Friday, September 16, 2011

Flying Predator With Three-On-The-Tree

A rambling telephone conversation last night touched on the topic of "first cars."

Mine had the distinction of already being a classic when my Dad purchased it for a shockingly low price: a '64 Ford Falcon with, yes, a "three on the tree" manual transmission. The various interesting holes in the sheet metal, including a disturbingly large one under the gas pedal, probably had something to do with the price. We* fixed that with sheet metal and pop rivets, and there ya go, chalky white paint and all. It was also the car in which, about three months later, I killed the engine (teenager, manual transmission...) at a 4-way stop about a mile from home and in the silence, heard a disturbing sound: drip, hiss...drip, hiss, over and over -- and it was coming from behind me. In fact, it was from the general area of the trunk: the gas tank had a tiny leak -- onto the muffler. I walked home and was promptly sent back with chewing gum, instructed to plug the leak and drive the car the rest of the way home! ...It turns out that it's not that hard to install a new gas tank in a '64 Falcon: the top of the tank is the bottom of the trunk!

That incident aside, I have many happy memories of the car. Ford stopped making them in 1970; their own Mustang was too much competition and after a short stint as a kind of underfed Fairlane, it was done....

...In the United States, that is. In Argentina, they started building 'em in-country in '62 and didn't stop until 1991! Better yet, styling changes were more evolutionary than revolutionary, so by the end, it was a car with something of the "timeless" lines of a BMW or Mercedes sedan, only Ford-ish -- no, really. It's a nice-looking car. See for yourself!

Pretty cool.
_______________________________________
* Dad had this theory about kids and cars. My sister and I both got inexpensive, not very powerful, manual-transmission cars for our first ones (hers was a VW Beetle!) and had to show him we could change the air filter, the oil and a tire before we could drive by ourselves. --And we had to do all the minor maintenance with Dad's help. He said it was for our own good and he was right: I don't like to work on cars but it doesn't intimidate me.

29 comments:

Tango Juliet said...

I think the Mustang was a Falcon with different sheet metal. Couldn't keep a front end in them.

Ruth said...

My dad had a similer outlook on my driving. He wasn't as handy with cars though, so I wasn't expected to be. But I had to prove I could change a tire, check tire pressure, check fluid levels, and have at least a basic understanding filters and what not before I was allowed on the road by myself. Stood me in good stead a few times!

Dirk said...

My first car was a '67 Mercury Comet with the same "three on the tree". Was very interesting to learn how to drive. It was also fairly underpowered, with a 200 straight-six engine. But, since we only paid $250 for it, we spent some money having the whole interior reupholstered, so it wound up being pretty nice. Got me through high school and college. I was able to do pretty much all the maintenance on it, too, since it was so simply built. Reliable as hell, too!

Woodstock said...

The Ozzies have this little thing here ...

2011 Falcon

I had a '65 myself.

mikee said...

On my AMC Gremlin (a hand-me-down from my older sister) I recall repairing the clutch linkage with one of her bobby pins, found in the back seat trash pile. Worked with that bobby pin for months without failure.

I replaced the stolen iconic gas cap on that car, as my only act of vehicular maintenance, only to have it stolen again within a week or so. Went back to the Molotov rag, no problems.

Sevesteen said...

I don't think I'd seen the Argentine Falcon before, but I'd found the Australian Falcon on a Wikiwander. Started out as a localized version of the US car, evolved through a sort of 4 door Mustang phase into a modern car.

Ken said...

My maternal grandpa had a Falcon when I was little. I liked it.

My first car, ironically, I got from the same grandpa -- a '64 Buick Special 4-door sedan with the drivers' side doors roped shut. :-) He said, "Kenny, it needs a brake line and a front wheel bearing. You fix it, you can have it." Lasted me through my sophomore year of college, after which I bought a '71 Duster (225 slant 6, Torqueflite, 21 mpg highway) from my younger brother for $100. I did a lot of brake work on that thing.

BobG said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BobG said...

My first car was a black 1960 Mercury Comet.

Nathan said...

My first car was a '66 Chevy Biscayne (essentially a Bel Air without chrome), 250 straight 6, auto trans, kind of a beige color. It had been my grandparents', then my older cousin drove it till it practically dropped (which took about a year), and then I got it in exchange for cutting my aunt's grass (1/2 acre on a nasty hill with an old worn-out Lawn Boy) the summer before I got my driver's license.

I drove it for a couple of years in high school. Great car once I fixed it up a little. Wish I still had it, actually.

DirtCrashr said...

I almost bought a '65 Comet as my first car, as the end of college approached in '81. It was a hot-rod convertible, owned a guy in Boulder Creek - with a hole in the hood for a scoop and converted to a Hurst floor shifter. The linkage wasn't quite right and it was hard to shift, but the motor roared and it hauled scary-ass fast through the redwood trees and canyons, barely on the edge of control.
I anticipated it would take too much additional work, and that with all the extra new-found power (and crappy suspension) I would drive it off a curve into the treetops, and so I kept looking. Yes I was a wuss.

Robin said...

I miss cars that actually had distinctive styling such that you could tell at least manufacturer if not model at a glance.

My old S class Mercedes looked like a Mercedes and no one ever thought it was anything else. Today, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, Toyota, you can't tell one from another without being close enough or wearing your reading glasses to read the nameplate.

Anonymous said...

Actually I would drive that 91 falcon. and I hate fords

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Dad was a mechanic. Now he's an engineer.

The only time I didn't work on my own car was if we didn't have the tools or facilities to do it at home. The only reason I didn't have to rebuild the transmission myself on my first car was because we didn't have a garage at the time to keep the parts out of the weather for the couple of days we figured it would take. Spreading them out under the tree in the backyard just seemed like it would be asking for trouble.

I'm glad, actually. It means that if you give me a Chilton's manual, the right parts, the right equipment, and enough time, I could pretty much repair anything I needed to.

Except welding. I really need to get Dad to teach me that before it's too late.

Hat Trick said...

My first car was a hand-me-down'73 Chevy Vega stationwagon that my brother had done his best to kill. I had to drop the transmission to replace the broken flexplate/ring gear. I had finished that job and before I got to drive it my brother 'borrowed' it and the timing belt broke. I never had a problem working on cars because I started helping overhaul tractors and combines when I was about ten.

quizikle said...

Car repair's like shooting a gun.
You don't have to do it, but you should know how to do it.
Q

perlhaqr said...

1976 VW Rabbit, stick shift. 4 on the floor, though. Or 3 + OD, depending on how you wanna call it.

In these later years, I wish Is till had that car.

CGHill said...

I started out with a Chevrolet Nova, which still bore the interim "Chevy II" badge in that wacky year of 1966. Nice boat-anchor straight six with the antiquated (but hard to kill, though I eventually did) two-speed Powerglide automatic. On the upside, every single component under the hood was easily recognizable, something that hasn't been the case since the early days of Federal emissions requirements.

Ritchie said...

1960 Morris Minor. Very English, 948 rompin stompin CCs and a four on the floor. No heater as such, just a "windscreen demister." When I added another heater core and fan under the passenger seat I discovered that when it gets hot, heater hose stinks really badly.

Don said...

Cool. Kind of a Volvo 2-series Turbobrick look to those later ones, too.

My first was a 1977 Ford Bronco. Every body panel except the roof was rusted through, the floors in front were patched with "Call Police" and "Send Help" signs (remember those? Me neither, but they looked neat when I was under it.) The driver's side front fender was completely caved in flat, the rusted-out tailgate had been rebuilt with 2x4 lumber and large wood screws, the door latches and seat belts were bolted to loosely captured, rusted-out pieces of sheet-metal, and the whole thing had been sprayed a sort of Chevy engine orange that had mellowed over the years to the color of the "Melon" crayon in a Crayola 64-color box.

On the other hand, it had 3-on-the-tree, too, as well as a 302 V8, a bulletproof Spicer transfer case, a Dana 44 front axle and a Ford 9-inch rear. It was bulletproof. It wasn't a lot of fun on the interstate at 65, but I never managed to get it stuck. I'm sure it could be done, but if so, not while doing anything I needed to do. I loved that thing, but the rust cancer was relentless.

I ended up pulling the 302 and dropping it into a 1982 Mustang I bought off a guy on the football team for $500. It had a GT spoiler and a fake GT paint job, but also a 255 V8 that was bleeding oil and losing compression weekly. I'm sure that was about a 150hp V8 . . . . but it was a Mustang and I could spin the tires whenever I wanted and generally beat my buddy's 1982 Firebird, so I was content.

BTW, saw Rowan Atkinson on Top Gear reruns the other day telling Jeremy Clarkson about his hobby racer, a Falcon "with a great big 4.7-liter V8." Heh.
What would a 4.7-liter be? 289, I guess? Not what an American would call a great big V8 . . . but a great engine.

Phillip said...

The first car I ever bought with my own money was a 1964 Plymouth Valiant that I got for $450 back in the early 90's. Dad had bought me my first car, but this one was MY car.

I still have it, although I need to do a little work on it. Nice thing is that I CAN do most of the work on it. Having Dad teach you about mechanical stuff is it's own form of awesome. Whenever I take a car in to get an oil change, I can tell right quick if someone starts trying to BS me about it needing something additional. Not as much of a problem now that I have a steady mechanic that I can trust, but it's a good skill to have.

Matt G said...

And a good convo it was, too. :)

Gewehr98 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gewehr98 said...

So was it a '62 or '62 Falcon?

Read the entire blog post, particularly the bit about patching the gas tank with gum... ;-)

My first batch of cars were '65 - '71 VW Bugs. The '65 Bug had the auxiliary gas heater, which was really nice in Wisconsin winters, while the '71 was one of those oddball Autostick models!!!

Roberta X said...

Ah. Fixed. Or was it a '62? I've slept since then.

Old NFO said...

TJ is right, the first 64 1/2 Mustangs WERE rebodied Falcons. My first car was a 63 Corvair Spyder I paid $300 for, and yes it WOULD float the front end at about 90mph. :-)

quizikle said...

Old NFO:

I had a 64 Corvair in the early 70s and while I liked the car (until it caught an engine fire), the thought of being inside it at 90mph can still make me shudder. I take it for granted the car would...
Q

Larry said...

1972 Fiat 128 four-door sedan.
Green, with yellow wheels.
And when I say green, I mean olive drab green. Looked like an Army reject.
It was a great car.

James family outpost, Iowa. said...

I like that '78. Having lived overseas in the late 70's I saw plenty of autos we never see here. I would dearly love to have that 1991 Falcon for a week, just to pull into the service bay at the local Ford dealer(s) here in Des Moines, Iowa; about as middle America as you can get. Oh the looks I would get, the head scratching... too fun. I mean we sometimes see something odd come down from Canada, but not this.