Friday, September 14, 2012

A 50-year comparison

An old friend of mine has bought a piece of property, including a couple of storage buildings, one containing a 1963 Ford Falcon 4-door sedan.  It has 1971 plates on it, so it has been sitting that long, and shows just under 33000 miles.  He has no idea why it was parked here, nor does the former owner, who inherited the property from his parents, and does not remember the Falcon.  Tom has done some basic examination of the thing, and considers it fixable with much elbow grease and minimum money, so he is going to take it on as a project next spring.  It is, of course, his now, as before 1974 Alabama had no title law.
This being the 2013 model year, I thought I would generate a comparison to today's vehicular standards.
First, the Falcon.  The original window sticker (what is left of it), was in an envelope in the glove box, and is mostly readable.  It is a local car, purchased from Adamson Ford in Birmingham.  The options listed on the sticker are heater/defroster (optional), AM radio (optional), front lap seat belts (optional), and outside rearview mirrors (optional).  In those days, A/C, power steering, and power brakes were not available on the base model Falcon.  The optional AM radio in Tom's car is tube-type, and still actually works, though poorly, through a single speaker in the top of the dash.  The optional outside mirrors are not remote-controlled, and are adjusted by grabbing them and moving them to where needed.  The floor is rubber mats, and the seats are vinyl - anyone old enough to have lived through a winter or summer with vinyl seats is cringing right now.  The transmission is a 3-on-the-tree manual, the engine a 144 ci inline six with a one-barrel carb.  The dashboard is all metal, and full of sharp pointy knobs and things.  The windows are not tinted, so it is hell in hot weather.  This car required a "tune-up" about every 10,000 miles, with replacement of points, condenser, distributor cap, and rotor, and adjusting of ignition timing and carb.  Aligning the front end was recommended at the same time.  Polishing and waxing were required to keep the paint shiny and protected from the sun.  There was no warranty for rust-through.
The sticker price for this high-maintenance roller was $2228, which is, in today's battered dollarettes, $16774.
So, in these modern times, what will this price buy?
Oddly enough, it will still buy you a small base-model 4-door Ford sedan, The Focus S.  So how does today's little roller compare to the Falcon, 50 years later?
You still get a small engine and manual transmission, but these days, you get carpet, fiber upholstery, tinted glass, heater/defroster and outside mirrors as standard equipment.  Standard equipment, on the Focus S, also includes: A/C, AM/FM stereo radio with four speakers, three-point seat belts, front and side air bags, crush zones, an engine that does not require tune-ups (although replacement of the timing belt is required at 60,000 miles), more power and much better mileage than the Falcon, speed-sensitive power steering, cruise control, stability and traction control, power brakes with 4-wheel ABS on its fade resistant disc brakes, longer-lasting radial tires, front power windows, rust-through warranty, and clear-coat paint that does not require waxing.
I'll stick with today's offering...


  1. My grandmother had almost the same car, except with 2-speed Fordomatic which made it a real slug. Where the Focus will probably do 0-60 in 8-10 seconds, the slushbox Falcon will still be accelerating on Tuesday. Not enough horsepower to get out of its own way...

  2. Back in the day, my mom had a 1960 Galaxie, with the 312 Y-block V* and Ford-O-Matic. It had much the same characteristics - slow, brakes that would fade after a few stops in traffic, and it would roll like a show dog in curves. Dad hated it. My first car was a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere, with manual trans and no power steering, and mother was getting another car, and offered me the Galaxie. I said no, which she just could not grok - "but it is newer!" Dad said "Betty, when a 16 year old says hell no, I don't want it, it is a sign." I kept the Plymouth...

    1. I can close my eyes and hear Dad saying that.
      Is that when she got that huge station wagon?

    2. Yes, the Buick wagon. Amazing stuff through the years...