Saturday, January 22, 2011

I OWN MY CAR

For only the second time in my life I now own my automobile. In 1964 my Father allowed me the privilege to buy outright a 1960 Ford Falcon with MY own hard earned cash money. Dad bought the car in Dallas and then sold it to me so I didn’t know the history of the vehicle. At any rate, that was the last time I owned my car. Ever since then starting with the 1966 Chevrolet Impala SS (Super Sport) I bought upon my graduation from Ole Miss, and then a 1968 Pontiac GTO (sweet!) before I graduated to Volvos, I have always traded up to another vehicle (before payoff) until the all-wheel drive 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor XLS I now call my rolling home. It’s a good feeling and one that I shall probably ne’r repeat, if, indeed, I ever buy another car.

The Falcon was in need of an exterior redo though the engine and drive train were in good shape. The exterior was by then a dirty deteriorated white and in need of a new paint job. I found a company in Memphis who refurbished the car. Their efforts included a new superb paint job (straw yellow), new black tufted wool carpet throughout and a rolled and pleated black leather seat, rear deck and dash. It didn’t look bad and with bigger black wall tires (before its time) and big chrome moon caps, I was ready for campus.

The purchase of my own automobile meant that I finally was independent and at long last could experience some sense of freedom. Didn’t have to rely on other folks and I would never again have to take the Greyhound to the airport in Memphis and then on to Providence or Dallas or Atlanta. Aside from the requirement to occasionally replace the oil pump, the Falcon ran flawlessly.

That Falcon was a post WWII phenomenon and the epitome of a new automotive concept known as the compact car. The Falcon though fairly simplistic was among the first of that ilk with a lot of features not seen on its contemporaries. The engine was the now famous, Falcon Six, an overhead-valve inline six rated for 90 horsepower at 4,200 rpm, and with a single-barrel Holley carburetor my gas mileage was somewhere around thirty miles per gallon. I now affectionately remember the cost of gas in 1964, averaging around $.27 cents a gallon (though I do remember regularly paying $.25 at the Texaco in Oxford). That’s the equivalent of a tad over $2.00 a gallon now. Nice…

Like my Father the Falcon supremely rational, frugal, and practical. This wasn’t a chickmobile or T-Bird knock off as its developmental code name - XK Thunderbird – implied. Rather, it was boxy and uninspired though it accomplished all that my Father intended.

The Falcon was the brainchild of Robert McNamara, the Ford executive with a great penchant for systems and efficiency who became known as the, “Father of the Falcon”. McNamara was elevated to the presidency of Ford though he left shortly thereafter to become the Secretary of Defense in the new Kennedy administration (part of that Harvard connection). McNamara’s faith in the concept was ultimately vindicated with what were then record sales - over half a million in the first year and hitting over a million sold by the end of the second year – though those results were disappointing to some remaining Ford executives. McNamara’s ultimate successor and one time protégé was none other than Lee Iacocca who would go on to make his own mark in the automotive industry.

Unknown to many now and even to both Ford and Chrysler at that time was their coincidental intent to name their new compact cars Falcon. As it turns out Ford reserved the name with the Automobile Manufacturers Association registry only twenty minutes ahead of Chrysler, winning the right to the name. Chrysler ended up naming their new compact car the Plymouth Valiant. Rounding out the compact triumvirate that year was General Motors' ugly as hell, perceived Unsafe at Any Speed and VW Wannabe - Chevrolet Corvair with its radical air-cooled rear-mounted engine. The rest is history.

Well, my Falcon took me safely all over the country even to New York City for the Sigma Phi Epsilon 1965 National Conclave. That Falcon with its Mississippi license plate and Ole Miss decal on the rear window turned a few heads in the Empire State. We made quite a few Friends and even visited the Peppermint Lounge and did the Twist. That car served me well only to be thrown over and traded in for a newer, sportier model by an inconsiderate, callous jerk. Stupid move.

So, my Falcon was dependable, comfortable, looked OK and got great gas mileage. Harking back to my college days it allows me to think kinder and gentler thoughts. My Mitsubishi Endeavor is, “supremely rational, frugal, and practical” – sound familiar? I sure miss my Falcon. Like Father, like Son

Aye,

Ned Buxton

2 comments:

Geb said...

And then you sold the Falcon :(

Shame, Shame, Shame...

I wouold have kept it up for you :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post about the Falcon. Many of us have fond memories of our first vehicle. My first vehicle was too a base model. I had a Datsun B210 Honey Bee. 4 cylinder, no radio, no arm rest, no carpet, but was dependable, economical, and got me through school.

Thanks for the blog and the shared memories.

D.L. Gass