Now that the sleeper Falcon was running and somewhat drivable I took my freshly built Falcon to the New Jersey inspection station in Cherry Hill. I figured this was just a formality. And mostly it was. I think there was a bulb or two out and I forgot to plug the horn back in. But also the car failed for alignment. Toe In was out of spec.
This blew my mind until I thought about it. I did stand on the fender and whack some pretty stout pieces of metal to get the engine to drop in. Did I ruin the front end of the car? I shook off that sick feeling and asked someone, maybe my uncle Gus, what exactly Toe In was. He explained Toe and Camber to me. Hmmm. After putting all that extra V8 weight on the front of the car Camber should be out of whack. But the inspection failure was mum on that topic. How did I mess up the toe in?
My uncle also said there had to be a way to adjust the Toe in my Falcon, so have a look. I don’t remember the number but I remember it was toe-in. So the front of the front tires both pointed inward to each other. I found the bar that tied (tie rod ends!) the two wheels together and they were in the back of the kingpin holding the wheel on so I pulled the back of each wheel “a little” closer together. I threw the tools in my car and headed back out to the Inspection Station, confident in my new found knowledge. But I failed again, too much Toe Out! So I drove to a nearby parking lot, and went under the car to pull the Toe in again. And then got back in line.
Failed again with Toe In. Was I overdoing the wrenching? Back to the parking lot and then back in line. I forget now how many tries this took but it was at least three. On the last time the guy came up to me and shook his head. He said that the specs now were really close. But he was going to pass me if I promised to take my car to an alignment shop and have the front end checked as soon as possible. I always try to keep my word. Later I came to find out all of my front ball joints were loose and all needed replacing. He said something like, I bet your alignment would jump all over the place, just how did you pass NJ inspection?
Even though on a project like this there are a myriad of small adjustments, things went smoothly for a while and I started taking my white beast to high school. My close friends got together and decided to create a song for the project. It went something like this:
“Mark had a Falcoony”
“He didn’t know what he was doing”
“Adding a V8 and a four speed”
“So he spent eighteen hundred dollars”
“To build his Falcoony”
You could buy an almost new car for that much. And that did not include the value of the starter Falcon. That song caught on and I would hear different versions of it as I walked down the high school hallways. I was kind of famous in an embarrassing sort of way. I decided to suck it up and go along with the merriment.
On the other hand having a semi famous car meant girls did not mind me driving them home from school or just around. I remember one ride asking this beautiful girl I secretly was in love with if she wanted a ride. Oh yes she did. That was one of several rides including just riding around while her and her friends got lit up drinking this awful malt liquor called Country Club in very small cans and dropping them off at the school dance. She never sang the Falcoony song in the car, although I remember giggling from the girls in the back. We never did get together. At the time she went out with a good friend of mine and even though I sensed something between us (or was it the powerful sounding car?) I never acted on it. I would not be that guy. When I was graduating she wrote in my year book was going to miss me as I was leaving for college. And added in my book that she always thought I was the cutest and nicest guy in the whole school. But then at that time I was going out with another girl. So it was never meant to be.
On the other side my 351 4 speed Falcon was quite fast even with the two barrel 351 and was my passage into the local street scene. Palmyra has a set of train tracks that are now a light rail commuter line. But in those days there might be only one or two trains a day. All the kids with hot cars met “Up Town” at the tracks. On Friday and Saturday nights we would meet girls there or go on a date but then take them home around 10 pm to head back to “Up Town”. The hot cars would stop and look for a run. But then around midnight the stragglers would head out to the Philadelphia for Front Street and Island Avenue action. Two of the big players in town were a worked 4 speed Tri Power GTO and an L78 ’69 Camaro. Other cars from other towns would come looking for them. The back in the day tracks below and below that the tracks today.
One night I met up with a dark blue ’66 GTO who was looking for action. We decided to head out to Taylors Lane in Cinnaminson where most of the local racing took place. There was an industrial section where there were very few cars. So we both pulled out of “Up Town” and headed down River Rd. towards Taylors lane. In Riverton we both met at the last light. He revved up his engine and looked over. OK, here we go. I treed him on the green and jumped out ahead a few cars. But he started to run me down slowly.
But then things took a turn for the worst. Flashing lights behind us. The GTO still behind me pulled over. This was my chance. I made the next right on the last Riverton Street and started weaving though the minor streets to get back to my house in Palmyra. I turned on Rowland Avenue, where I usually parked and turned off my lights as I pulled to the end of the block. Just as I was about to shut the car off a Palmyra police car sped right in front of me on Cinnaminson Avenue, lights and siren blazing. Phew!
I found out the Riverton police called in a white Corvette. Imagine Falcoony mistaken for a Corvette. LOL. Apparently that officer found a white Corvette on Route 130 and pulled him over I found out in school. We had some police connections. I dodged a bullet that time among others. And this would be the first and last time I would ever run from the police. It was in retrospect a really bad choice.
Not long after that I blew my diff launching the car. At this point I was running the 6 cylinder 4 bolt rear on studded snow tires. How did I ever pull that GTO with this set up? So I went back to the boneyards and picked up a Mustang V8 differential. I think it had positraction at least I my mind. Maybe not. I also picked up two five bolt chrome wheels and mounted the widest tire that would fit inside the wheel wells. Traction was no longer a problem and hole-shots were much improved.
Then I remember one afternoon after school I was riding around and found my friend in his 396 Caprice. He wondered if we could switch cars. That seemed like an interesting idea, so we swapped. The Caprice was a nice driver but was not as much fun as my little hot rod. So I went looking for him. Another friend found me in his car, stopped me and told me to follow him but didn’t say why. We came upon the Falcon and my friend the driver was looking under the car. What? I got out and he sheepishly told me we had a problem. So I started up the car and put it in gear. When I let out the clutch there was a weird thumping sound but the car did not move. So we tied up the Falcon with a rope and pushed it into my drive way. That weekend I pulled the transmission and the main transmission shaft of the Ford Top Loader stayed in the clutch. My friend had twisted the shaft right off. I was devastated.
The next week I called a transmission shop and told them I needed my transmission rebuilt. He never asked me what was wrong with it. So I took the transmission there and dropped it off outside his office. I went inside and did the paper work and he said the rebuild would be like $200 (as I remember). He never looked at it.
About a week later I called back and it was ready. But when I went to pick up the transmission he was super pissed. I never told him the main shaft was severed. How would I know to tell him that? In any event he honored his price. I felt bad, paid him, and left. All I had was barely $200 with many ones in there.
That friend never offered to pay for the repairs or even helped me pull the transmission. Later in life I let another friend drive my Twin Turbo SS 1LE. That turned out even worse although this friend did pay for the towing and bought me an Atco sweatshirt for my tribulations. Another story for another day.
Here I realized that this hot rod Falcon, although very cool, was not the ideal go to college car. So I reluctantly put it up for sale. A day later the work got around about the sale and another friend offered me $1,800 just like the song. While at that point I had well over $2000 in it I decided to cut my losses, sell the car, and paid back my parents all the money I owed them. So now I had no college car but I was broke. My dad solved that problem by buying a 1968 Fury III 4 door sedan and gave it to me. How could I hurt myself with that car? At least it was red. Thanks Dad! I installed a nice stereo in the car (my trademark over the years) and drove it to Florida and later to Villanova. My first year in college.
The Falcoony is a cherished memory for what I learned and for the experiences I had with it. And while it could have turned out badly, in the end it went well just by luck, not skill. Is it better to be lucky than good?
The guy that bought Falcoony hopped it up more with a 4 barrel, a cam, and headers and I think a more sturdy transmission welded in mount and bigger tires. I never saw it on the street, but I did stop by his house one day and he showed me all the work he did. If that car has not yet met the crusher I would love to have it back. I think I am his friend on Facebook. I will check to see if he has any pictures. If so I will post here.