The lonely black '63 Falcon sits on the starting grid at the SCCA 12-Hour Trans-American race at Marlboro Park Speedway in Marlboro, Maryland. Behind the wheel is independent racer Jim Taylor. He is an experienced rally driver and has decided to run his little Falcon against the big boys in a grueling race in which almost half the field of two-driver cars will not finish. Even more unlikely is the fact that there is no truck or trailer sitting in Jim's pit spot. Jim drove the Falcon halfway across the country from his hometown of Oklahoma City, hauling his spare parts and tools in the trunk.
This was nothing new for Jim or his iron maiden. By this time, they'd already competed in the 9th Annual 24-Hour Road Race/Rally sanctioned by the FIA de Mexico, where Jim piloted the first American car ever to complete the race. At Marlboro, Jim and codriver John Walker would finish 15th out of 36 cars, well behind winners Bob Tullius and Tony Adamowicz driving the Group 44 '66 Dodge Dart. Later, the Falcon would take on the Trans-Am pros at Green Valley Raceway in Texas, where it again finished 15th out of 34 cars behind John McComb's Mustang. While the finishing order may have been less than spectacular, the fact that the Falcon never failed to finish a race is the stuff of legend.
After the '66 season, Jim retired the Falcon and the black bandit was eventually passed over in favor of more relevant projects. It sat disused until 1990 when Jim sold the car to vintage racer Mike Durham for $10. Mike's plan was to race a '64 because the SCCA's homologated weight rule for a '64 was a shocking 580 pounds less than for a '63 at 2,160 pounds. The Falcon endured several more misguided owners until Alan Repashy acquired the car. After attending the Coronado Speed Festival at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, Alan met and eventually sold the Falcon to Michael Eisenberg, who owns Maeco Motorsport, a shop in Northridge, California. You may remember Maeco from This Guy's Garage in the May '05 issue, where many vintage Trans-Am racers go to be revived.
Michael immediately began a period-accurate race restoration in 2006 that started with a little sheetmetal work to bring the car around to its current condition. This involved more than just a cursory paint job, since the effort is certainly much more pleasing than what you would expect from a road-race-abused machine. It's also tough to shove 15x8-inch wheels and tires under a little Falcon, which is why if you look closely, there's a little subtle flaring action that's occurred on all four corners. The beauty is that it doesn't detract at all from the Falcon's image.
Michael races the Falcon in the Historic Trans-Am (HTA) series that will run at five events this year from Sebring to the final event in San Diego at the Coronado Speed Festival. Within this event, the little Falcon has to run against some pretty big dogs. The rules for the HTA require that each car must have actually participated in a Trans-Am race between 1966 and 1972 and that each car must be outfitted with the proper engine and drivetrain that replicates what it ran during its original outings. This means that even though the Trans-Am rules allowed up to 305 ci (5 liters), the Falcon ran during pre-302 days in 1966 with a much smaller 289 with heads that were far less sophisticated than what the later cars ran.
But don't think that Michael just bolted together some wimpy 289. Back in the early days of Ford's Le Mans push with the GT40s, Blue Oval engineers created a race-special block and cylinder head package that was identified with sacred casting numbers. With bigger valves and larger chambers, these heads were tip-of-the-race-spear stuff literally only two years after Ford introduced the small-block V-8 at 221 ci. The Falcon's current 289 also sports a factory Ford nonproduction twin four-barrel intake manifold that was used on many of the Holman Moody-built rally cars and Shelby Trans-Am cars.