Ford's expectations changed for the 1966-1970 Ford Falcon. The Falcon was a high-profile sales winner and engineering innovator for Ford in its early years, but things had changed by the mid Sixties. Overshadowed by sportier cars it had partially inspired, the rebirth of the Ford Falcon in 1966 was as the economy-minded model that Ford's first compact had played starting in 1960.
Late Sixties Ford Falcons, such as this 1968, fell short of the promise
of earlier models. See more pictures of Ford cars.
Had the Ford Falcon been a person, it hardly would have seemed fair to ask of it what was being asked in 1966. After taking the spotlight in the early Sixties compact-car boom and making Ford the sales leader in the field, after lending its mechanical platform to new niche products that left the rest of Detroit scrambling to catch up to Ford, the Falcon was now expected to return to its humble roots. It was being called upon to provide reliable transportation at an overall low cost, nothing more, nothing less.
It would have been a humiliating blow to a person, but cars don't have feelings to hurt. Doing what it had to do, Ford brought out an all-new Falcon, then turned back the clock to 1960.
The most conventional of the Big Three compacts that made their debuts in the '60 model year, the simple Falcon nonetheless was the clear favorite of consumers. Both the modern, lightweight six-cylinder engine and unitized construction designed for the Falcon had expandable capability, and for 1962, Ford successfully launched the Fairlane -- the first true intermediate -- on an enlarged Falcon platform and with the 170-cubic-inch version of the "thin-wall" six as standard equipment.
However, the Falcon's most lasting contribution to Ford Motor Company history was to allow its platform, basic construction methods, and engineering developments to spawn another marketing coup in spring 1964: the Mustang, the archetypal "ponycar."
The successes of both of these new types of cars came, to some degree, at the expense of the Falcon. As the domestic compacts had been the hot new thing on the market in the early Sixties, intermediates would be where the action was for automakers at mid and late decade.
When Ford was ready to reengineer its "genetically linked" compact and intermediate for 1966, it first took into account the needs of the Fairlane in terms of chassis and underbody, then scaled down the platform for the Falcon's use.
Meanwhile, the Mustang's distinctive styling, extensive options list, and affordability made it the gold standard for sporty compact cars. The Falcon had dabbled in that field with models like the V-8-powered Sprints of 1963-65, but the Mustang rendered them redundant and overshadowed.
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