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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Federal Way

    Saving Granddad's Falcon

    Finally… My own thread. This one a bit more about the story and later the restoration process-not so technical. My cousin just sent me the picture of the green version attached-so that got me going on the story. My falcon has always, and will always be “Granddad’s Falcon.” Apologies in advance if it’s too long or gets a bit mushy, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. This is the first part of the story.

    The Early Days
    “Granddad’s Falcon” is a one family falcon- a 1961 fordor, with the 144 straight six and a three speed shift on the fly transmission with bench seats. Not exactly a hot rod, but it was Montecarlo Red with a Corinthian White top. No air conditioning (we lived in El Paso where it’s normally over 100F all summer), no seat belts, and pretty much no other extras except an AM radio. It was built June 23, 1961 and there were 159,761 units produced of this model that year. Base price was $1976. It was purchased new from Kemp Ford in El Paso, Texas by my Grandfather. My Grandfather was a West Pointer, and retired as a Colonel from the U.S. Army in El Paso, Texas after 30 years of service. Even though he was retired, everywhere we went, everyone just called him “Colonel.” I called him “Granddad.” He always had a late model T-Bird, and a couple years before I was born, he bought our falcon because he wanted an economy car to drive to work (after the military) so the T-Bird could stay in the garage and go to the grocery store & out to dinner every now and then.

    My Introduction to the Falcon
    I really started to get to know the falcon when I was about 9. The falcon was about 11 years old by then and an “old car” for our family. Every Saturday all summer, Granddad would pick me up at my parents house in the falcon and take me down to his house to mow the lawn and work around the house. I had already been mowing my parents yard and making some nice cash $$$. To me, my Grandfathers yard was big- much bigger than my parents yard. I was a business man, so I was ready for a tough negotiation. I got up my courage and suggested $4 was appropriate for such a big yard. My Grandfather said he would give me $5, but I’d have to really work hard to earn the whole $5. I was on top of the world (and very proud of my negotiation skills!) I could go on with story after story, but as you can probably guess, I had some really great grandparents. I ended up working at my grandparents Saturdays half the year well into high school- mostly on the yard, but on other stuff too. He taught me a lot and I ended up being their “favorite” grandson. (I learned later that my brother and all my cousins also thought they were the favorite, but I really was!) He taught me how to change the oil on the falcon and he and my dad explained how (unlike the T-Bird) it was one of the last simple cars you could still work on yourself. I remember I loved the simplicity of the falcon- especially the engine compartment- painted the same color as the body as if the whole car was just dipped in paint- that’s about as simple as it gets. We’d always take the falcon to the hardware store, or if we were going anywhere without my Grandmother- we ALWAYS took the falcon. It was our go-to car, our utility car- it was a working car.

    The Lube business Years-Our falcon was a workhorse.
    In 1976, my Dad and his brother started a quick lube business before quick lubes were everywhere. They were able to start it with $500 each, (a bank loan,) and…Granddad’s falcon. My Granddad gave the falcon to my Dad and it became their first hard asset in the business. I remember being a bit worried about the abuse the falcon would take being driven full time, but true to it’s purpose, it was a workhorse, so it made sense. They painted it green, and put the logo on the door. It was used as a delivery vehicle for a few years too- they even removed the back seat so they could easily load it with boxes of oil and air filters- and they also used it for marketing. The pictures attached are from a time when they were promoting the oil change business- before people knew anything about quick oil change businesses. That’s my Dad standing next to the falcon. My Dad also had a place in his heart for the falcon. Later the falcon was painted in a yellow theme, and used in TV ads- the point being- take care of your car and it will run forever and take care of you. Of course, eventually the business grew and the falcon retired- usually only to be used in promotions.

    My High School Years
    I worked for the lube business the summer between my Junior and Senior Year of High School. There were several locations by then. My Dad told me that since I was going to college, I needed to learn what it was like to “make a buck.” I was put to work as a “pit man.” I knew as the bosses son, I would have to work extra hard to win the others respect. I did. My Grandfather and my father already taught me a lot about hard work. The first week in the pit, I came home covered in oil from head to toe and had a few minor burns here and there from the 100F temperatures the cars were driving in before they came in. I loved it. I remember several times that summer we set a new record for cars done in one day. Hard work was the first step to earning respect. The next step was not so much about work-it was after the work was done- I knew I was going to have to go up against some of the local champions for the oily rag popping competitions. This was serious. You take one of those red shop rags- get it nice and oily with a really thin zep oil, twist the rag up a bit and stretch it out nicely, then snap-it…and pop! The game is: you get on one side of the pit, and the other guy gets on the other side. You put your leg on the “curb” that is the edge of the pit. The objective is to “pop” the other guys leg in a painful enough way enough times to get him to remove his leg from the curb before you had to remove yours. Some guys would come in proud and show off their dark welts from the games the day before. I remember only one guy I never beat at least once- the location manager- he was an absolute master at this game. A small guy, but terribly fast on the snap. It was probably good that I didn’t beat him. There was one more right of passage I went through. The drinking age was 18 back in those days, so that meant there was lots of alcohol at parties. I wasn’t that much of a partier, but one Friday night it really got me. The next morning I was sure I had the hangover to end all hangovers. I had to be at work at 7:30am on Saturday morning- our busiest day of the week. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I worked in the pit that day with large plastic trash cans around. It turned out I took a step forward that day- my buddies at work coached me through it, fed me their hangover cure-menudo (Mexican soup made from pig stomach), along with lots of water, and I transitioned from the bosses son to part of the brotherhood. Word spread. I worked often seven days a week as the fill in Pit Man at every location in El Paso that summer. I learned a lot that summer, about cars, about people, and I learned success in the business is all about the process- and the team that runs it. Today, in business with degrees and certificates and 30+ years of experience later and it’s still all about the process- and team that runs it. (Although a little cash doesn’t hurt either.) Anyway, every now and then that summer one of the supervisors would drive by with Granddad’s falcon.

    The Falcon’s Retirement
    Ultimately, my Dad and his brother sold the business to one of my cousin’s- but my Dad kept the falcon and took it up to Colorado with him to really retire full time. Every now and then he’d drive it, and every now and then he’d fix something on it. He kept it running, but by now the falcon was pretty well worn. By this time, I had a family with three boys. We visited the falcon at least once a year, and it was always great to see my parents too. (Just kidding! I always said hello to my parents before going out to see the falcon.)

    Back to El Paso
    Meanwhile- the quick lube business was sold again to…to yet another cousin and her husband, whose family still successfully runs the business today and they have quite few locations across Texas and New Mexico. My family (me, my wife and three boys) had moved to Washington to follow my career but we still always visited Colorado and the falcon at least for the holidays. I always wondered what was going to happen to the falcon. Eventually, my Dad’s health took a step for the worse and my parents decided to sell their place in Colorado and move to a retirement community in San Antonio where there would be less to take care of every day. My Dad put the email out…”Don, you’ve got first dibs on the falcon- it’s yours if you want it.” It was a difficult decision, but timing wasn’t good. One of my boys was in college and two were on the way, not to mention I had a fresh pay cut from the recent economic downturn, and worst of all- I also had a BOAT. (Break Out Another Thousand.) Practicality got the best of me so I asked my Dad to see if anyone else wanted to take it. So, my Dad expanded the emails- and luckily, my cousins family at the lube business was willing to take it back to El Paso and I had visions of them restoring the paint job-first class this time, and using it in parades and promotions again. Perfect! I thought… more people will enjoy it, and I can enjoy it when I’m in El Paso every year for the holidays and it won’t cost me any money.

    To be continued in the next post...Home for the holidays....notice that sign in the back window???
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by dhbfaster; April 9th, 2015 at 10:34 PM.
    Don Bartlett
    Federal Way, WA
    61 Four Door Sedan
    144-6, 3 on the tree


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