afterward and was a little sad when the car disappeared from the motor pool in their driveway and was replaced by a very rough sportsroof Mustang – they mentioned that they had part-traded the Falcon for it.
I had thought that was it for the car, but a year or so later, I received a lien sale notice from a tow company in San Jose alerting me it was going to be sold – I’m guessing that the car had changed hands a few times with my signed-off pink slip but nobody had ever bothered to re-register the car. At the time that wasn’t uncommon and I would later purchase cars of my own that came with signed-off pink slips from several owners ago.
I’d be interested to hear if anyone else smogged a car with a Kar-Kit – I recall them being common years ago but there’s very little info online, and when California moved the smog cutoff year to 1975, the loophole ceased to exist.
Ah, Ford’s patented Squeak-a-matic front suspension. Only solved here in the mid 70s, when Ford Australia finally discovered rubber upper bushes. Thanks to the article too
Ah yes, the famous Fords with the giggling suspensions. 🙂
“If you hear ’em squeakin’, don’t go a peekin.'” Is what we used to say.
Working in a Ford garage when these were new, there actually was a factory service kit to lube these bushings. It consisted of a large round adapter threaded to fit the control arm plugs installed at the factory. The adapter was hollow and large enough that the 90 degree grease zerk could be reached with most grease guns. You had to use a flat wrench to take off the plugs one by one, then screw the adapter in, grease the bushings, then replace the factory plug. I did this exactly once. When the shop foreman came over to see what was taking the rookie so long to do a grease job, he laughed when he saw me using the kit and the manual. He called one of the line mechanics over to instruct me on how to properly use the torch to cut holes and install permanent zerks so future grease jobs could be done in the allotted time. Had to endure a few weeks of ribbing about how a Falcon would have to be kept overnight if I was assigned to grease it. Luckily – or unluckily – that kidding was replaced about a month later by another job for which I didn’t know the proper shortcut – changing rear shocks on a “62 Olds.
Quite surprising that a low spec Falcon like yours came with a V8 and disc brakes! I bet that did make it at least somewhat entertaining to drive. I have a 1962 Studebaker Lark with a 259cid V8, and even with only 180 horsepower on tap, it’s capable of keeping up with modern traffic without breaking a sweat.
I don’t have experience with any of the NOx reduction band-aids of that era, but Daniel Stern did a writeup of a 1967 Buick Electra last summer, that has (or at least had) one installed, along with a bit more of a look into the Kar-Kit:
In all my years of reading here, you may be the first I have read who did his daily driving in a 68-70 Falcon. A high school friend’s family had a 70 (from the little stub model year that ended on 12/31/69 because the car could not comply with the 1/1/70 regulations) and it was a decent little car. That one was a 200 6 cyl with a 3 speed and was a reasonable performer. I would imagine the 289 would have been decent as well, even with an automatic.
You are also one of the very few in my experience with a 1968 model 289. Another friend had a 68 Cougar with a 289, which was no end of fun at the parts stores because all of the catalogs listed only a 302.
Really, I think I like the looks of these final Falcons better than any after the 63 models. The 68 refresh was (to me) a total success, that cleaned up some of the fussy details from the 66-67. But the interiors were certainly drab.
Interestingly an aunt had a 69 Falcon sedan that popped the hood one evening. I remember my dad and uncle bending the hood back down and the car continuing on for a few years afterward.
As I remember the only permanent damage was an out of alignment hood and one corner near the windshield that couldn’t be pounded back into shape for love nor money.
Great writeup, and welcome to the club!
This COAL resonated with me, because I live not too far away from the areas described. Santa Cruz is only about an hour south of me, and I have a good friend that lives in Capitola.
Seeing the Falcon in its battered but original guise with those blue CA plates reminds me a lot of my own COAL, “Jeddy,” a 1981 VW Westy that was putting around Santa Cruz and Monterey at the same time as when this piece is set. I, too, bought mine bruised and battered on the cheap, and learned how to wrench and do body and paintwork on it.
The low budget hotrod look was definitely a function of age. It probably seemed really cool at the time, but pretty silly in hindsight. Would you have returned it to stock had you kept it? Do you wish you had kept it? I wish I could have kept all of my old cars, even those I didn’t like at the time. Wish I had a big field to stash them in until the time is right to revive and enjoy them again.
Thanks! Yes, in hindsight, I wish I’d kept it. It was mechanically pretty solid other than needing front end work. Fond memories of my ’68 led me to pick up a ’65 Falcon years later which I still own. Thankfully I was a bit better at bodywork for my second Falcon.
Which was the philosophy my mom’s family employed. They lived on 100 acres in upper Montgomery County Maryland and by the time they were forced to sell off most of the property to the County (for a reservoir and a county recreation area) the grounds included everything from a 1930-something Chrysler to my late uncle’s 1973 Centurian convertible. All comfortably rusting in peace. As a tot, I particularly enjoyed the early 50s Dodge with a tree growing up out of the engine compartment. As I got older, I could watch the cars that I’d helped one uncle or another wrench on get added to the “collection out back”. I know for a fact that my two uncles fully intended to restore every last one of those cars. Not a one ever got restored once they were parked for good.
My point is that I think that 99% of us are so much better off not having that big field and instead just enjoying the cars we have that move…and letting the rest go.
Visiting remote farms you can make some interesting finds. One place I went to regularly had been in the family for three generations, and had two rows of cars between the house and the nearest shed. About twenty in all; interestingly there were in pairs. Two ’39 Chevs, two Simca Arondes, two ’63 Fairlanes…. all the way to two ’70 Valiants. Can’t remember what the rest were. Unfortunately the bushfires went through there about ten years back.
I had a 68 Futura wagon. I paid 25 bucks for it well used and worn out. I drove it for 6 months and limped it into the junkyard and got my 25 bucks back. The interesting thing about that car was that nowhere on it did it have a badge to identify it as a Ford. Futura badges on the back fenders and one on the glovebox door (I still have that one) and that was it. I once got out of a parking ticket because the cop wrote it up as a Mercury.
Welcome to the club! As with Scott above, I too am very familiar with the area and a similar age, and chortled at a few bits…I believe I’ve actually seen more than one body part alongside 580 in Oakland. Your pics are great, an excellent reminder of how far we’ve come, the continuous Exxon Valdez tributes in the curbside shots now mostly a thing of the past being just one minor aspect so vividly seen in them. Looking forward to next week. Go Banana Slugs!
Nice tale of a nice-looking car; I definitely preferred these to the 1st gen Falcons, though the 2nd gen with some rally and A Sedan roadracing heritage is probably my favorite. I’m a Santa Cruz resident and I suspect there are no junkyards left in Capitola … I think you have to go down to Moss Landing now. And I’m pretty sure the Sunday Sentinel (we still subscribe, though online only) doesn’t have enough paper in it to do that masking job now. I had a Fiesta with the tan vinyl seats, and for what it’s worth didn’t find them particularly comfortable. In fact, my still-present occasional lower back pain started around that time, and one of the best cures was a long ride in my Vega which I kept for a few years along with the Fiesta; the GT seats were very comfortable for me. Looking forward to more installments.
Interesting story from a different time .
Very typical, I didn’t ever do the home flame job but many buddies did and I did some home paint jobs that I’m sure were cringe worthy in retrospect .
Also interesting that it never jumped time ~ so many American V8’s from those years had cheapo nylon toothed cam gears that simply had the teeth fall off as you were driving, only the nice ones ever got repaired, a cam chain and gears isn’t a difficult job .
I kinda like the flame job but it’s not my daily driver .
Oh, and regarding the Kar Kit. My first car was a 1965, so was exempt, and my second was a 1973, in 1976 and the OEM emissions stuff was good enough. In fact I think these devices were covered here at CC in the past. I also remember that rather than a port being blocked off, a port and hose had to be added … maybe for cars with centrifugal advance only, to provide vacuum retard as well some kind of crude EGR which entailed drilling and tapping a fitting in the exhaust manifold?? Anyway, I remember that an aftermarket kit would have been needed for my sister’s 1969 Cortina, but vehicles with OEM tubular headers were exempt as it wasn’t considered feasible to drill and tap tubing, vs a cast manifold. So by swapping in a junkyard exhaust header from the GT version and convincing the smog tech that it was original, we avoided the kit.
There’s something fun about having a beater that is such a beater that literally anything you do to it, no matter how amateurish, is an improvement. In my case it was a ’65 Buick Special I bought in the late 1980’s for $185, on the strength of the fact that the seller was willing to drive about 15 miles to meet me to show me the car. I even had a similar experience of getting a tow notice after I sold it, because the buyer hadn’t transferred the registration. In Pennsylvania, the plates don’t stay with the car, so I have no idea what the buyer was using to drive. Then again, at the time, in the neighborhood where he lived, those sorts of pesky details didn’t matter so much.
Welcome! Great start to your series.
Oh, and I think you did a nice job with the flames.
Nice COAL! Re: Defroster— my 1989 E30 Cabrio has that weird blower thing! I guess bc it has no wires in the back window? I always just thought it was a thing.
Bravo! »Applause« Welcome to the COAL mine; you’ve got an excellent start with this story.
I covered the Kar-Kit and the California NOx-device retrofit program in this post: 1967 Buick Electra 225 • Lowered NOx
Rattle can primer, curbside flame job, junkyard seat and hood, plus pounds of bondo! A man after my own heart! That Falcon with the 289 V8 and especially front discs should have been a keeper. My first car, bought in 1975 for 300 bucks, was a ’66 Mustang coupe with 289 V8 and four speed had the unassisted four wheel drums. It also got some driveway repairs, clutch, bondo, and rattle can primer, but only to the front fenders and hood!
I remember that my ’64 Caddy and ’66 Lincoln also got an add on smog kit. This was in the early 70’s in Alameda county. But it consisted of a thermostatic vacuum control that was spliced into the upper radiator hose to retard the spark when the engine was cold. There weren’t any warning stickers about keeping the speed down and all my old cars ran fine on the freeway at 65 plus. I’ve been searching the Web looking for photos of that smog kit, the vacuum control was made of bright green plastic, I used to refer to it as the green meanie. I haven’t been successful at this point. Looking forward to your next post.
I love it! Personally I find the 66-70 Falcon bodystyle a bit stodgy but cars like that tend to take well to personalization and gain a lot of character, the kind of car with an attitude of the real Muscle cars without the baggage of trying to keep them nice. With the flames and dog dishes it of reminds me of 60s cars you’d see in 80s movies or TV shows, like the Barracuda in The Wraith.
I didn’t actually know the 289 was still available in 1968, I had been under the presumption that they all become 302s that year, pretty cool combination to have, 289 Falcon has a nicer ring to it.
I had the hood on a client’s ’87 420 SEL pop up on the 101 at Army going 60mph. Fun! Bent the hood almost in half. It was my own fault as I had just checked the oil and hadn’t closed the hood all the way, even evading the safety catch. Found a matching maroon hood for $100 in a yard somewhere north of Sacramento, strapped it to the roof of my Corolla All Trac wagon, took it back to San Francisco and bolted it up. Client wasn’t pleased at first but was happy after I repaired it on my own dime.
Honestly never heard of the Kar Kit. It would not have mattered anyway for my Cougar which was technically off the road for a few of the early years of needing a smog check. When a fellow Lion’s Club member then owned a gas station I took it to him too smog. Besides having to pass the emissions test you also had to pass visual and a car with headers, a different dual plane intake with Holley on top is going to pass that part. So in the end the car barely passed emissions and he signed off on having all the stock components.
Great COAL, and welcome!
Ah yes, the infamous Krappy Kar Kit. I remember when these various devices were released. The Krappy Kar Kit was the worst of the smog devices, with reports of overheated engines and burned valves due to the severely retarded timing. I avoided that one on my 1967 Camaro.
I always liked the looks of this generation of Falcon, and how rare to have disc brakes on an American 1968 economy car. A cheap car that stayed cheap during your ownership – nicely done!
I enjoyed this tale, Mr Glynn. The Wrong Single Seat, the dodgy registration pass, the flat black paint then flames irritating a neighbor with far too little to do, what’s not to like?
Lots of readers here, often of (or about) a certain age, would have familiarity with failing ’60’s clunkers as their first. My second – not long after the first – was a ’66 Falcon just like this, though admittedly, mine was a peach. Well, a peach whose stone was beginning to show through through the skin, as was the way of 20-odd year-old cars then, but still not quite as thin-skinned as your Falc here. For example, it had a factory seat. Which, by the way, was horrible, and way awfuler than a Fiesta bucket, but I digress.
Btw, I think most brakes should at some point point be made from leftover exhaust parts, personally. I mean, whatever’s missing from the exhaust isn’t going to help the car stop, now is it?
My great grandfather had a green 4 door with the 170 engine, aitomatic and checkered upolstey. It was quite dented and scraped from all the times he hit the garage door opening going in and out of the occasional parked car he would sideswipe. I remember grandma would borrow it to go to New Hampshire and she would have it floored and going close to 70 every time a big hill was ahead. I think this was as fast as it would go. By the time we got to the top of the him we were lucky to be going 35 and blue Oil smoke would come out the rust holes in the hood. Then after the hill it would pick up speed and smooth out. A few years later great grandpa got t boned by a pickup and that was the end of the falcon.
A fascinating start to your automotive journeying, and one I can sort of identify with.
When I started driving, the family car was a ’67 Falcon with the 200 six. Dad was hard on cars, and it was such a heap that I preferred to walk or catch the tram or bus rather than drive it. Mechanically it was fine, I’ll grant Dad that, the engine ran perfectly, but every panel either had dents, rust, or both. He was only a little guy, and it was the biggest car he’d owned, and he had trouble judging how much space it needed.
Living by the sea, the rust pattern was quite different to yours. The paint faded on the roof, trunk and hood, sure, but the actual rust appeared as bubbles at the bottom of the front fenders and doors. The last time I drove it I noticed the rubber floor mat (no carpet) had pulled away from the sill, and I could see the road underneath. He was only driving half a mile to the shops and back once a week by then, and I don’t know whether he’d noticed.
Oh, and that front end! Dad’s had been fitted with grease nipples on the front shock towers; much easier to get at.
This reminds me of the wonderful only-in-Australia comment made by some local droll when I bought my peachy 200 manual ’66 Falc in ’87, and it turned out to give quite a bit of trouble.
I had complained to said sage that every older person who saw my car said words to the effect of “Oh, I had one of those, great car, did 200,000 miles and never so much as changed the oil.”
To which said sage replied dryer than dust, “Yeah. And then YOU bought it.”
My mother had a 72 Duster that also had blower in the shelf under the rear window. I guess it was a first try at a rear window defroster but it certainly was not up to handling an Ontario winter. It did make lots of noise but did not accomplish much.
There actually were some other ones that functioned much more like the resistance grid type we see on modern vehicles. The one pictured is circa 1930’s, and basically sandwiches the heating elements between another piece of glass and the window to be defogged/defrosted with suction cups.
My 1969 Impala SS had one of those blower types, and it seemed like it could work marginally under the right conditions. If memory serves, it blew air from the trunk onto the center of the back window, with make-up air for the trunk being provided by grilles in the package tray… so if you worked hard at it, you could eventually get some warmer and drier air into the rear of the car to be regurgitated by the blower. I don’t remember mine being particularly loud on low or high. Also don’t remember attempting to use it in real winter conditions, either!