Mallya recalls that the wealthy owners of the local paper mill drove a flashy, light green 1959 Chevrolet Impala.
“I used to see the few American cars, which all had character, beautiful bodylines and vibrant paints,” he says. “I always wanted an American classic car.”
A few decades passed before Mallya moved to the United States in order to further his education as an electrical engineer. One of the first things he did upon arriving on the east coast of the United States was to purchase a very used 1979 Ford for $300.
“I wanted an Impala,” he says, “but the ones I looked at either needed a lot of work or were too expensive.”
Eventually Mallya settled in California. In the spring of 1996 he saw for sale a restored 1963 Ford Falcon Futura two-door hardtop. “I love the Falcon for its simplicity and beauty,” Mallya says.
He bought the car in April 1996 despite that during the test-drive he inadvertently activated the windshield wipers and couldn’t turn them off. The odometer showed it had been driven 120,000 miles.
“I worked on the engine, cleaned up the old wiring, rebuilt the radio and refinished the trunk,” Mallya says.
In 1963 Ford offered six engines for the Falcon, including a pair of V-8s, a 222-cubic-inch model that developed 145 horsepower and a 260-cubic-inch V-8 that produced 164 horsepower. A total of four six-cylinder engines were also available, a 144.3-cubic-inch version developing 85 horsepower, a 170-cubic-inch engine producing 101 horsepower, a 223-cubic-inch six-cylinder making 138 horsepower, and a 200-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine with horsepower output rated at 116.
Mallya is happy with his 116-hp six-cylinder engine. He has had the single barrel Holley carburetor rebuilt and reports fuel economy of about 26 miles per gallon. “It is very good on gasoline,” he says.
Several salvage yards specializing in Falcons have been located, as well as a number of Falcon parts suppliers. When Mallya first acquired his Falcon the horn was not operational. He found a working horn in a salvage yard in Florida.
Florida salvage yards also supplied Mallya with four old Falcon radios. Parts from those four, plus the original one in the car, were combined by Mallya to produce one working AM radio. Mallya says there must be a ghost in his Falcon. After installing the rebuilt radio in the dashboard he switched it on and the first song to come out of the speaker was a golden oldie popular when the car was new.
Records show that Ford manufactured 28,496 Falcons like the one Mallya now owns. The base price was a little less than a dollar a pound. The 2,438-pound Falcon had a base price of $2,198.
“The hardtop is the way to go,” Mallya says. With all the windows down the unbroken lines please the owner. With the wing vent windows directing the flow of air Mallya says he doesn’t miss air conditioning.
“It’s like a beautiful toy,” Mallya enthuses. The interior of the car is upholstered in light blue vinyl with bucket seats in the front. The carpet is black.
While seated at the three-spoke steering wheel Mallya reports excellent visibility in all directions. However, for an added measure of safety, he has added an outside mirror on the right door to help negotiate through multi-lane traffic.
The Falcon Futura rolls on 14-inch wheels on a 109.5-inch wheelbase, which makes for nimble handling. “It feels like sitting in a cloud,” Mallya says.
Mallya says his Falcon looked fabulous when he first saw it almost 15 years ago and his first impression has not changed. “Cars from the 1960s,” he admits, “they are my passion.” — Vern Parker, Motor Matters