(first posted 3/22/2014) Next up in the March 1966 issue of Road Test, the newly updated Falcon was taken for a spin.
The Ranchero based on the 66 Falcon was really nice!
Yes they were! IF optioned properly……
My Father bought a brand new ’66 Ranchero, as he could legally park a truck tagged vheicle in the freight zones in the tight, crowded New Orleans French Quarter. It was “loaded”: 289 V8 engine, power steering, C4 Cruise-a-matic automatic tranny, in dash factory Air Conditioning, Heavy Duty cooling with a 7 blade fan clutch,Wimbledon white with red vinyl interior. Not blazingly fast, but quite peppy and smooth, it NEVER over-heated in the tight, airless confines of the French Quarter or stuck in bumper to bumper Interstate afternoon traffic. A “looker” than ran pretty darn good! I “stole” it whenever I could, esp in the Hot & Humid extended summers here in the deep south. Even my truck hating Mother would drive this one! It was kinda-sorta numb but still fun (for the time period).
A red light runner totaled this one out when it was 26 months old. State Farm paid off at the NADA retail book value; but it had depreciated quite a bit. Dad was determined to not put out any extra cash for it’s replacement.
Dad found another used ’66 ‘chero…..but WHAT a difference! 200 Falcon six cylinder, “3 on a tree” manual transmission, manual steering and a below dash, add on A/C unit, which overheated in the tight, airless confines of the French Quarter.
The manual steering had the Double Disadvantage of being S L O W geared AND requiring a lot of steering effort, a handful when parallel parking in the Quarter. The “Finger Light” power steering on the first ‘Chero was sorely missed.
The “3 on the tree” transmission required slow shifting and a deliberate pause in neutral when trying to up or down shift to second gear.
The six cylinder engine was quite gutless and gave worse gas mileage than the peppy 289 V8 previous model!
For only a 23K car, it was quite loose, sloppy and rather worn out. (Later Dad and I questioned the actual mileage showing on the odometer).
When Dad traded it in on one of the first Toyota mini-trucks in town, nobody complained.
I came close to buying a 66 in about 1975, silver with black interior, 289 automatic. I got cold feet because the owner had put a Mustang style floor shifter in, and I didn’t much care for the unused quadrant left on the column, of course minus the handle. In hindsight, I probably should have bought it.
My 69 Cougar couldn’t idle on a warm day without overheating, but my 66 Mustang with the 200 six never ran hot, go figure.
The later Fairmont’s weights match the earlier Falcon almost perfectly, which started out around 2700lbs. Too bad the power figures didn’t, which were about 70% of original. Also, the Fairmont’s automatic was the light but fragile C3 Bordeaux instead of the “SelectShift” (not Fordomatic) C4.
Evidently, Baby Boomers were too enthralled by the ‘Stang to care about this much more practical package.
Since I only buy 70’s cars, I want a last of the line 70 model. Hard to find though since only a little over 15,000 were built. And yes I know, all the 70 models were built in Calender year 69, but so was my 70 Maverick I own and I still consider it a 70’s car. The last road test I know of a Falcon was in the June 69 Motor Trend. It was a comparison test between the Nova, Valliant, and Rambler.
I remember that road test, Guy. Didn’t the Nova come out on top, followed by the Valiant and then the Falcon and Rambler ?
There was another in 68 IIRC that included the Dart.
As soon as I get home, I’ll look. I should be home by Thursday.
There is the 70 and a half Fairlane based Falcon too, a 6 month wonder.
Yeah. And what’s amazing is they built over 60,000 of those. However to me it’s a stripped Torino. I still want the 70, not the 70 1/2.
It was strange to bring out the last Falcon, and then a few months later, it’s gone for good, along with the Fairlane too.
For ’71 then the base was Torino and step up was Torino 500.
It’s also odd that it was the only two-door sedan (not hardtop) in the Fairlane/Torino line, or that there was a two-door model since the Maverick coupe was already out to replace the 2-door Falcon.
This discussion about the last Falcon makes me really want one, No options and bone stock, just for the “WTH???” it would cause among the “rubes” at the local cruises!
I have to make a correction. Out of the cars I currently own, 2 are non 70’s. A 88 MT5 Taurus and a 94 Taurus GL.
Such a pretty car. I would have gone for this over the Mustang for it’s practicality and what I think are better looks.
I’ve never liked the kicked in the a** look of the original Mustang or the awkward lines of the front end. Heresy I know. Millions disagree, of course and I wouldn’t kick a Mustang 6 out of my garage. I just think the Falcon is a better package and more cleanly presented at the same time.
Whew, I’m glad I’m not alone, I was never a huge Mustang guy. In fact I always preferred the Barracuda over the ‘Stang in the first “pony” (“fish”, The Plymouth was technicaly first…) cars. In ’66 I would have liked this Falcon better too, But If I really wanted a “sporty compact “, I woulda got a Corvair.
Mustang mania was in full force, and Falcon was overshadowed, unfortunately. I Like the article and the car, oh well, style usually wins over substance.
On the mid size side, the Torino squeezed the Falcon from the top, with the old sales saying “For a few bucks more, you can get more room…”
“I’m not buying a Falcon” said many 22 year old Boomers of the day.
Meanwhile Down Under in Australia, lots of people continued to buy Falcon who kept going against Aussie Valiants and Holdens. Ford Australia was on to something when they make the Falcon GTH and GTHO.
Interesting how similar the styling was to Fords intermediates , the windshield, front doors. My grandmother had a 69 Mercury Montego. If the front had the egg crate grill, it would look like the front of a Ford pickup.
The Falcon and Fairlane did share a lot of parts at the time.
Even more as station wagons. Their 100% identical except for the grill and dash design.
The ’66 Falcon was just a Fairlane, shortened in the rear by a few inches, except for the wagons, which really were the same. Obviously, the front clips were different.
And since the original Fairlane was a stretched Falcon, It’s only right to return the favor!
Yes, isn’t it more correct to say the Fairlane was an extended Falcon? I recall reading on CC that the Maverick and even the Granada had Falcon underpinnings.
My dad had a bright red ’66 Falcon wagon when I was a kid – loved that car.
They had interchangable running gear but the actual chassis stampings were all different for the most part
It is interesting how the Road Test people expected this car to be such a hit, but the opposite is what actually happened. The Mustang continued its success, the Fairlane became much more appealing and the Falcon just withered.
It is also interesting how the Falcon with its suspension geometry compromised by those crazy tall spring towers outhandled the Dart GT’s torsion bars in the magazines tests. I wonder how much of that was tires, as this car evidently came with some pretty beefy rubber.
The Ford-O-Matic comment in the article had me confused until they talked about it holding in second. I think they meant the 3 speed Cruise-O-Matic (of the C4 flavor). Then again, doesn’t every 2 speed automatic hold second gear? 🙂
Yes, that was no genuine Ford-O-Matic.
Frankly, this magazine’s handling evaluations seem to be very subjective, and the stupid little “gauges” are hardly helpful. What exactly are they reading out? “Handling” is a might big tent.
Down under they circuit raced Valiants and Falcons, Falcons handle better.
I have wondered about this recently, on paper the Chryco torsion bar suspension vastly seems superior in engineering and the Falcon front suspension seems all sorts of antiquated, but Mustangs had pretty decent racing successes using it, and AMCs essentially reconfigured their ancient trunnion suspension to the Mustang ball joint configuration to make them formidable Trans Am contenders(I think they even used Ford parts until the 1970s were redesigned in house for it). When Chrysler campaigned the Challenger and Cuda they didn’t do so hot, even with much of the heft in their bodyshells acid washed away
I wonder what the price difference between Falcon and Fairlane was. I will bet that a lot of people who looked at a Falcon wound up in a Fairlane because they are a little larger and to my eye nicer looking. I believe the engine offerings were identical but the Fairlane may hot have
Predicting the future is a tough business, and having seen that the Road Test editors did tend to go into reviews with a bias (they appeared out for blood on the ’66 Toronado the other day), their predictions here seem a bit short sighted.
Someone obviously liked the value proposition of the Falcon in terms of a bit more car for the money, but they missed both the obvious, and not so obvious.
The obvious was that the hardtop coupe and convertible were dropped from the Falcon line, and all that volume likely went straight to the Mustang, with maybe a few sales going to the Fairlane. Falcon also lost the Falcon Squire wagon to Fairlane.
The second was as Paul mentioned with Ford having so many cars on the same platform with minimal appreciable difference in size. For folks intent on more interior space, (and a hardtop coupe) the Fairlane was kind of a no-brainer over the Falcon. (Even if the interior space increase was debatable, Paul’s piece some time ago on the Falcon and Fairlane two door sedans seemed to indicate the Fairlane wheelbase increase was all aft of the passenger compartment).
Charming as this Falcon Futura is isolated in these pictures, it really was the schoolmarm’s car parked next to the Mustang and Fairlane hardtops in showrooms. It went from being the sportiest smaller offering in the Ford line-up in the fall of 1964 to the skinflint special in 12 month’s time.
Falcon’s new demographic………………
Aspirational compact buyers could no longer look to Falcon for these in the U.S……..
Also gone after 1965…………..
My first car was a ’66 Falcon four-door with the 200 cid six and an automatic. Solid, reliable, but pretty darn dull. The author of this article got it so wrong when it came to appeal. I’d love to get a fully-loaded ’66 Futura Sport Coupe with the V8….but buyers at the time didn’t care.
I don’t know how sticker prices vs. transaction prices were different back then. If I were to guess, the Mustang was hot, and went at or near sticker. The Falcon was not a hot seller.
According to the 2002 edition of The Encyclopedia of American Cars, the 66 Falcon, in it’s cheapest/most stripped model “undercut” the cheapest/most stripped Fairlane by less than $200. The cheapest Mustang was about $200 more expensive than the cheapest Fairlane.
If you picked the cheapest possible Falcon you got a stand 105 horsepower 6 cylinder engine, while the Fairlane and Mustang got the 120 horsepower 6 cylinder.
Falcon and Mustang were very close in weight, so going with the $400 more expensive base Mustang got you a slightly faster car with a standard floor shifter (the Falcon had the “old style” 3 on the tree).
According to the same source, Falcon sedans had a 5 inch shorter wheelbase than Fairlane sedans, but wheelbase for Falcon and Fairlane wagons was identical.
66 was the first Falcon V8 down under Ford AU kept very quiet about it being a transplanted American car but the 289 GT model won Bathurst which back then was for factory cars not dedicated racecars, there was NO Mustang downunder.
On release, the XR was maligned by people who didn’t know any better, ‘Its just a 1966 American Falcon with a few Australian modifications’, was the cry. Ford advertised the car as ‘Mustang Bred’. Bill Burke even had Mustangs imported to support the XR promotion. The Mustangs that he imported were all Hard Top Autos, most were 200ci six cylinder models with a sprinkling of V8’s. An initial 48, 1965 cars were landed and converted to RHD at Fords Homebush plant. The conversion used Falcon/Fairlane RHD steering componets, the instrument panel was switched using sheet metal parts supplied by a local Sydney supplier. The completed cars were then fitted with a Ford Australia Identification plate, located on the drivers side inner fender or suspension tower. With the release of the 1966 models a further 161 Mustangs were imported and converted in the same manner, the 1966 cars were only slightly altered in ornamentation and did not pose any additional conversion problems.
Following on from this initial batch of Mustangs, a further supply continued to flow to Australia on special Dealer orders, this practice appears to have continued until the early 1970’s. Approximately 200 additional cars were landed and converted to RHD by contractors outside of the Ford organisation
Roger that. What interested me about this road test was that while the car shown in the test was a coupe (which was not offered in Australia) it did have the ’66 Australian Falcon body (XR) shape, ‘jet’ tail lights and dashboard, but the grille and that chrome strip along the top of the fenders/doors were not seen on Australian Falcons until the 1968 XT model (first update of the XR).
Shown in the photo is the grille on Australian ’66 (XR) Falcons.
One of my high school classmates received a new 66 Falcon Futura coupe with the 289, auto, PS in red with black interior for her 16th birthday. Frankly most us felt a bit (not a lot) sorry for her because she wanted a Mustang and the Falcon did not project the desired youthful image. I’m pretty sure it was a combination of price (as someone said above, Mustangs flew off lots at sticker and were back ordered while Falcons were heavily discounted by this time) and her Dad’s bad back as he would borrow it from time to time and the Mustang’s low seating position was not acceptable.
You have to laugh at how impressed they were with four-way flasher as a great safety feature.
This was when Ford was *awesome!* They produced some of the best cars and trucks during the 60s to the early 70s.
I recall that when this model came out our “large animal vets” had two modified by the local Ford dealer, removing the back seat and putting in a large chest for vaccines, medicines and surgical kit. Boots, coveralls and other tools (calf-puller, anyone?) went into the trunk. They put in CB radios with the big whip antennas on the trunk lids, hired “veterinary assistants” (more cattle wranglers than anything) as drivers and drove the wheels off of those things for several years. At a time when everyone still drove full-sized cars and half-ton pickups, it was something of an odd sight to see your vet flying down the gravel road in one of those little Fords. When these wore out they upgraded to F-150 pickups with specialized boxes in the beds (refrigeration being a real plus). Much of the reason for that was actually because Doc Tom had an artificial leg starting above the knee and it was just too hard for him to keep crawling up out of the relatively low seating of the Falcons.
I always thought these were led down by the utterly dowdy sedan roofline, in fact this is one of those rare examples(especially in this era) where the 4 door is more attractive than the 2 door. I can’t help but wonder how the Fairlane’s hardtop roofline would have looked on it, keeping it competitive with the Dart and Novas
You know what, this piqued my curiosity.
66 Falcon Hardtop 🙂
Ooh, that looks nice. But maybe they feared it would take away from sales of the Mustang?
More a case of an unnecessary addition to the product line than a fear. The only unique buyer for that Falcon hardtop is someone who wants a stylish car like a Mustang with the upright cabin of a Falcon sedan but without the extra length (and rear seat room) of a Fairlane hardtop. That’s a really narrow target market.
Anyone else remember seeing a brown 66/67 Falcon in around Lawrenceville (Pgh PA)?
Was usually near the supermarket lot as you came to the “Bloomfield bridge”.
It would a been the very early 70’s..
Would spot it on trips to Museum and Oakland (Pitt) area.
How much did transmission synchronizers cost, such that it made more sense to build both a ‘box with synchro 1st and without?
The synchroizers themselves cost peanuts. What cost was having to design a whole new transmission, as one can’t just add synchronizers to a non-syncro spur gear. They work almost totally differently.
Did you watch the videos I posted recently about how manuals work? The old one from the 1930s shows very clearly how a non-syncro first gear (spur gear) works in comparison to the constant=mesh gears on 2nd and 3rd.
Ford’s excellent top-loader full synchronized box (3 and 4 speed) had come out in late 1962, but Ford was too cheap to put it behind the little Falcon sixes. The big cars (and pickups) got it with their big sixes. Eventually the little sixes got them too. Like 1967, IIRC.
For that matter there was no reason to persist with 3-speeds for as long as they did other than tradition, inertia – and the margins they made on “4-on-the-floor” by holding it out as an option.
I vividly remember a comparison between a Falcon and Mustang convertible in one of the lower-tier magazines, maybe not even a car buff one. It wasn’t Consumer Reports but similar in tone.
And, as one might imagine, the conclusion was the Falcon was superior in all categories save one: styling.
One modification was to lower the upper control arm pivot mounts- I think Shelby pioneered it.
On the strut tower front. I hated them. Especially on V8 versions. Fortunately I rarely had to soil my hands working on Fords. LOL.
The 70.5 Falcon was probably meant to get ‘thrifty’ loyal Falcon owner trade-ins, [or to upsell to Torino], However, Ford dealers had a car body with three names. Simplified easily for 1971 with Torino and Torino 500. Of course more complex for ’72 with Gran Torino added…;-)
I think the odd 70.5 Falcon can be answered by the back and forth between Chevy and Ford on intermediate 2-door sedans at the time. Up through 1967, they both had an intermediate 2-door sedan with framed doors. Ford even pulled a ‘reverse Studebaker Lark’ by making theirs from a Falcon passenger compartment with a Fairlane front and rear.
But, then, Ford threw a monkey wrench into the program by eliminating their intermediate 2-door sedan for 1968 by going with two hardtops, a fastback and traditional formal roof model while GM stayed with the Chevelle 300 Deluxe.
Ford must have decided that, for 1970, they’d go back to what Chevy was continuing to do with the Chevelle and bring back a Fairlane 2-door sedan. Unfortunately, Chevy went the route Ford had just taken, eliminating the 300 Deluxe for 1970 with a single 2-door hardtop for the Chevelle.
So, Ford was stuck with a 1970 Fairlane 2-door sedan. But the transition from Falcon to Maverick left something of an opening and Ford simply renamed the 70.5 Fairlane as a Falcon in an effort to squeeze out some sales in those early small-car shake-out years between Falcon-Maverick-Pinto. The 70.5 Falcon didn’t work, and it was gone for 1971.
It’s doubtful it would have made any difference, but it would have been interesting if the 70.5 Falcon had been called what it should have been all along, i.e., a base Fairlane.
The 1960 Ford line up was nuttier than a Payday.
The Falcon was essentially replaced by the Mustang.
The Thunderbird was essentially replaced by the Mustang.
The Fairlane faded from creating a niche to losing it by 1965.
The LTD began replacing Mercury.
If I was able to predict the future:
Give the Thunderbird to Lincoln and make that sedan that arrived in 1967 arrive sooner.
Keep the Mustang as is.
Bring in the Maverick as a cheap coupe, sedan and a wagon.
Bring in the Torino by 1966 as a cheap coupe, sedan and a wagon.
Only Mustang and a now Lincoln Thunderbird, gets muscle car performance.
What do you think?
I don’t think the Mustang replaced the Thunderbird at all, other than somewhat filling the vacuum of the 55-57 “sports car” version that had been gone for 7 years prior. The Thunderbird as it existed as a personal luxury car from 1958 to 1966 was on point, that’s exactly where the market was headed into the 70s but Ford made the misstep of making it larger more conservative and making some questionable styling decisions and introducing the confusing and unnecessary suicide door 4 door bodystyle, followed up with the forgettable Lincoln Mark IV clone it was between 72-76.
With the power of hindsight the obvious route would have been to move the Thunderbird down to the intermediate platform like Pontiac did with the Grand Prix, probably with the 1972 since both the 5th generation ended in 71 and new intermediate platform debuted. The Tbird was the original PLC and it was natural it should have been in the hottest segment of the PLC market. The Tbird’s biggest sales success was when they did just that in 77-79, but it should have happened much earlier.
I think Ford’s lineup in the 60’s was just fine. The 1970 1/2 Falcon is a bit confusing, since Ford probably decided to discontinue the nameplate for 1971 before the 1970 1/2 even debuted in early 1970. My guess the Fairlane nameplate was considered a bit dowdy by the late 60’s, and Torino sounded more contemporary. My father bought a 1970 Fairlane 500 wagon in December, 1969. Even though I was only five, I remember the Ford station wagon brochure still had the old style 1970 Falcon wagon. My father was budget minded but chose the Fairlane 500 because it had a rear storage compartment the Falcon didn’t. He could also get the three way power tailgate that the Falcon may not have had.
“The V8 weighs 200 pounds more than the 200-inch six…”
Anyone else find this suspicious? If they claimed the V8 weighed twenty pounds LESS than the seven-main-bearing six-popper, I’d be more inclined to believe them.
If the V8-equipped CAR (not the engine itself) weighed more than the Six, it’s because the transmission was heavier, the rear axle was stronger, perhaps the wheels/tires/brakes/hubs were bigger. Maybe some additional chassis gussets/reinforcements, too.
I didn’t, because it’s perfectly logical and correct. The 200 six weighs 385 lbs; the 289 weighs 506 lbs. The rest of the difference is in transmission, brakes, and other chassis components.
Do you ever consider spending 20 seconds on a Google search before you jump to assumptions?
A dealer would have been more likely to offer a deal on an identically equipped 289/auto Falcon than on the red hot Mustang. Upgrade the drum brakes to disc with the money saved and enjoy the lower insurance rate, ride and better room.
I had a 66 futura sports coupe bucket seats 3 on the floor 6 cylinder. I paid 150$ for it. I replaced the motor with a 302 and a9 inch rear end beat a boss 302 mustang
The CC effect. Found this pristine ’66 Falcon on the street last week. Even the interior is immaculate. More pics in Cohort.
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