I’ve been waiting for a long time to find a baby-blue ’64 Falcon 2-door sedan with the 170 inch six and 2-speed Fordomatic. The location near the university is icing on the cake. Why? Something to do with a road trip with a female student who had one just like it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very happy one; blame it on the Falcon.
In the spring of 1973, I found myself back in the Baltimore area for a few months, and I reconnected again with my main former high school girlfriend. She was going to school at Essex Community College, and drove…you guessed it. It was identical to this one except it was a base Falcon, not as lavishly trimmed as this Futura.
On the three-day Easter weekend we decided to go visit her older sister who, lived in Manhattan. And for reasons unknown to me at the moment, we took her Falcon instead of my ’63 Corvair Monza 4-speed. I drove, of course. And we decided to not drive on any freeways, which was a thing I had at the time, taking only two lane highways and country roads. Well, that ended up to be a rather long and tedious drive, and not just because the old highways in New Jersey were a lot busier than I had expected. Something to do with her Falcon.
That something was that two-speed Fordomatic, teamed with the 101 (gross) hp 170 six (about 75 in today’s hp). Yeah, it could have been worse…the 144 inch six. Actually it couldn’t, in 1964, as the 144 was mercifully no longer available with the automatic. But the 170 was plenty bad enough. And for 1965, the Fordomatic was thankfully gone altogether, tossed on the ash heap of transmission history, replaced by the much better 3-spped C4 Selectshift automatic.
The 170 bleated like a lamb at slaughter, from my endless full-throttle efforts to gain some speed. I’m not sure exactly what routes we took, but it was through Northern Maryland, Eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Much of the way was through hilly country. I can hear that Falcon six wailing away up the grades. It didn’t matter much if I pulled the selector into Low or left it in Drive; the result was mostly the same, except for the pitch of the engine. I was really missing my Corvair.
Of course that was only half the story, as the Falcon’s steering was as sloppy as Joes, and the handling, such as it was, on the little 13″ bias ply tires, made it the most un-fun driving trip I’ve pretty much ever had. I’m one of those guys who’s pretty open minded about cars’ limitations, and I’ve had plenty of fun in slower cars, like in my dad’s ’68 Dart with the 170 inch slant six and three speed manual on the winding back roads of Baltimore County. But that felt like a rocket compared to the Falcon. It was a genuine dog. More like a slug. No fun at all, no matter how hard I tried. I just gave up and resigned myself to my fate.
Frankly, I made a mistake to take all those back roads. By the time we hit the endless exurbs in New Jersey on Good Friday afternoon, traffic was terrible. It became a slog. And it reminded me why I lived in Iowa; I’d forgotten how bad traffic can be. My back ached from that slab of a seat. I was not in a good mood. No wonder I have such negative associations of this Falcon.
By the time we crossed over into Manhattan, it was dark.
And then we had to find her sister’s place, which was in a rather odd location, in an old commercial area, in the general area of the garment district, if I remember correctly. It was totally dead there at night. The apartment was up a couple of flights over commercial spaces (none of the vintage shots are mine).
And her sister was pretty weird, and her boy friend was none too friendly. I always loved being in New York, even just walking around the city back then was an endless side show. I could have done it for days on end. But I don’t have any clear memories of doing that on this trip. Carole wasn’t into just roaming the streets like I was.
I remember: she loved movies, so we saw several of them. You can sit in a movie theater in any old town. Of course the selection wasn’t as good as on 42nd Street.
I did get plenty of sidewalk roaming in just a year and a half later I found myself back in the city, an actor in an experimental theater company, and we had a six week gig in the Village, off-off-off Broadway.
We performed at night, so I had all day to roam the city, much of it on foot.
But I’m digressing. The truth was, it was not a fun trip. Our hosts were odd, getting back with an old girlfriend is often not a good idea, and the drive up in the Falcon sucked.
So on Sunday morning we climbed back in and hit…I-95, and listened to the steady moan and drone of the Falcon six as it struggled to maintain a decent cruising speed. This was before the energy crisis and the 55 mile limit, which was a blessing bestowed by the Great White Father to all Falcon six owners.
Enough of the memories and the negativity. It’s great to see this one parked in front of a student house, and one that even flies its flags so proudly. Is there a Falcon flag?