To take on this journey with my very first project car required me first to reevaluate what I knew about mechanics and the parts that were needed to make the project happen. I quickly realized I was in way over my head. While I considered myself handy with tools, all of my previous experience was with motorcycles and boat engines where I was just wrenching and replacing parts that belonged with what I was working on. But here I was starting with a bench seat, 6 cylinder, automatic Falcon and planned to upgrade the car to a 351 and a four speed. This was 1971 and I may have been the first person to drop a 351 in a Falcon. Up front I made an assumption that all Mustang parts from 1964-66 would work on the Falcon. I got lucky here and at least most did with one big exception. There was no one I could go to for advice on this swap so I soldiered on alone.
So now I had a backyard with a big tree that could hold the weight of an engine, the engine, and the car to host the transplant. I was on my way. But this was just the beginning. Next I had to assemble the parts need to make my dream come true, a V8 4 speed hot rod. And so the next part of the journey was discovering all of the junk yards within driving range of my house. First I found Methvin’s in Mount Holly NJ. And it was not that far of a drive from my home base, Palmyra, NJ. This was a lucky find as it was one of the best in the area. And I could just walk the yard with my own tools taking off whatever I could find. Here I scored a Ford Top Loader 4 speed (already out of the car luckily) and the beginning of a long list of smaller parts to make the transmission conversion.
- Bell housing and bolts
- Fork assembly
- Pilot bearing
- Three pedal parts
- Drive shaft
- And more
And then there was the engine swap itself:
- Motor Mounts
- Exhaust manifolds
- Dual exhaust system (JC Whitney!)
- And so on
Naturally I bought some stuff that did not fit and when Methvin’s ran out of workable options I had to throw out a wider net for parts. In the end I am sure I visited all of the yards within a 30 mile radius of Palmyra. And there was no Web to find the yards, just word of mouth and the yellow pages. And lots of times getting lost learning the roads of South Jersey and Philadelphia. All through the project there were many disappointments. But the dream would not die.
After a good amount of trial and error I had enough parts to get started. After borrowing a come-along my friend Roach, who lent me his back yard, and a few other friends helped me get the 6 cylinder and automatic out of the car. Then we attempted to drop in the 351 into the empty engine bay. However the 351 exhaust manifolds I bought did not clear the fender wells in a big way. So we took them off and then the engine fit! But what now?
Around this time my project wore out its welcome with Roaches Dad. Time to move on. We towed the V8 Falcon back to my house with a rope. Luckily the brakes were still intact. Then it was back out the boneyards for early Mustang V8 manifolds. After a trial fit I discovered there was no room to put them on. But it was close! So the engine had to come out again.
I had less room in my yard but at least I did have a tree that would suffice for pulling the engine yet again. But after removing the engine what next? How can I make this work? Then I had an epiphany. I could borrow Dad’s sledge hammer to perform the fine tuning. After several whacks I tried to lower the engine with the 289 manifolds installed. The final successful lowering of the engine took several tries, but then it was in! Is it any wonder why later we had so much difficulty getting a good wheel alignment?
Okay next came another heart breaker. I test fit the Mustang 4 speed and found the shifter was aligned right under a welded in tunnel brace. Now what? Again I gave the problem some heavy thought. I did not know at the time the actual Falcon 4 speed had a different case that fit. But I was out of money and having a hard time going back for more. So the only possible solution was a hack saw. I think I went through 20 blades cutting that tunnel brace. But finally the opening worked. Then another big problem. How am I going to hold the transmission up?
I think in a fever dream I came up with using a combination of exhaust U bolts bolted to steel plates I found on either side of the transmission tunnel. I cut off the excess threads and covered the whole mess with the front carpet. Now all I needed was a shifter. I had saved up some money and bought the final part to the dream, a Hurst shifter!
After all that the rest was downhill. I added a pair of Mustang bucket seats and reinstalled my 8 track player. The engine wiring was simple enough for me to figure out and in a short period of time it was running! Oh that first drive around the block with open manifolds. The dream as on the road. So I packed my JC Whitney dual exhaust kit and drove the white beast to a muffler shop in Cherry Hill.
The drive home was very exciting. The Falcon sounded great and it was fun to drive. And with the tunes the dream was a reality.
The car below is not my car. But it is a very close approximation. My Falcon 2 door hardtop Futura was also white but the trim on the side was blue. This one started life with a V8. And my wheels and tires were not as nice. I bought a mismatched front and back set of wheels in the Pennsauken Mart parking lot. And being short on funds at first I kept the original tires for the new wheels including studded snows in the back. Traction was a problem.
End of Falcooney Part 2.