If only Bob McNamara had stuck to making cars. In the late 1950’s, Henry Ford II tabbed McNamara to lead his company’s entry into the smaller car market. McNamara had come to Ford after World War II as one of the famous “whiz kids” who applied rigorous statistical analysis to business. Sort of the original Moneyballers. McNamara realized that as America prospered, there was a desire for the second car; women in particular were looking for something a little smaller than the behemoths that dominated the late 1950’s. McNamara’s team came up with the Falcon. Legendary engine builder Harley Copp put together a mechanical design that would stand the test of time, as we shall see.
Ford released the original Falcon in the fall of 1959 (1960 model year). The car was an immediate hit and within a year, McNamara became the first president of Ford from outside the family. Five weeks into that job, President Kennedy convinced him to serve as Secretary of Defense, which he did for seven years. McNamara was the principal architect of U.S. military strategy in Vietnam, which is an unfortunate legacy considering his other accomplishments.
Through the early 1960’s, Ford offered the Falcon in a variety of body styles and with different trim packages. The Futura was an upscale version. The 1963 model we saw was beautifully kept; it just screamed California fun-in-the-sun.
The next target of Ford’s radar was the burgeoning youth market. Another business legend, Lee Iacocca, famously headed the Mustang team that transformed the car industry. Mustangs are generally considered to be the first sports car for the masses, but from a performance aspect they were not that radical. Instead, Iacocca placed his racy new design onto the Falcon’s frame. A 1964 1/2 Mustang is really a 1963 1/2 Ford Falcon in a sexier dress.
Still, the Futura model we saw looked great. History is hardly ever that pretty.