The Rally Falcons
Part 1 ©
by Al Aiello
This is the first of several articles that I will write regarding the Rally Falcons. I have researched the story of these vehicles because of their significance, and how well the Falcons performed at these unique endurance events. Sources for this story are magazines and publications including Car and Driver, Sports Illustrated, Automobile Quarterly, and other magazines from the 1963-1964 era.
The Monte Carlo Rally was the most famous and significant competition event for the Ford Falcon. The Ford Motor Company entered a fully sponsored and supported team of Falcons in the 1963 and 1964 Monte Carlo Rally events. Although Falcons were entered in other similar events such as the Shell 4000, Midnite Sun, and Alpine Rallies, most of this story is devoted to the Falcons entered in the world famous Monte Carlo Rally.
Rally events were popular in the 1960s, and the most significant car rally in the world at that time was the Monte Carlo. This event, unlike the docile-calculator type car rallies held in the United States, were grueling endurance tests for the participants–both men (and women) and machines.
What was the motivation for Ford to enter the Falcon into the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally? Well, er, what unique Falcon model was introduced in 1963? You’re correct if you answered the Falcon “Sprint”. The new V-8 powered 1963.5 Sprint was introduced to the motoring public at the Monte Carlo Rally held in January, 1963.
The entry of a Falcon into this rally event was quite a departure from the past image of the Falcon developed by Robert McNamara. The Falcon was previously considered as solely an economical means of transportation with a wide choice of utilitarian models to suit most needs. Now, Ford was introducing an optional V-8 engine for the Falcon, and the Monte Carlo Falcons and the Sprints were born.
For a few short years (1963-1964) the Ford Falcon was in its Rally glory, but largely forgotten after the introduction of the Ford Mustang. In 1963, Ford knew that the Mustang would soon be introduced, and the Falcon Sprint with a V-8 engine and four-speed transmission was introduced to accommodate the emerging youth market without the cost of a completely new development plan. The Monte Carlo event was great advertising for the new Sprint model and bolstered overall Falcon sales.
I’m not certain how much Mr. Iacocca influenced the decision to enter Falcons into the Monte Carlo Rally, but he fully supported the venture and saw it as a great advertising tool. George Merwin was selected as Ford’s Competition Manager for the Rally Falcons and his orders were as follows:
“George Merwin will put together a team to participate in the Monte Carlo Rally with the objective of competing well enough to be able to produce favorable publicity, promotion, and advertising to inject some excitement into the somewhat stodgy image the public has of the present Falcon.”
Mr. Merwin had quite a task ahead of him. He was putting a team together that would compete in a Rally event different from the more sedate forms in this country, and most of the top rally drivers were already under contract. He only had a few months to put a team together that had to make a credible showing. Also, let’s not forget that Ford was entering a vehicle that had never been tested in a grueling European-type rally event.
When Merwin first met with officials in Monaco to discuss the participation of the Falcon in the Monte Carlo Rally event, they were excited to learn the Falcon would participate in the event. Privately, they probably thought that a big American car (even the Falcon was considered large) would not have much of a chance on the narrow and winding roads that dominated most of the event.
Before progressing with this story, some of you may need to be enlightened on the competitive and scoring aspects of the Monte Carlo event to appreciate the rigors that the Ford rally team faced. The entrants selected separate starting points across Europe and began a nonstop 2,500 mile drive in mid-winter.
The drivers and co-drivers (navigators) spent four days and three nights on the road battling fatigue and the challenges of the dangerous roads. A team was penalized 30 points every time it was late to a control center. In addition to the regular time stations, there were several all-out speed sections where the quicker your time, the lower your overall score.
These special sections were full-bore speed runs that tested the abilities of drivers and their machines. The objective to win was to score the fewest overall points. A European Rally would be rigorous in the summer time, but the Monte Carlo Rally was held in mid-January and the roads were full of ice, snow, and danger.
The Ford Motor Company did not scrimp on the budget for the Monte Carlo campaign. As noted earlier, George Merwin was selected as the Competition Manager, and Jeff Uren was selected as the Team manager due to his experience with British Rally teams. Three specially equipped Falcons needed to be prepared for the 1963 Monte Carlo event.
Jeff Uren was previously the Competition Manager for Ford of England. He was highly organized and assisted Merwin with the selection of available drivers. One of their most important duties was to immediately select three Rally teams. Each team would be composed of a Driver and a Navigator. Two teams would be composed of men, and the other team would be a composed of women.
One driver that was high on the list was Bosse Ljungfeldt–also known a Bo. Bo was a large man with an easy smile and he loved competition. At that time he was under contract with Ford of England to drive a Cortina in the Swedish Midnite Rally.
A quick phone call to Ford of Sweden made it possible for Bo to join the rally team. Gunnar Haggbom, also a Swede with considerable rally experience, was selected to navigate for Bosse. Gunnar was highly prized because he had been the navigator in the winning Saab at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1962.
For the second rally team, Peter Jobb from Great Britain was selected along with American Trent Jarman. Peter had a background in amateur motor racing and rallying. Trant was a sales manager for Car and Driver Magazine and had competed in several Canadian rallies which were similar to European rallies.
For the third team, Anne Hall from Great Britain was selected. She was one of the best rally drivers in Europe and had recently won the top women’s prize in the Alpine Rally. Her navigator was a Scottish woman named Margaret McKensie.
With all the teams now selected, support drivers and mechanics were needed. George met with the public affairs director for Ford of England. He recommended that George meet with Bob Scrunton who was the managing Director of Lincoln Cars Ltd. in England. This was a good choice because Lincoln Ltd. was a Ford subsidiary that imported all Ford products built outside of England. Their mechanics were familiar with American iron and a deal was struck for space and mechanics.
With drivers and support in place, George and Jeff headed to the United States to meet with John Holman who was President of Holman and Moody. Mr. Holman was informed about what was needed to have a Falcon finish the rally, and hopefully make it a contender for a top prize.
(end of part 1…more later…)