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Project Car SOTU: Too Many Falcons

Tim Odell September 14, 2018 Project Car SOTU, Project Cars 12 Comments

What do the 1960-1965 Ford Falcon and Ranchero, ‘64.5-66 Mustang, ’70-’77 Maverick, ’75-’80 Granada, ’60-’65 and ’71-77 Mercury Comet, ’75-’80 Mercury Monarch and ’77-’80 Lincoln Versailles have in common? About 80% of their engineering. That laundry list represents something like 5 million cars. Between the high sales volume and the generally unloved status of many of the cars on that list, there’s never any shortage of cheap parts bin cousins to buy or cannibalize for LeMon-y pursuits.

The downside? There’s never any shortage of cars to buy or cannibalize. Back in 2017, I found a score of a deal on a ’61 Falcon two door plus a ’62 Ranchero for $600. The Falcon was super-solid and pretty clean, but the Ranchero’s a bit of a mess. The Ranchero actually went to John Pagel of Evil Genius Racing, as caging our first Ranchero has him scheming for a creative build of his own. Then I found another killer deal in the form of a ’65 Comet and ’65 Falcon, again for $600. I’ve since deleted that saved Craigslist search.

Let’s see what I’ve gotten myself into…

The overall plan here was to build at least a second Falcon-based Lemons car with as much interchangeability to the current Ranchero as possible. Unfortunately, a little too much “oh man, this is too good a deal to pass up” got in the way.

1961 Falcon 2-Door Sedan

This thing is just a no-title rolling shell, but it’s solid top-to-bottom. Save one dented fender, the body’s remarkably solid. In the intervening months since I bought it, the older of my two littlest pit crew members has somehow claimed it as his own. So, uh…guess we’ll spend the next eight years building it in time for him to take the wheel.

1965 Mercury Comet 2-Door

This thing was a V-8, power-steering equipped car at one point. Now it’s just a rolling shell. However, it’s a rolling shell with 5-lug V8 front spindles, a quick-ratio short-shaft steering box and a 5-lug 8″ rearend. Metal-wise, it’s 97% solid, but ugly as hell. Comets ran slightly longer than their Falcon coupe brothers, so despite being a 2-door, it’s on the same 109″ wheelbase as the Ranchero. Basically, it’s the perfect candidate to make another bitchin’ classic Lemons racer.

1965 Falcon 2-Door Sedan

Oh man, this thing. Despite the obviously crapped-out surface finish, it’s got no real cancerous rust anywhere. One could sandblast and body-filler the hell out of that surface and have a perfect car. Unfortunately, some previous owner was operating under delusions of creating some kind of rat rod gasser out of this thing: the front shock towers are cut out to make room for the FE-series engine that a custom engine crossmember is set up for. It came sitting on a Dana 44 rear axle that appears to be out of an XJ Cherokee and some whacky wannabe altered-wheelbase leaf springs. At this point, it makes the most sense as either a body parts donor or the start of a massive custom build. With a Mustang II front kit and an angry 390/427/428, it could make one hell of a drag car (or poorly handling Lemons racer).

Fact of the matter is I have more than enough on my plate, so this one’s on its way out. Its fate will be decided by a foot race between a flaky craigslist buyer and a deadline after which it’ll just get donated to a high school auto shop (that just happens to be run by a fellow Lemons racer).

The Pile of Parts

So many shells, but how to fill them? These days, my garage overfloweth (literally, into my side yard) with engines and transmissions. Here’s what’s on the menu:

Motors

  • Original Crunchero’s 200ci I6
  • 260 V8 that was in Nuevo Ranchero when we picked it up
  • Really ugly 250
  • Clean, good 250 that I just picked up last weekend

Transmissions

  • Crunchero’s weirdo short-tail 3-speed I6 Toploader
  • I6 T10 4-speed
  • V8 T10 4-Speed
  • V8 3-speed Toploader

Axles

  • Factory 3.00:1 8″ in the Comet
  • 3.73:1 limited-slip 8.8″ cannibalized from a donor Ranger

At this point, I think the plan is to hang a good 250 + V8 T10 in the Comet to be as close as possible to the Ranchero. Then we’ll put the 260 and V8 3-speed in the ’61 Falcon to make a nice little driver.

    • I can’t begin to tell you how mad it makes me that it’s that expensive. I’d buy that in a heartbeat, were it typical idiot-project-car priced.

    • outback_ute

      “no rot in the bed”
      You’d hope so given that it is undercover! Having said that, these things rust at an Olympic level. Price seems optimistic especially being a six (although it is a crossflow), but if the rust is actually minor hopefully someone grabs it. Will need a substantial care package from Australia!

      • Sjalabais

        +1 for mention of care packages.

  • outback_ute

    Plan A (Comet) sounds good, but for the ’61 a 5.0/T5 and a vented disc brake conversion would give much better drivability for modern traffic relatively easily.

    • Vairship

      Put a 5.0/T5 in a non-crash-proof 1961 car and hand the keys to your 16 year old kid? That sounds as if it could go VERY wrong.

      • Vairship

        Then again, I believe Mr. Odell has a safety cage from the Crunchero that’s looking for a good home, so transplanting that into the kid’s ’61 might be the way to go regardless of motive power.

      • outback_ute

        True, but an early spec engine ought to be pretty tame, less power than some modern compact cars

    • Think of the ’61 as more of a “hmm…these are the ingredients left in my fridge/pantry, what’s the best meal I can make with them?” car.

      If anything’s getting a 5.0/T5, it’s my Falcon.

  • The 65 Merc seems perfect.