THE SONOMA COUNTY FALCONS FOR FUN CHAPTER
Bo Ljungfeldt was unquestionably the story of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. Eight rally falcons were entered into the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally. All eight falcons finished the event. The overall rankings for the falcons were Ljungfeldt-2nd, Schlesser-11th, Greder-19th, Hall-39th, Jopp-50th, Hill-107th, and Harper-115th. Ljungfeldt was also the winner of the large touring class. He drove the entire route over a four-day period!
Anne Hall took the large grand touring class with the assistance of co-driver Denise McCluggage. Ford specifically entered the falcon in the GT class because Chrysler entered 3 Valiants in this supposedly faster, but weaker competition class. When Ford heard about this, they switched the Jopp Falcon to this class with a womens team that easily beat the valiants, and proved faster than their male (Jopp) counterparts. Ford was on a roll with the impressive showing of the Rally Falcons in 1963 and 1964 campaigns. These successes were somewhat tempered by the Mercury Comets showing in the 1964 East African Safari. Ten Comets entered this grueling event. Only two managed to finish the Rally. Out of the 21 cars that finished, the Comets finished in 18th and 21st. Perhaps it was fortunate that they finished at all as there were 94 cars that started the event.
Back in Europe, Greders falcon was entered in the Tulip Rally in an attempt to repeat his win in the 1963 event. He finished 4th this time around. In June of 1964, Bo Ljungfeldt tried to win his own countrys (Sweden) Rally in a falcon. He finished first in his class, but 7th overall due to the point system that favored smaller cars.
Later in June of 64, Ford made a major effort to enter the French Alpine Rally. In typical fashion of the day, the falcons were disqualified. The lightweight falcons were disqualified by the International Automobile Federation due to homologation problems. The disqualification of the falcons in this event pretty much ended their Rally history in Europe. However, Ford did not view this as a major setback because the "new" Mustang was now available to carry on the work that the falcons had initiated.
This was quite an inauspicious end to the Rally Falcons. Many of the rally falcons later saw duty on European rally and road course circuits. However, 1964 marked the end of Fords backing of the falcons in racing events. For two years, the falcons were in the spotlight and the peak of their racing glory. It was quite a run---certainly a run that falcon owners can take pride in.
George Merwin singled out Bo Ljungfeldt as the one person that was the most influential in the success of the falcon rally campaign. He was truly a gifted driver and was able to get the most performance out of a falcon. If the rules had been a bit different, and had not favored small cars, the Falcon rally campaign would be better known because the falcons would have dominated the competition. Bo was unquestionably a great driver and well mated to the Falcon, but he would not have driven the car had Ford not sponsored it. Lee Iacocca should be given more credit for backing the ford sponsorship of the Rally Falcons. George Merwin should also be recognized as the project manager that took great efforts to see his falcons succeed. Then there were the builders of the "special" falcons, and John Holman contributed greatly to the performance attributes of these special falcons. These people were key to the success of the falcons.
Out of the Ford-sponsored rally program, the Falcon Sprint was born. For a few short years, sporty falcons were marketed by Ford to the so called "youth market". Even the rally program could not keep sales of the falcon from slipping though. Sales declined ever since the introduction of the falcon and only 281,000 were sold in 1964. This number was still a respectable showing, but now Ford had the mustang to carry the sporty banner.
Sales of the falcon models further declined in 1965. The Falcon Sprint was still produced in 65, but numbers were way down from 1964. Only 2,806 hardtops and 300 convertible versions of the sprint were made in 65. The last sprints had 289 V-8 motors, but the chrome packages, tachs, and special steering wheel were gone. The last sprints are rare and much sought after by collectors.
After 65, the falcons changed from the basic chassis/body that had been used since its inception in 1960. The later falcons were based on a shortened Fairlane chassis. Some sporty coupes were still made, but as with the rally program, the hardtops, convertibles, and sprints were gone from the lineup. <end>
A special thanks to Goran Kindlund for
information that was used in the Rally Falcon Articles.