If you’ve been keeping track of the evolution of our household fleet so far, as of mid-1961 it still included my father’s ’58 Plymouth station wagon (already showing the first signs of the tin worm) and mother’s ’57 Chevy Bel Air sedan, making us a typical two-car suburban family for the first time, although perhaps not stereotypical, as I was an only child and there were no pets in the household either.
I don’t remember the actual sequence of events, just that my father and I ended up at the only new-car dealer in town. Laurie Ford, established in 1925, was located on Speedwell Avenue next to the Morris Plains, NJ railroad station.
The red-brick showroom had large plate glass windows and room to display three or four 60s-sized vehicles. On the day of our visit, I was transfixed by the sight of a cutaway 406 V8 on a stand in one corner. I had never been up close to an automobile engine before, let alone one that had been painstakingly prepared to show off the latest in Ford’s evolving eight-cylinder offerings.
Alas, there would be no 406- or any Ford V8, for that matter- under the hood of our next family car, which didn’t even offer an optional V8 at the time. No, the Ford in our immediate future would be a Falcon.
After it was determined that a Falcon would fill the bill as Dad’s next new car, extraneous trim such as whitewalls, full wheel covers, or a vinyl roof weren’t even considered. Instead, he took delivery of a 1962 Ford Falcon Tudor Sedan ($1985 then, about $17,789 today), powered by the base 144-cubic inch, 85-HP inline six-cylinder mated to the optional two-speed Fordomatic transmission.
He did go for the Deluxe Trim Package though, which for an added $86.30 (about $859 now), added such niceties as bright window frames, front fender-top ornaments, a cigarette lighter, front and rear armrests and ashtrays, and a “deluxe” white steering wheel with a chrome horn ring. The upholstery, also upgraded, was a cloth/vinyl mix in a gray that nicely complemented the car’s light “Baffin Blue” exterior paint. Oh yeah, and a push-button AM radio for $58.50 ($593 today), which brought the bottom line to just over $2352 (now about $23,430).
We might have gotten about $500 or so for our ’58 Plymouth wagon trade-in. I do remember it sitting in Laurie Ford’s used-car lot (though not in the front row) for a while thereafter.
The Falcon proved to be dependable and reliable if not particularly exciting, just the sort of daily driver Dad needed for his commute from Morris Plains to Rahway, NJ, where he worked in the printing trade as a compositor. It also served as the main family car for trips to Long Island to visit relatives and for our annual vacation “down the shore” to Avalon, NJ. The Falcon surely wasn’t the quietest car, especially when that base inline six was asked to deliver increased speed, and its vacuum-powered wipers ensured that you could have either a rain-free windshield or leisurely acceleration, just not both at the same time.
After some years with us, the car stayed in our extended family. My father sold it to one of my uncles, whose teenage daughter was then in need of her first car. The Falcon went on to serve her admirably for several more years.
The next new family car replaced Mother’s ’57 Chevy. As it turned out, it was also to be her last new car, though of course, we didn’t know that at the time. Before I continue that story, we’ll investigate a different car that in retrospect, may have had a subliminal effect on my eventual career…