|1964 Ford Falcon Sprint racer
|Original List Price:
|$79,200 (this car)
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|Top of left front inner fender apron
|Engine Number Location:
|Bellhousing at starter mount
|Falcon Club of America (FCA)
|1964–65 Mustang 289, 1963–65 Jaguar S-Type 3.8, 1963–64 Ford Galaxie 500
This car, Lot 1064, sold for $79,200, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale, AZ, auction on January 19, 2019.
American and European society began evolving very quickly by the mid-1960s. From an automotive standpoint, in the U.S. it involved the influx and acceptance of small cars, first with Volkswagen and European sports cars, followed by the Corvair and Falcon.
The new generation of buyers was interested in performance and competition: NASCAR racing was becoming a major professional sport in the U.S. and sports-car racing was capturing amateur hearts and minds. After struggling to recover from the war, European economies were starting to boom and buy cars — an item of great import to global manufacturers such as Ford.
The result was that Ford corporate started thinking seriously about small performance cars and getting the Ford name associated with winning races.
It started with Ford putting the small 260 V8 into a few 1963 Falcons, and was followed by a complete redesign of the Falcon for 1964 — one much edgier and aggressive-looking.
The Falcon Sprint was introduced with the 289 V8 and a 4-speed manual transmission plus various go-fast options available. Simultaneously, Ford was working on the Mustang — the car that kicked off the Pony Car revolution.
As this was happening, Ford was getting more involved with both U.S. and European road racing. In 1963, Ford agreed to supply three race-prepared Galaxie 500 427s to British racer John Willment so he could contest the Jaguar dominance in U.K. sedan racing. Although huge and lumbering, they proved very competitive and served Ford’s purposes very well.
As soon as the new Falcon Sprint was available, it was pressed into service as a more appropriately sized racer. Ford quietly helped prepare a new pure-race version of the Sprint for both European and American use, using fiberglass body parts, engine modifications and various other tricks to get the weight down and performance up to racing standards.
These cars were not technically built by Ford, but lots of help was given to the guys who built them. A number were shipped to the U.K. to replace the Galaxies, while a few ended up with important Ford-friendly American racers to be run in the SCCA A-Sedan wars.
A real racer
Our subject car was originally raced by Shelby American driver Bob Johnson, and has been a dedicated racing car from new. It and the other racing Falcon Sprints were very successful for a few years but fell victim to the Mustang’s hegemony. The Mustang’s wild success caused Ford to neglect the Falcon Sprint both in the general market and as a racer, so it faded from prominence as newer and faster Mustangs and Shelby GT350s took over the spotlight.
In spite of this, the Falcon Sprint maintained some distinct racing advantages. The biggest of these was weight. Aside from bodywork, the Mustang and Falcon of 1964–65 were virtually identical; platform, engine, transmission, and most suspension were the same. Allowable racing weight, however, was a different matter: The Falcon was allowed 2,160 pounds, while the Mustang had to weigh 2,700 pounds. That is 540 pounds, or 20%! The Mustang was allowed substantially more tire (seven-inch rim vs. 5.5) and had less frontal area for better aerodynamics, but the weight advantage was huge.
By 1967, the Mustang had evolved to the point that the Falcon was obsolete as a racer. They soldiered on, of course, but nowhere near the front. Engines were now 5 liters (302 ci). Chevrolet introduced the Camaro, AMC the Javelin, and the Trans-Am wars superseded everything that came before.
Location, location, location
In the U.S., vintage racing is active and has a particular affection for the grids of American sedans. But we tend to group everything in the general category together, which means that a 1964 Falcon Sprint runs against Trans-Am Camaros, Mustangs and the like. As such, it is a beloved but uncompetitive antique.
In Europe, all racing is done to FIA International rules, and they use absolute dates for eligibility. The essential split is 1966: cars built before then (Jaguars, Galaxies, Falcons, early Mustangs) run as a separate group from the later ones (Trans-Am primarily), which means that a good Falcon Sprint is a very serious weapon for the battle. Thus, they are far more valuable in Europe, and particularly the U.K.
Beyond that, there are at least 10 major auction houses (and lord knows how many minor ones) with sales taking place all over the world, and each venue tends to have a set of strengths and weaknesses for a particular type of car. Racing cars are notoriously difficult to sell well at auctions for a number of reasons, which makes choosing the right venue critical to a result.
Scottsdale in January is emphatically not where you want to sell a weapons-grade racing car. In general, racers don’t go there, and the few who do tend to frequent the lower-volume specialty events such as Gooding or RM Sotheby’s.
There are relatively good auction venues for selling racing cars; they are generally associated with major racing events so that the appropriate buyers are paying attention. Goodwood in the U.K. and Monaco are the best in Europe, Monterey is good in the U.S., as are some of the marque-specific auctions like RM’s Porsche event. But putting a special-interest racing car into a general-interest auction can be a recipe for disappointment.
My English colleagues all shook their heads when they learned of this sale. As it was, nobody in that circle knew it was going to be sold, and their consistent feeling was that if presented at a race car-specific auction, such as the one held alongside the Goodwood Revival, it could have returned a significantly better result — perhaps as much as 30% or 40% more.
Hopefully the successful purchaser will enjoy playing with this Falcon Sprint. If not, they can probably do very well by shipping it to the U.K. and selling it where people really want to race it. Very well bought.
(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)