Driving A 400-Horsepower Ford Falcon Down British B-Roads Is An Afternoon Well Spent
Photography by Will Broadhead
Fuel pump on. Ignition on. Push the starter while giving a little throttle input just as the engine catches. Then revel in the symphony. It’s a cacophonous one, here in the spartan landscape of a race-prepped cockpit, the firing order of the V8 reverberating around the space as if you were trapped inside a drum, and at the time of shooting this car was wearing its decibel-dampening exhaust pipes. Crumbs…
The car I’m talking about is a 1964 Ford Falcon modified in full-on race regalia, owned and campaigned in historic events by Josh Sadler. Thankfully it’s also road legal, and Josh had taken leave of his senses and offered me the chance to pedal it down the road—more on that later though.
Some of you may be familiar with Josh as the former owner and founder of UK Porsche specialists Autofarm. We paid him and his Porsche Carrera 2.7RS a visit last year, but clearly 911’s aren’t his only automotive love. Despite still owning a few examples of rear-engined German cars, Josh also has a thing for Allards, and he is smitten with this beautiful blue Falcon too.
The Falcon was Ford’s 1960 answer to the more compact cars that American car buyers were hankering for in the decade. The Falcon was designed to not only compete with the other big American manufacturer offerings, but also with the sales threat from early European and Japanese imports.
Josh’s example is one of the second-generation models, and a Sprint, meaning that in period it came with a V8 instead the straight-six that powered the lesser specs. The reality was that the Sprint never really took off at the time, though, as it appeared right around the time when another Ford legend landed: the Mustang. The Mustang wasn’t much more expensive than the Sprint, and one need only to peruse a Ford message board to see which one remained the popular choice.
Josh’s Falcon arrived into the UK at the end of the last century as an unmolested road car, although it wouldn’t come under his ownership until 2013. Before that time, it underwent a bare shell rebuild that brought the car to competition spec, which was completed in 2009, after which the Falcon went into storage as an essentially newly-built machine.
A chance nose around a workshop one day bought the sky blue Falcon to Josh’s attention, a deal was struck, and the Sprint was given a proper life on the circuit in Josh’s very capable hands. Nowadays it is a frequent entrant at Goodwood, as well as at other historic race meetings. Now that I’m sat in the driver’s seat of the thing, as it rocks gently with the motion of the engine, my heart is beating in an altogether different fashion than it was when I was still experiencing the car via emails and photos.
I can only imagine how much fun it must be on a paper racetrack, and thanks to the clogged arteries of the roads nearby, I was only able to sniff at what the car could do when driven with real gusto. As I pull away, the 400bhp, 4.7L Steve Warrior-built motor delivers power to the rear wheels in a more docile manner than you might expect… That perception is obliterated when you give the accelerator your first real poke though. It gets increasingly venomous as your right foot approaches the floor, and it takes off down the road like hot snot.
Despite this being referred to as a compact car, its still quite wide, and being left-hand drive most of my nerves are thanks to the narrow roads and oncoming traffic rather than keeping traction or a more fun source of stress. The Falcon itself is providing me with no reasons to be alarmed though, and is an instant pleasure to drive, filling me with confidence whenever there’s space to use the thing—once you get it on cam, the fun it delivers is almost malicious, a wicked good-to-be-bad feeling emanates from every vibration.
It rewards every stab of the gas with an infectious dose of noise and power, and as I row up through the four-speed ‘box it finds each new gear with an assured solidity that you’d expect from a purpose-built car. Only when downshifting does it prove a little problematic from third to second, but I’m convinced that’s more to do with the hand on the stick, than any stickiness in the system. As well as the fabulous motor, the chassis and suspension feel very much alive, especially over the harsh surface of North Oxfordshire’s backroads. The springs are surprisingly progressive though, and when pushing on through the bends it feels assured and solid, even if the big beast needs muscling around a bit to overcome the latent body roll from its civilian design.
Sadly, as always, time passes quickly in quick cars, and despite an extended run in this Falcon, the moment to relinquish the keys back to Josh arrives too soon. I am left to enjoy a passenger ride back to the garage with a man that really does know how to get the best out of the car—the perfect complement to my seat time.
Back at home base, I take a few moments to enjoy the angles of a machine with a very of-the-era design, from the square edges to the Jetson-style rear light clusters. To drive too, it has the hallmarks of its generation, but in an extremely sweet running package that updates and improves on all the right aspects. It’s my first experience driving a car of this type, and I’m hopeful that it won’t be my last. A little touring car, a little stock car, and a thorough job own the build have added up to a very fun little kit. I’m extremely thankful to Josh for letting me experience it.