Rod Short
January 7, 2014
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

With colorful names, crazy antics, and wicked fast cars, Ford's Falcon made some big noise during the mid 1960s in drag racing, yet they were often overshadowed. Names like Gas Ronda and Bill Lawton were all the rage in their Mustangs, while Dyno Don Nicholson and Fast Eddie Schartmann became household names in their Mercury's. Even so, the Falcon raced its way into drag racing history as seen by this collection of cars.

In terms of street performance, the Falcon isn't widely recognized as a muscle car today, although the Sprint model was a fun car when ordered with a manual transmission and a 260- and later a 289-ci V-8 engine. Dearborn's marketing plans, however, were focused squarely on selling Mustangs. Ford intended for its factory team to keep these cars as stock appearing as possible, meaning no altered wheelbases, fuel injection, blowers, and so on. With the 1964-65 Falcon, however, racers had free reign to do pretty much what they wanted. In addition, they saw potential with the Falcon because of its smaller dimensions, light weight, and the fact that it could accommodate either a 427 wedge or an SOHC engine. With an attractive power-to-weight ratio and the addition of an altered wheelbase, the Falcon became a car to be reckoned with on the dragstrip.

Today, many of these cars are gone, but their mark on Ford motorsports drag racing remains. The following are some of the cars, drivers, and their stories to give a picture of the way it was.

Daddy Warbucks

When Korean War veteran Phil Bonner returned home, it wasn't long before he started drag racing part time in 1962. In 1964, he became a full-time racer wheeling a series of lightweight Ford Galaxies and then a Thunderbolt for Al Means Ford out of Atlanta. In late 1964, Bonner became nationally known when his 1964 Skylight Blue Falcon appeared on a nationally known magazine. Known as the "Georgia Peach," Bonner said he spent 80 percent of his time match racing the car from coast to coast with a 427 FE engine between the fenders. Weighing in at 3,200 pounds, the car would run 10s and high 9s. This was one of just two factory-built Falcon racers authorized by Ford.

Bonner's first Falcon was sold to Jim Cagle, who raced the car for several years before passing it on. Years later, he tried to reacquire the car, only to find that it had been destroyed. With Bonner's help, Cagle built a replica of the original Georgia Peach car, shown on the previous page at the Musclecar Reunion in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 2012.

In 1965, Bonner would move on to an A/FX-legal Mustang, but became even better known for his match race Falcon, which was now orange with the "Daddy Warbucks" moniker. By the time the car was retired in 1966, it reportedly ran an 8.94 at 155.70 mph.

Georgia Shaker III

When Hubert Platt was passed over for one of the new Ford SOHC 427 engines, he did one better than just getting mad—he got even. Unlike the two factory-authorized Falcons, Platt's car was built for match race action from what he had in the basement of his home.

Originally dubbed the "Smallest Georgia Shaker," Platt would eventually move the rear axle forward on his Falcon for better weight transfer, to make it more competitive. Renamed the "Georgia Shaker III," the car made a trip to the West Coast where it received much publicity. Originally a 1964 six-cylinder model car, it was stripped down to the barest of essentials and updated with '65 trim. A stock displacement 427 wedge was installed with a Holman-Moody–modified Weber intake that utilized Hilborn injection. A Top Loader four-speed and a 9-inch rear with 4.56:1 gears completed the drivetrain. Platt would get involved with a second Falcon known as the "Iowa Shaker" for Dick Walters Ford, which reportedly got down into the 9.20s in the quarter-mile.

Not long ago, Platt's long lost Falcon surfaced again after having been stored for decades. While one Internet pundit has disputed this claim, this car has been widely publicized and documented by Platt himself, who has made appearances with the car. Platt's "Iowa Shaker" car was reported to have been found and restored in 1991.

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Jim Cagle’s period-correct replica of Phil Bonner’s original “Georgia Peach” Falcon was built with Bonner’s assistance.