The dejected hulk lay half buried in a massive patch of kudzu-known as the "vine that ate the South"-when Ron Bonnell somehow spotted it in a Hartselle, Alabama, backyard. As a lifelong Falcon fanatic, he was determined that this used-up and utilitarian '60 two-door sedan wouldn't permanently disappear under the creeping, suffocating tendrils of runaway plant growth, like some hapless victim in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
. So, he cut a deal and winched it out and onto his open trailer-despite the fact that three of the forlorn Falcon's wheels wouldn't turn, its factory 144ci six-banger had been unceremoniously stuffed in the trunk, and its three-speed manual gearbox was then residing in the back seat. The interior was trashed, its floorpans rusted badly; but, as Ron says, "You have to start somewhere."
And if experience counts for anything, Ron was certainly qualified to make that start, having previously owned a '61 Falcon sedan delivery, a '61 two-door sedan, and a '61 (Falcon-based) Econoline pickup. He also still owns a '65 Falcon Ranchero. Oh, and he took his original driver's test in a '61 four-door sedan after being introduced to Ford's then-new compact when his grandfather purchased a Falcon Ranchero way back in 1960. Yup, he's a Falcon kind of guy.
Ron's plans for his vegetarian backyard find were rather specific: road racing. Seems a bunch of his buddies were into the track thing, but they all took the easy way out and built Mustangs for the mission. Of all the Fords he's owned in his 65 years, apparently none have been Mustangs, so Ron was determined to best his buddies with a Falcon, and got down to laying out the project in his head. His original idea was to simply "slip in a 302, four-speed and go." Yeah, well, so much for cheap intentions.
For a car originally designed and engineered for family frugality, road-racing Falcons are certainly not without precedent. Ford itself campaigned a number of '64s in the European rally circuit back in the day, and one '63 even saw a bit of Trans-Am competition. Geez, there's even a '65 Ranchero currently doing the West Coast track circuit, but we can't remember ever seeing one as early as this in full track form. As great as it looks, why didn't somebody think of this before?
Now don't go getting the idea that Ron simply threw money at this thing like some out-of-control Congressional pork handout. No sir, he kept the deficits in check by doing nearly all of the three-year project's grunt work himself, from engine and chassis to bodywork-though he did assign application of the Atlantic Blue base/clear finish to Mike Denton at Colors Precision Paint & Body, in Hartselle.
The hood and trunk lid are fiberglass, but we applaud Bonnell's metalwork skills in getting the rest of the almost-consumed-by-vegetation unibody nice and straight. We love his exterior detailing like the bumper-less snout (is this an R-model Falcon?), the subtle-but-effective hoodpins, the stylized Falcon center caps on the 17x8 Mustang rims, and especially the nicely radiused cutouts for each side exhaust.
And that hunkered stance turns what was once a humble econo-sedan into a menacing muscle-bound thug. Out back, Ron achieved it by use of a narrowed 9-inch axle from a T-bird, perched on '65 Mustang 4 1/2-leaf springs with Koni shocks, and located by custom through-the-floor traction bars. Things get even more interesting up front where the suspension is adapted from a C4 Corvette, including the Chevy's narrowed rack-and-pinion setup. You can see some of its cast-aluminum components in our nose photos. Oh, and the Vette also donated its generous front and rear disc brakes to the cause. Of course, there's little sense in putting good suspension on a weak-kneed body, so Ron added subframe connectors and an eight-point rollcage to guarantee race-worthy rigidity.
Underhood, don't be misled by that 289 Hi-Po decal. Ron's original humble plans of a 302 somehow morphed into a 408-inch Windsor, which has stones enough to propel the 2,300-pound package to quarter-mile times of just 12.70 seconds at 112 mph (not that the dragstrip was Bonnell's primary focus). Ron built it himself, even fabricating the big Windsor's long-tube headers, but just look at the fabulous engine bay that he surrounded it with-this guy has many skill sets.
The cockpit, too, demonstrates his multi-trade handiwork. It's race car functional without being Spartan, since the fearsome Falcon also sees some street duty. From the hand-fabbed door panels to the Autotecnica steering wheel, Ron's workmanship and design sense make us wish he lived next door so we could scam him into helping with our own projects. We particularly like his handcrafted switchbox (with guarded toggles) between the APC buckets, and the way he's plumbed the brake lines to the proportioning valve and the fire-suppression lines alongside the tranny tunnel. And check out the gas gauge on the rear bulkhead. All in all, a great interior with a degree of detailing that is even echoed inside the trunk.
How has his predatory plan of road-course supremacy worked out?
"In the end," says Ron, "I've been really pleased with how it has performed on the track. Other drivers have said it's not right seeing a '60 Falcon go by. That's not supposed to happen."
So there you have it. From being dragged out of the weeds to being able to blow the competition into them...
Ron Bonnell's '60 Falcon two-door sedan
- 351W-based 408ci
- Eagle steel crank
- Eagle forged H-beam connecting rods
- Eagle forged aluminum pistons
- 10.4:1 compression ratio
- Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam, 236/240-degree duration at 0.050-inch, 0.555/0.576-inch lift
- AFR aluminum cylinder heads, 2.02/1.60-inch valves, port matched
- Edelbrock RPM Air-Gap intake
- Demon 750-cfm carburetor
- Four-speed Top Loader
- Centerforce clutch and flywheel
- Hurst shifter
- Lakewood steel bellhousing
- Narrowed T-bird 9-inch, with 3.50 gears
- Auburn differential
- 31-spline axles
- Owner-fabricated headers, 1 5/8-inch primaries 3-inch exhaust
- Flowmaster mufflers
- Front: C4 Corvette, cast aluminum upper and lower control arms, Pro-shock coilovers
- Rear: Mustang 4 1/2-leaf springs, Koni shocks, custom traction bars
- Front: C4 Corvette 12-inch discs drilled for Ford bolt pattern, two-piston calipers
- Rear: C4 Corvette 12-inch discs drilled for Ford bolt pattern, single-piston calipers
- Front: Ford Racing Performance Parts Bullitt-style, 17x8
- Rear: Ford Racing Performance Parts Bullitt-style, 17x8
- Front: Nitto NT450, P255/50R17
- Rear: Nitto NT450, P275/50R17
- Custom interior by owner, APC race seats, Peak five-point belts, Stewart-Warner gauges, onboard fire suppresion, eight-point rollbar by Tim Baker
- Body restoration by owner, fiberglass hood and trunk lid, Atlantic Blue paint by Colors Precision Paint & Body