Jim Smart
March 30, 2007

The most popular Falcons were produced during the early and mid-'60s. We like those first Futuras. Give us a pristine Sprint fastback or convertible just to add class to the garage or driveway. In 1964, a lot of Falcon allegiances shifted to Mustang, but we'll take a classic aerosmoothy or box-wedge Falcon any day.

It can safely be said that the Falcon changed dramatically in 1966-based more on the Fairlane than its original '60-'65 format. Falcon changed for 1966 because it had to. When Mustang stole the Falcon's marketing thunder in 1964, Ford had to rethink the way it approached the Falcon. It gave the car a wider platform with a longer wheelbase for a smoother ride. Ford stiffened the body as well, with a brute greenhouse and additional structural reinforcements to take chatter out of the ride. Ford's objective with the Falcon in 1966 was to infuse consumer confidence-which it did well.

Nineteen sixty-eight was the 289's final year of production. That year, it was available only as a two-barrel powerplant. Ford added a pinch more stroke to create the 302, available in 2V and 4V form for 1968.

Gary and Sandra Keating have an excellent example of Ford's third-generation Falcon redesign. Before you is basically what Ford brought us for 1966, only better because a lot of nice features were added to the Falcon for 1968. This is the Keatings' '68 Falcon sports coupe. Sandra's mother and father purchased this car new from Trio Motors Ford in Monahans, Texas, in September 1968 as a year-end closeout, and they enjoyed it for many years. In 1984, they gave it to their grandson, Brad, for his 16th birthday. In 2002, Brad sold the car to his father, Gary, to bring back to showroom condition.

Because the car was so well cared for, the restoration wasn't as challenging as a lot of them. Scott Fast of Fast Classics & Customs in Tempe, Arizona, performed the restoration and did a wonderful job, remaining true to the car's original character.

The main reason this restoration was easy was the car had only 83,000 original miles, with most of its history in the dry Southwest. First Class Auto Body in Scottsdale, Arizona, handled the body prep and paint, cladding the Falcon in its original Candyapple Red color. Reassembling the car was not easy because Ford was generous with trim work. It all had to be removed, detailed and restored, and reinstalled after painting. This involved gutting the interior, removing door and quarter trim panels, and more.

Underhood, the Keatings didn't have to do much to their 289-2V engine. It was pulled along with the three-speed manual transmission in order to spruce up the engine compartment. It looks as fresh as it did nearly 40 years ago. And when they spin the Autolite starter, it's a nice mental escape back to 1968-grabbing a column shifter and cruising the cogs.

Ford's nimble 289 was more loaded down with emission controls in 1968. It was as solid as it ever was, though, with unequalled smoothness and reliability. We love the 289 mill for its legendary performance at LeMans, Sebring, Riverside, Phoenix, Northern California, and a host of other world-class motorsport addresses. Where the 289 has always shined is in daily use for millions of us around the world. Turn the key and the darn thing runs well. That, more than anything, is what endears us to the small-block Ford.