Car of the Week: 1963 1/2 Ford Falcon Sprint

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By Brian Earnest

Ford Motor Company built only 4,602 of its fun, frisky little Falcon Sprint convertibles for the 1963 model year. The Falcon Sprints flew in late that year as a mid-year arrival, and you might have had a hard time finding one at a dealer even if you were looking for one.

John Rossi was one of the guys who got on the Sprint bandwagon very early. He was only in high school at the time and too young, and too poor, to buy one for himself, but that just made the new Sprints even more appealing.

“My cousin bought one brand new when I was 16, and just thought it was the coolest thing,” recalled the Westchester, Pa., resident. “A few years later I finally bought a used one … I think I had it from 1970 to about ’77, but I wound up selling it eventually. You know, the family came along and I needed another car. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I didn’t realize it was anything special.

“I was actually going to take it to a junkyard, but a guy at work who was into classic cars said, ‘No, you don’t want to do that. Put it in the paper. You’ll get more for it. Someone will want this car.’ And he was right, but I didn’t get a lot for it.”

Once Rossi did a little homework and learned a little more about the Sprints, the short-lived and probably sportiest members of the Falcon family tree, the more determined he was to have one as a hobby car one day.

1963-Sprint-front-quarter

About five years ago, Rossi started getting serious about tracking down another Sprint, preferably a 1963 model like the one he had originally. He soon found one just like his original car — in fact, it might have been his old Sprint — but he was too late to make the deal. “My original car was baby blue with a white top, and I found one just like it. I called on it, but it had already been sold. I’m not sure, but that may have been my old car. That was in, like, 2007.”

Rossi’s luck changed drastically for the better, however, in 2010 when he found an amazing 30,000-mile all-original car — red with a white top and near-perfect red vinyl upholstery — that hadn’t really been driven since 1969. It might be the most original 1963 Sprint left on the planet, and he had to have it.

“I came across this one in Pinehurst, N.C. The guy had bought it from the original owner,” he said. “I flew down there and bought it on the spot. The guy who owned it originally also owned a Ford dealership. He had it from ’63 to ’69, and the guy drove it in his wedding in 1969 and that was the last time the car was driven… It was so original that Ford actually used it in 2003 for their centennial celebration. I got a letter from Ford thanking him for the car and all that.”

Clearly, both previous owners pampered the convertible Ford, and neither wanted to put any miles on it, but Rossi isn’t sure why. For some reason, both men kept the Sprint in the garage.

1963-Sprint-interior1

“The original owner put 27-28,000 miles on it, and he was getting up in years and probably decided it was time to sell it,” he said. “After he got it out of storage and let Ford use it in 2003, he had it on display at his Ford dealership in a little town in Indiana. He had it right there in his showroom.

“Then the [second] guy kept it for a couple of years and he decided to sell it… I never thought I was gonna find one that was a survivor like this. People see this car and think I’ve had it restored. I wasn’t looking for a basket case. I didn’t want to have to totally restore one. I figured I might find one like the other one I missed on that was like mine — a car that had been restored. Never in a million years did I think I’d find one that had been in storage for 35 years!”

Ford added to an already good thing when it decided to pack some muscle into the Falcon in 1963. The Falcon had debuted as the company’s first compact car in 1960 and was an immediate winner in showrooms. Lee Iacocca was plotting the company’s direction at the time, however, and he had more in mind than thrifty compacts. He wanted more horsepower, performance and fun available at every price point in the Ford lineup. A racier hardtop Falcon body style was added in January of 1963, and for the first time V-8 power was available in the Falcon lineup.

The 260-cid, two-barrel V-8 made 164 hp and had plenty of torque — the perfect engine to drop in the Falcon’s sportier new body. That pairing became the basis of the Sprint package, which also offered bucket seats upholstered in vinyl, a dashboard-mounted tachometer, sport steering wheel, chrome valve covers and air cleaners, knock-off wire wheels covers and shiny rocker panel trim. “Sprint” and V-8 emblems are found on the front fenders.

To accommodate the V-8 power, the suspension and body were stiffened, 10-inch drum brakes were swapped in on all four wheels, and five-lug rims replaced the four-lug wheels used on the six-cylinder models.

A fully synchronized three-speed manual was the standard transmission offered, but automatic was available, as was a Borg-Warner, floor-shifted four-speed.

1963-Sprint-backseat

A non-synchronized four-speed apparently also made it into some Sprints, as Rossi found out after he got his car home. “It took it in to a guy because I needed to have a rear axle seal replaced,” he said. “Well, these cars are supposed to have a four-speed transmission all synchronized, but this was not. First gear is not synchronized. The guy said, ‘This car has the Drag Pack. I never even knew Ford had anything like that for these cars.’ He had never seen one before on a car like that, and it’s a Borg-Warner T-10, not the top-loader.”

A total of 10,479 Sprint hardtops were built for the 1963 model year, more than double the number of ragtops. Those totals jumped to 13,830 hardtops and 4,278 convertibles in 1964 before demand started to fade in 1965. Only about 2,800 hardtops and 300 convertibles were built for ’65. The drop in popularity for the Sprint, not coincidentally, came with the onset of Mustang fever. With the arrival of the iconic 1964 ½ pony car, the Sprint was quickly relegated to a small supporting role. Ford saw the handwriting on the wall and dumped the Sprint after ’65. The rest of the Falcon lineup made it five more years before finally being retired in 1970.

So far, Rossi has had to do only a few minor things to his Sprint to keep it looking and running like a brand new car. He installed an original factory accessory clock “that I found brand new still in the box,” and he’s not ruling out adding a few more factory-correct goodies. Mostly, though, he’s planning to keep the car looking as good as he can and do some occasional cruising with it. The car is just as much fun as he remembered from his days with his first Sprint back in the 1970s.

1963-Sprint-engine-use

“I haven’t had a lot of time to drive it the last two years,” Rossi said. “I’ve probably only put maybe 150 miles on it. This summer that’s one of the things I want to do, take it to more shows and cruise nights and drive it more. I do drive it, but not a lot… and I want to be careful with it. The guy I bought it from said it’s never been driven in the rain, and I believe him.

“It’s like a lot of those other early 1960s cars. It’s great in a straight line, but it’s not something you really want to take out on a road course or anything. It’s got manual steering, for one thing, and from that standpoint you’ve gotta recognize it’s not a sports car, but it’s got a tremendous amount of acceleration because it’s a small car, and with the Drag Pack it’s got a fairly high gear line … And another thing I like about it, it’s got a real throaty sound that I remember when my cousin bought his car. That’s the first thing that impressed me about it was that sound.”

When he does take it out on the road, a few people figure out how unique and rare the car is. Others aren’t quite so sure. “A lot of people think it’s a Futura. Some people, car guys, they know it,” he said. “One guy pulled up next to me at a stoplight and said, ‘That’s got a 260, right?’ Some guys know. But for a ’63, it’s a pretty obscure car.”

Rossi jokes that since the day he sold his first one he has still never seen another Falcon Sprint on the road. He’s not expecting to meet too many others anytime soon, and he’s not going to risk a second bout of seller’s remorse, either.

“I absolutely have no plans to sell this one. No way,” he says. “To find one in this kind of condition is just amazing.”

1963-Sprint-front

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12 Responses to Car of the Week: 1963 1/2 Ford Falcon Sprint

  1. edrogers says:

    beautiful car, looks like it is just out of the showroom.

  2. Mike Berry says:

    So, obviously this Sprint has undergone a repaint and color change. It is a fine looking machine; a fellow Falconphile has one in the same color scheme.

  3. Doug Gray says:

    I owned a white 1963 1/2 Falcon Sprint convertible while in college. It was white with a red interior, white top, and a 4-speed synchronized tranny. I sold it in 1968 because my new bride could not drive a stick, didn’t want to learn, and I was soon to go to Nam. Before she died a couple of years ago, my mom said, “You should have kept the car and got rid of the wife then.” (ex-wife for the past 25 years.) Where was that wisdom 45 years ago?

  4. Norm Schwartz says:

    My friend had a 1963 1/2 & I fell in love with the exhaust sound, 4-speed and chromed engine components. Sight unseen, I ordered a 1964 in summer of ’63′ from a WNY Ford dealership. In those days the new models were in showroom with windows blinded until opening night. I picked up my Sprint( Black, 2 dr/HTP, 4-speed with red interior) on opening night.. My options were side-mirror and seatbelts. Leaving dealership, I backed down in 2nd gear to hear the rap of the stock glass-pac. I was stopped by the Amherst, NY police for an open exhaust. I produced the manual listing the stock glass pac muffler and was released with a warning. I kept the car until 1971 and sold it to a Ford collecter ( Southern IN) for $300. The Sprint looked great and was always fun to drive. Would love to have it back & just recently purchased a 1/18 scale model.

  5. Dee Reilly says:

    I concour with Mr. Berry.He does not indicate when or why he decided to repaint unless the finish had faded or he preferred a different color.And if it was in such {showroom},condition,why would he repaint it at all?But nontheless,it is certainly unique.

  6. Paul Clandorf says:

    I believe there was an error in the information regarding the original color of the car.

  7. Ron Davis says:

    that is a funny looking white car with a black top !!!

  8. Ken Smith says:

    Tried to buy a similar hardtop in ’63 – Black with Black interior. Couldn’t come to terms with the dealer – he didn’t want to take my ’55 T-Bird in trade !!!

  9. mike fagan says:

    Back in 1970, I had one similar to the sprint at Ft Hood (Tx) however this was a 6 cylinder with the 4 speed, red on red, like the one shown. Really an enjoyable car and a lot of fun to drive, great on that 29 cent a gallon gas, too. Sure would like to get another one.

  10. Bonnie Cotton says:

    Loved the article-Thanks for sharing.Seldom does one find much info on this car. I have an A/O 63-1/2 Falcon Futura hard top with the V8, bench seat and 3 on the tree…Same colors, pretty much the same condition. Hubby gave it to me for my birthday a couple/three years ago, and we have the history on it. I’m the third owner and he bought it from a close friend that had gotten it from the original owner. It had been a garaged car too. We took it on a fun run to Glacier Park a couple of years ago with our small car club here in NE Montana. It drives like a dream…lotsa power, and with the duals hubby put on it…what a wonderful sound it makes. I know it’s not a Sprint, but a very close cousin, so I just had to put my two cents in. It certainly gets plenty of attention from those that recognize what it is.

  11. jarossi says:

    Note: the car is all original and has NEVER been repainted. the original article was incorrect when it stated that the car was white.

  12. gcoughlin says:

    This brings back many good memories. I had this identical car (same color) in high school (with the exception of the seat belts) while growing up in Western Kansas, but in a hard top version. I believe it retailed for around $2400. Mine never lost a race to a Chevy, and would burn rubber in all 4 gears.. Unfortunately, the oil pump was not operating properly and some years later all the main bearings went out. I believe that this car was introduced by Ford in late 1963 to test the market for the 1964 Mustang. This summer I saw several restored Sprints at the national Falcon convention in Overland Park, Kansas. The 63′
    Sprint was truly a classic car that was ahead of its time.

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