Curbside Classic: 1969 Ford Falcon – Low Fidelity

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People have often remarked on my uncanny ability to stereotype people; I’d argue this dubious skill was sharpened through my observation and love of the automobile.  When it comes to cars built and sold before my time, any accuracy in judging people based on their consumptive patterns is naturally lesser, but some models, like this 1969 Falcon have acquired new cultural significance in their old age.  It’s likely many of you can also guess the sort of person who drives this sort of car around these days.

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I saw this from about a half-mile away during a walk home from the record store yesterday afternoon and knew I’d be putting it up on CC, despite being yet another white find.  Who should I find was the owner of this car, but the middle-aged founder of a local indie record label who I’d seen an hour earlier while sifting through records: basically, the sort of person who could be casually, and carelessly, passed off as the prototypical hipster (though in actuality, an outgoing guy with a great sense of humor).

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This Falcon makes an excellent counterpoint to yesterday’s Dart; it really was the most lo-fi compact of its time.  That quality, which makes it popular with a certain demographic today, was a liability by 1969 and the nameplate was retired by 1971.  While the Chevy II model name was quickly phased out by the higher-trim Nova nameplate as applied to its wide-body replacement, the similarly conceived Falcon was completely recast as the smaller Maverick, severing any topical association with its forebear.  When you start renaming your cars without truly altering their technology or mission, you clearly have an image problem, and it shows that by the end of its life, Falcon must have been decidedly un-hip to American drivers (sort of like a 1994 Ford Tempo; imagine one of those used as a fashion statement in 2039).

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You can see here why some drivers might have spurned the Falcon in the late ’60s; there’s little about this interior which is charming relative to contemporary compacts, though I concede it’s not completely original or well preserved.  It’s possibly an unfair comparison to yesterday’s Dart, which was both partially restored and slightly upmarket in comparison, but I’d still argue that even the most basic Valiant was more appealing place to spend time than the cheapest Falcon.

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It’s unusual, too, given that Ford’s interiors were often more lavishly trimmed than the competition’s, but it’s likely related to the fact that the Falcon sedan shared its central section with the Fairlane, with undeniable similarities in the roofline.  That car, in sedan form, didn’t exactly define glamour in the intermediate class; take away all the trim which distinguished it as a more expensive car, along with some length, and you’re left with this big, empty box.  Ironically enough–and luckily for Ford–Chrysler would screw it up with their intermediates’ similarly sparse 1971 replacements, ceding that higher-profit margin segment to Dearborn’s bloat-mobiles.

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If the hipster aesthetic was initially based around reappropriating squareness and feigning frugality, I suppose it makes sense that this would be the four-wheeled poster child (though I wonder if anyone non-enthusiast ever thought much about it).  This car began life in a different color and pictures don’t do justice to the miserable job done applying the paint.  The owner ranted that it looked as though it’d been applied with a roller.  When I asked how much he’d paid and how many miles the car had travelled, he said it cost $2500 and that it had travelled 106,000 miles.  He only bought it a year ago, making him a follower in terms of vehicular fashion.

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That’s a fair-enough price for something you really don’t see every day.  I can’t say I wouldn’t pay that much for a fundamentally sound, early ’80s import without significant rust, even if this Falcon seems like it might be too big a compromise for daily use.  With 200 cubes of straight six fury routed through a three-speed automatic pulling 2,700 pounds, performance was adequate for the day, but it can’t hold up to modern expectations.  That’s sort of the point, though; a desire for competitive performance or any such glamour in your rolling fashion statement is vulgar in the context this car’s appeal.  And one could argue that a wobbly late ’60s sedan with a 29:1 steering ratio wouldn’t need much more power, especially with a modern owner looking at their email or Facebook while tooling down modern interstates at about sixty.

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But distinction is its own reward.  No matter how harshly I judge the hipsters, you look infinitely cooler seen driving something like this than you would in, say, a Nissan Versa.  Cynicism carries one only so far before it must be abandoned in favor of appreciation and respect (in this case, at least) in the face of genuine merit.  But please, can a new subculture emerge to define the current era?

Related reading:

Curbside Trends: The Ford Falcon – #1 In Classic Cars Among Hipsters

Automotive History: Ford’s “Falcon Platform” – From Falcon To Versailles

Curbside Classic: 1970½ Ford Falcon: Mission Implausible