Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1963 Ford Falcon - Power To Weight
A featherweight 845-RWHP ’63 Falcon that puts the ‘S’ in sprint
Advancements in tuning for computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines have fundamentally transformed the world of hot rods and even production cars. The '13 Shelby GT500, for example, pumps out as much horsepower as your average NASCAR stock car and 1,000-horserpower street cars that used to be the stuff of urban legend are as easy to find as fedora-wearing hipsters at Starbucks.
So, when we tell you that David Cannon's supercharged '63 Falcon Sprint puts more than 800 horsepower to the tires on the street, we know most of you will be impressed, but not exactly blown away. But it's not always the raw numbers on the chassis dyno alone that make a street car truly powerful or quick, so keep these nuggets in mind as we lay down the facts on this high-flying Falcon: Its 845 rear-wheel horsepower is contained within a package that's roughly the same size and weight of a new Ford Focus. Assuming the at-flywheel number is closer to around 900 horses gives it a power-to-weight ratio of about 3.2:1—or one horsepower for about every 3.2 pounds of the car's total mass.
That's a tremendous ratio and a validation that high-tech hot rodding has come of age. The supercharged Corvette ZR1, for example, which has one of the best ratios for any production car, is right around 5.2:1, while the 730-horsepower V-12-powered Ferrari 599 Berlinetta—and its $330,000 price tag—comes in with a power-to-weight ratio of 4.9:1. In other words, the world's most expensive exotics would have a hard time hanging with Cannon's featherweight Ford, at least in a straight line. And his is no pseudo-street car that technically gets by with functional headlights. This car was built to drive and in Cannon's home state of Florida, that means hard-blowing air conditioning.
"It's a total street car," he says. "I use it all the time for cruises and car shows. The grandkids crawl into the backseat under the roll cage, I turn up the AC and satellite radio, and we take off."
Always a Ford guy, Cannon—who is the original owner of an R-code 30,000-mile '681⁄2 Cobra Jet Mustang that's never even seen rain—didn't come around to the Falcon until about eight years ago.
"I didn't really like the '63 Falcon until I bought a very nice '63 Sprint drag car that already had a 460 in it," he says. "I changed the 460 to a Ronnie Crawford-built, all-aluminum 427, which we planned to run in NMRA's Nostalgia classes. Within a couple of months, we'd run under the national record."
After his class was "retired" from NMRA's schedule, Cannon transitioned the car into a nice street machine, but also got it in his head to build a street rod-style Falcon. That was about five years ago, when he found a suitable project-car candidate online.
"I knew I was going to build a hot rod out of it from the very beginning, but it ended up as one of those projects that just gets away from you," he says. "One thing led to another and another, and before I knew it, I ended up with what you see here. The car ended up just the way I wanted, but don't ask my wife about how much it all cost!"
Not surprisingly, one of the biggest issues to deal with was the bodywork. Even in the driest states, rust is an inescapable problem that affects most cars. Water leaks down through the cowl, causing rot in the toe panels, just ahead of the main sections of the floorboards—and that's on the cars with otherwise sound bodies. Unfortunately, Cannon's car was afflicted with the tin worm throughout.
"To be honest, it wasn't very good at all," he recalls. "We had to cut off a lot of bad metal and replace it. It was more than I planned on, but we made it work."
The silver lining to the Sawzall fest was the chassis needed to be tweaked anyway, to accommodate Cannon's plans for a mini-tubbed rear and the replacement of the front suspension to make way for a Mod motor. He didn't want to go with the full Pro Street treatment, but the rear was narrowed enough to tuck 15-inch-wide rims within the fenders. They're connected to a Detroit Locker-equipped 9-inch that's located with a four-link suspension.
Photo GalleryView Photo Gallery
Oh, and to minimize the added weight of the high-performance equipment going into the car, Cannon replaced the rotted steel floorpans with aluminum. Even the rear-axle third member is aluminum, which helps keep the curb weight below the 3,000-pound threshold.
The Ford Modular engine family isn't exactly the smallest or lightest ever developed, but the all-aluminum version selected for this project offers a better front-to-rear weight balance than an all-iron FE or even Windsor engine—even with a Whipple blower sandwiched between the heads. Like the racing engine in his other Falcon, this one was sent to Ronnie Crawford's Miami-based shop for enlightenment. It was punched out to 302 cubic inches and the big, 3.4-liter Whipple screw-type supercharger was fitted with an RCD Engineering cog-style blower driver for slip-free performance. It's essential, too, because this Mod is a screamer, seeing 8,000 rpm on the dyno, with the Whipple cramming the air into the cylinders.