The early Falcon six has a deeply entrenched rep for being weak, especially so the 144 cubic inch version. Ford made the situation worse by tuning the first year 1960 version for maximum fuel economy—for bragging rights—and giving it an overly “long” 3.10:1 rear axle ratio, which was changed for ’61.
But that’s not to say it didn’t have performance potential. Hot Rod took a look at three high performance versions prepared by Bill Stroppe and Associates, each of which was capable of very significant outputs. It turns out that Ford came extremely close to offering a 125 hp factory three-carb version almost identical to the three-carb version Stroppe tested here, undoubtedly he had some involvement with the factory version too. Undoubtedly it was intended to compete against the Valiant’s Hyper-Pak in NASCAR’s compact car series, but the plug was pulled at the last minute. Too bad. Combined with the UK-sourced four-speed manual, it might have changed the Falcon’s image considerably.
The triple-carb version, using three stock carbs, also had a hotter cam, higher compression (9.6:1) and a reworked distributor. This version was tested on the dyno, and it pulled 128 hp @6000 rpm. Before the modifications, it only managed 72 hp on the same dyno, so that represents a whopping 78% increase. FWIW, Chrysler claimed the 170 inch slant six Hyperpak was good for 148 hp, a 47% increase.
The second Falcon six had a Paxton supercharger blowing through the same triple carb setup. It was not yet tested on the dyno, but a similar one with single-barrel carb from a 223 Ford six pulled 168 hp.
The final version, which was clearly oriented to racing-only, had Hilborn fuel injection, feeding the ports directly via a modified head that had the integrally-cast intake manifold cut away. It also had a Scintilla magneto ignition and some head work, 156 inch displacement, and was anticipated to make some 200 hp. Not bad, for a Falcon six.
Nice article and I love the rollable “dollies” that the engines are mounted on… Very nice!
It’s amazing what knowledgeable hot-rodders like Stroppe and Smokey Yunick could get out of a small displacement engine. I remember the latter getting quite a bit of horsepower out of a V6 Buick without turbo charging it. Cheap gasoline in the 1960’s pretty much nailed the coffin shut on high-performance sixes though.
And we now have 300 hp fuel injected V-6s (they would be more than 400 hp under the old gross ratings) that rival old school V-8 power while getting old school four cylinder economy!
Progress indeed until you factor in the cost of repairs or parts replacement and the fact that most shade tree mechanics are a thing of the past. That said, yes cars run better, cleaner, and generally more reliably than they did in the past.
Initially, I thought it was anathema to replace a car’s original engine with a modern crate engine if there was “nothing wrong” with the original. I found it particularly offensive to replace something like a Buick nail head with a “Chevy” engine. But they aren’t really Chevy engines, they are GM corporate engines and, all things considered, they are an intelligent choice whether the resto-rod is driven occasionally or frequently.
Am I missing something, or did they leave the original cast iron manifold in place on 1 and 2? While the engines didn’t get installed for exhaust systems to be reworked, why not test them with better than stock manifolds? Seems they’d breathe better…IMHO.
The answer may lie with the craptacular intake manifold that Ford cheaply cast in with the cylinder head. In order to use anything else, the OEM intake must be cut off and the head milled down and tapped to use an aftermarket intake (which is described in the text of the article). It’s that, or use an entirely different cylinder head.
This convoluted process, alone, would give pause to most wanting to hop-up the Ford six and likely goes a long way to explaining why Ford never offered a high-performance version.
Actually the three carb manifold was added by using a hole saw, and than attaching it. Presumably the single carb hole size was increased by the hole saw. Not exactly ideal, but it seemed to work well enough.
You might say the intake was “smartly” cast integral with the head.
Manifolds loosening up and leaking were a maintenance headache.
GM went integral some 15 years later.
Slant Six never got over its manifold issues.
A great read to start my day, Paul. I never heard of Ford even considering the three-carburetor option, which is pretty cool to hear all in itself.
As with the early interest in putting a Chevy V8 into a Chevy II (before it was a factory option), I’d have guessed the performance hot-rodding for Falcon would have been V8 transplants—but maybe Ford’s V8 (before 221-260-289 appeared) couldn’t have fit?
And, of course: I wonder where these engines ended up?
Also interesting to see someone taking a Chevy 283 way out to 400cid—I had no idea that was happening back then, either……
Yes, the existing Ford V8s were big and heavy.
It required an expensive $600 billet long-throw crankshaft to make that 402 inch motor. That kept it from becoming common.
I’ve seen scans of a similar article that cut and welded the block. It did not bode well.
Imaginative as they were, I’d bet that Stroppe and the boys never dreamed that the Falcon could be 1200 horsepower material!
I don’t believe that Turbo Thrift or Slant Six, either one – or shoot, bring ’em both on together, lol – ever got close.
The GM 3800 will, and more.
The weakest Falcon 6 I owned was the 250 in my 1975 Granada. The 200 in my 1971 Maverick flat blew it’s doors off.
But gol would they run, and run, and run…
Nice refined engine.
Smoothe, quiet, hydraulic lifters, torquey…
Always dry, they didn’t leak like a sieve.
Easiest access ever to the usual maintenance items.
Except the lifters. Chevrolet and Holden sixes has side plates to access the lifters. I presume the Opels did, can’t remember if the Vauxhalls did.
Good memories from – Back in the day
Brought me back in a second to high school days
I have another series on Falcon six modifications that were run in Hot Rod magazine a few years later. The small six had been bumped up to 170 cubes. When the six was enlarged to 200 cid. they were also were improved with the seven main bearing crankshaft. The first Mustangs came with the 170 engine, which was later changed to the 200 cube motor. This later series of articles was penned by A.K.Miller. The integral intake manifold was modified by brazing a trio of tubular mounts onto its side and various other side draft carbs were tried. The best was the SU carb which commonly used on British sports cars. Miller even fitted six side draft Honda Keihin carbs as used on the new 450cc motorcycle.
I have other articles detailing how to adapt a single downdraft two barrel carb as well as the trio of stock carbs. The head is first removed and the top surface of the manifold is milled flat and aluminum plate is used to make the base plate.
Straight six Mustangs weigh quite a bit less than V8 models, the V8 ( 195, 210, 271 hp) weighs 506 lbs. vs. 385 lbs. of the 200 (120 hp.) The front cross member, transmission, suspension, brakes and rear axle also weighs less. The V8 car weighs about 300 lbs. more, so some of the extra 75 hp. is used to haul the extra weight. Many magazine articles at the time, suggested that a slightly modified six could match a base V8 model in performance, cost less, and deliver better gas mileage.
But lighter weight hi po equipment was easily available for the 289, headers, and aluminum intakes. This reduced the difference in engine weights. Hop up stuff for the six was hard to come by then, and almost impossible to find Today, especially at a reasonable price. The Ford small block is a sweet engine and well suited to the Mustang and it’s brethren, the V8 Falcon did well in European rallying before the Mustang debuted. Also the hp of the V8 could easily be improved with the four barrel option, and of course the Hi-Po version.
No matter what sort of performance parts they hung on the Falcon 6 cylinder engine, they and all the other compact cars that competed on the Daytona Road course in 1960 and 1961 could beat the little 170 CI engine in the Valiants those years. The top 5 cars across the finish line were Valiants. One that competed in ’60 was Richard Petty, though he crashed his Valiant in the early part of the race.
I wonder about the impact of the NASCAR compact series had on six-cylinder performance development (or lack of). Chrysler jumped into it with both feet and created the Hyper-Pak slant-six.
From what can be gathered, Ford and GM were caught off guard by the seven race-prepped Valiants entered in the first race, completely dominating the entire event and taking the first seven places. It was quite dull watching the Valiants zooming around the Falcons and Corvairs and an embarrassment for CBS who broadcast the event live.
There was one other race (non-televised) with the same results, and with Ford and GM showing no serious interest, NASCAR quickly dropped the whole idea.
I’m glad you know a lot about those few races with the compact cars in the early 60s. I worked at a DeSoto Plymouth dealer as the 1960s came on the calendar and got to dealer prep the very first white 1960 Valiant that arrived at the dealership. As a young kid, I saw and rode in a friend’s Hyper-Pak Valiant and got the ‘feel’ of it’s power. A little trivia here; The crankshaft in the Slant 6 engine rides on the same size main bearings as the 426 HEMI and the double row timing chain is the same part number as in the HEMI which didn’t show up until a few years later, though that is similar to all the ‘B’ engines. It goes to show the strength of the “bottom end” of those engines. NASCAR (Big Bill) as such, never liked MOPARS, therefore the constant restrictions of their performance engines and cars over the years.
I love inline 6 cylinder engines, intensely dislike the integral intake manifold cylinder heads .
The integral head GM came out with was a misery, they suffered endless and un repairable internal cracks, by 1986 they were on worldwide back order and I had close to thirty 1/2 ton pickups waiting for new heads .
I recall twelve port heads for the Ford engines, anyone know about these ? .
I imagine they’d improve breathing significantly .
The Ford 4.9 liter EFI truck engine was getting 150 bhp net by 1987, but that was also twice the displacement. They did make for a really good half ton truck engine especially in the Econoline.
A mere 42 years later, you could get a Falcon six with 350bhp from the factory.
Alright, you had to live in Australia, and it had a crossflow head, and twin OHC, and 24 valves, and a turbo, but still, it had an iron block and exactly the same bore spacings as on the 1960 engine.
I think the only factory-modded Falcon six of this type was in 1970. The Australian factory made the “‘2v” engine option, meaning two venturi, ie: twin-choke carbie, but it also had an aluminium intake and extractor exhaust. It was also now 250c.i. It was a very strong motor, essentially as powerful as a stock 302 Cleveland.
I can’t imagine the three-carb unit being terribly long lived at 6,000rpm, on just four rather skimpy main bearings, which may be another reason Ford stepped back.
My main ride for several years was a ’60 Fordor with the little Six and that poor 2-speed Fordomatic. Despite its lack of meaningful “poo” it was pleasant to drive and quite competent when attacking curved on/off ramps, or other such curvy bits. The tranny however began coming unglued after our third year together, and soon had to be parked. Salvation came in the form of a family of Army guys, both retired and active, who’d been looking for a good solid body in which to put a built larger engine (do not recall the displacement) and a four-speed gearbox. I got $700 out of the deal, and a ton of satisfaction about its future.