The 1961-1963 Ford Falcon Futura models were easily the most popular of the Big Three's compacts because they were closest to what buyers wanted: simpler and more reliable than Chevrolet's air-cooled rear-engine Corvair, cheaper and less gimmicky than Chrysler's Valiant.
But humble cars seldom remain so, and by 1968 the Falcon had evolved into a junior intermediate -- and a rather boring one at that. As such, it lost much of its original appeal, which helps explain why the 1961-1963 Ford Falcon Futuras and Futura Sprints are now widely regarded as the best Falcons: sportier than the original 1960s, but just as clean and lithe, and blessed with a sterling V-8 for 1963.
The Futura bowed about a year after Chevrolet's Corvair Monza uncovered a huge new market for low-cost cars with "European" features. Offered only as a two-door sedan, it followed Monza in having vinyl-covered bucket-type front seats, but split them with a chrome-covered glovebox -- just like the Thunderbird.
Full carpeting and narrow-band whitewalls were also included -- as was the trusty 144-cubic-inch Falcon six. But 85 horsepower wasn't nearly enough for a car with even mildly sporting pretensions, and the optional 101-bhp 170 six wasn't much help.
Standard column-shift, three-speed manual and optional Fordomatic were on hand as per other Falcons, but there was no four-on-the-floor. Still, Futura sales were creditable despite a late, midyear introduction.
The basic package returned for 1962, when all Falcons received bright new "electric shaver" grilles. Within a few months, Ford issued "The Lively Ones," the first in an annual squadron of midyear models to boost spring sales.
Falcon's contribution was Thunderbird-style rooflines for two- and four-door sedans, including Futura, which could be further dressed up with an optional vinyl roof covering.
But while Ford focused on show, competitors were offering more go -- notably Corvair's new Monza Spyder and Oldsmobile's F-85 Cutlass Jetfire, both with sprightly turbocharged engines. Futura sales dropped by more than half.
Keep reading to the next page and learn more about the 1961-1963 Ford Falcon Futura models.
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Ford eventually caught up with its competition and gave the 1961, 1962, 1963 Ford Falcon Futura a nicer-looking new convex grille and expanded Futura into a separate series.
Offerings consisted of two and four-door sedans, plus a sharp new convertible with standard power top, front bench seat and the larger six. Prices were still Falcon-affordable: $2,236 for the basic two-door Futura, and $2,470 for the ragtop.
Then came another group of midyear "Lively Ones" starring a pretty "slantback" Futura hardtop plus even sportier Futura Sprint convertible and hardtop. Buckets, 6,000-rpm tachometer, simulated wood-rim steering wheel, wire wheel covers, chrome engine and rocker trim.
Other features included a heavy-duty suspension and rear axle, free-flow muffler and air cleaner and four-speed floorshift manual transmission were all standard on Sprints, which cost only some $130 more than their regular Futura counterparts: $2,320 for the hardtop, $2,600 for the convertible.
And there was more: a 164-bhp "Challenger V-8," the high-revving, 260-cid "thinwall" unit introduced the previous year with the new mid-size Fairlane. Optionally available for any 1963 Falcon, the V-8 transformed a dowdy grocery-getter into a budget bomb with 0-60 times of just under 12 seconds. Falcon was now a step ahead of Valiant and the orthodox, year-old Chevrolet II, neither of which had anything so potent.
The V-8 was a natural for the Sprint, making it as fleet-footed as its name. Car Life called the combination "La Petite Sport," praising a high power-to-weight ratio (21 lbs/bhp) and the easy way the engine could exceed its 5,000-rpm redline despite a "choking" two-barrel carburetor.
The V-8, said Car Life, was "completely devoid of fussiness, and exhibits a surprising amount of torque from rather ridiculous rpm levels. [It's] much happier in Falcon surroundings than it ever seemed to be in the Fairlane."
Ford knew the V-8 Sprint had the makings of a rally winner, and hired the Holman & Moody shops of stock-car racing fame to modify three hardtops for the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally. Though a Saab was the outright winner, one Sprint captured all the special stages -- a Monte first -- and another won the big-engine class.
An optional 200-bhp 289 V-8 made the 1964 Sprints even livelier, but the package was shortly rendered redundant by the wildly successful Mustang, a purpose-designed sporty compact. Blockier, more contrived Falcon styling didn't help, and the Sprint vanished after 1965. The Futura name hung on until decade's end, but merely on "luxury" Falcons that weren't all that plush.
V-8 Sprints, ragtops especially, are now far and away the collector's Falcons of choice. Six-cylinder Sprints come next, followed distantly by 1961-1963 Futura two-doors. Happily, all are still just as affordable as they were when new. You can't say that about every American car of the 1960s, great or otherwise.
Continue reading to learn more about the 1961-1963 Ford Falcon Futura specifications.
For more information on cars, see:
1961, 1962, 1963 Ford Falcon Futura Specifications
The 1961, 1962, 1963 Ford Falcon Futura evolved from a polite, family car to a high-powered, performance-driven racer.
Engines: ohv 1-6, 144.3 (3.50 x 2.50), 85 bhp; ohv I-6, 170 cid (3.50 x 2.94), 101 bhp; ohv V-8, 260 cid (3.80 x 2.87), 174 bhp (optional 1963 Sprint only)
Transmission: 3/4-speed manual, 2-speed Fordomatic automatic
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: live axle on semi-elliptic leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 109.5
Weight (lbs): 2,322-2,645
Top speed (mph): 90-110+
0-60 mph (sec): 12.0-18.0