“I wanted something different,” Jim Noto told me. With his 800 horsepower street-strip 1963½ Ford Falcon, I think he’s succeeded.
A few years ago, when Jim sold his 9-second Mustang, he told me he thought his hot rodding days were over. “I thought I was done with the whole thing,” he said, “but it just doesn’t go away.”
He had known about the Falcon for about 8 years, from a friend of a friend at the drag strip. The person who owned the Falcon was planning to build it as a Pro Street car. He’d owned the car since the 70s and progress on the build was an on-again / off-again proposition. Eventually the owner decided he neither had the time or the money to finish the project, and put the Ford up for sale.
“I looked at it and gravitated right towards it,” Jim said. “I thought the car was cool and interesting, not something you see every day.” Jim struck a deal and bought it three years ago.
The previous owner had built a square frame chassis, and installed a roll cage. The Falcon also had a narrowed Ford 9” rear end with a four-link, a Mustang II front end, and Centerline wheels. “It had some good bones,” Jim recalled, “but it needed a lot of work. That cage had to go.”
Jim started with the chassis. He had to extend the frame to the back of the car, and cut the existing roll cage out. Jim replaced it with an S&W 10 point mild steel cage. He installed tubular upper and lower control arms and new shock mounts. He got rid of the struts and used coil overs at all four wheels. Many of the suspension components are S&W as well.
The four-link and the 9” rear were retained. Jim had some Strange axles built with 5/8″ studs. The disc brakes at all four wheels use GM calipers. A Speedway brake kit made the conversions much easier. Jim still has the rear Centerline wheels, but the front ones were attached to the Pinto spindles and had to be replaced.
So now Jim had a rolling chassis, but, he said, “there was nothing but the frame, the cage, and the shell of the car.” His next job was to fabricate and fit the floor, firewall, and transmission tunnel. The Falcon had been built with the engine set back about 8” in the chassis. Since Jim knew he’d be taking the car to the drag strip, he wanted to keep that engine location, even though it significantly complicated the sheet metal work. He mocked everything up with cardboard templates, but it still wasn’t an easy task. “It took about three tries to get it the way I wanted it,” Jim told me.
Next on the list was to give the Falcon some horsepower. The previous owner had set up the car for a big block Ford, and Jim thought that was a good way to go. His 557 cubic inch Ford, a 460-based stroker, is installed using a mounting plate instead of separate motor mounts.
The motor is zero balanced with a forged crank and I-beam rods. JE pistons produce a 10.5:1 compression ratio which allows Jim to use pump gas. The MSD ignition has a built-in two step. A Griffin radiator aluminum, with a custom aluminum shroud Jim built for the electric fan, keeps everything at the correct temperature.
A set of AFR 295 aluminum heads and a custom solid roller cam provide fantastic airflow. An AFR single plane intake manifold matches the heads beautifully. Initially, Jim was using a 1050 cfm Holley carb, but the dyno showed more horsepower with an 850 Demon. Jim thinks the smaller venturis created more velocity for the intake mixture.
It’s not too surprising to hear that you can’t buy headers off the shelf for a first generation Falcon with a big block. Jim had to fabricate the entire exhaust system by hand. “I bought a whole bunch of mandrel bends and straight pieces,” he said, “and just chopped and tacked them, then chopped and tacked again. It took about 2 months to get them built.”
He built the headers with 2¼” primaries. The individual primaries feed into a 3” collector with 3” pipes for the dual exhaust. One interesting aspect of the system is that he put it all together with V band clamps, which allow him to unbolt the whole exhaust system without having to mess with any other part of the Falcon. Jim topped it off with Black Widow mufflers. “It’s loud,” he said, “but it’s not unbearable.”
How’s it all work? Quite well, thank you. The Ford big block put out 815 horsepower at 6500 rpm, and 751 ft-lbs of torque at 3500 rpm on the engine dyno.
With the engine sitting so far back, a little creativity was required for the drivetrain. Jim had a Powerglide built for the Falcon. The two-speed features a fully manual valve body. A JW Performance bellhousing made it easy to bolt it up to the Ford motor. He’s got a custom torque converter with a 3500 rpm stall speed – perfect for where the engine is producing torque, and right where Jim expects to be launching when he’s at the track. Jim picks his gears with a TCI Diablo shifter that he’s mounted on bars he added to the roll cage. He loves how the bars positioned the shifter right where he needs it. The Diablo has buttons for Jim’s line lock and the two-step.
There’s a custom driveshaft from Denny’s Driveshaft in Kenmore, New York, between the Powerglide and the 9” rear end. Jim’s impressed with the quality of Denny’s work. He went with 4.11 gears to match up with the 31″ tall Mickey Thompson drag radials he’s running. “I want to run it on the street and the track,” he said. “I figured it would be a little more street friendly.”
Jim hasn’t spent much time on the Falcon’s interior yet. “It’s a little on the sparse side,” he said. He’s got aluminum seats and custom door panels. There’s no carpet or sound deadening yet, but they’ll be coming in the future. The stock dashboard gauge housing has been replaced with a billet aluminum panel holding a GPS speedometer, an Autometer tach and shift light, and an air/fuel ratio gauge. Jim wired the entire car with an American Auto Wire kit. The blinkers and horn work so it’ll pass inspection. The wipers don’t. “They’re just there,” he said, “but I’ll never drive this car in the rain.”
The body and hood of the Falcon are steel. Both bumpers are painted flat silver, which makes them look like fiberglass, but they are steel. You can find fiberglass hoods for these cars, but most of them have a teardrop hood scoop located for an engine in the standard location. That was not going to work for Jim’s set back big block. To get the necessary hood clearance, and to help vent some of the underhood heat, Jim installed a 4” cowl. The welded the cowl onto the hood, cut out the area of the hood under the scoop, and then reinforced the hood underneath.
Jim’s friend Brian did the bodywork and applied the paint to the Falcon in Jim’s garage. Or, as Jim put it, “Brian did most of the work while I struggled alongside him.”
In fact, his garage is where almost all of the work for the Falcon has been completed. Jim’s a hard-core garage-built hot rodder who would like to see a separate class at shows for home built hot rods.
To date, the Falcon has only been on some short drives on the road. But they were enough for Jim to report “It’s an animal. When you nudge the throttle, you understand that it’s not for the faint hearted.” He expects to start attending some shows and cruises this month.
And Jim’s putting the finishing touches on what the Ford needs to get NHRA and IHRA certification. He hasn’t had it at the track yet, but he expects it to run 9 second E.T.s in the quarter-mile at over 150 mph. Running at that speed, both sanctioning bodies will require the Falcon to have a parachute. Jim’s already installed one, along with the wheelie bars he’s quite sure the car will need. And he plans to keep both the ‘chute and the wheelie bars on the car when he’s driving it on the street. You know… just in case.
Jim says he’s been a Ford guy forever. He’d still like to get his hands on a 1966 Fairlane. But first and foremost, he’s a car guy. “If it’s fast or unique, I think it’s cool,” he said.
His Falcon is fast. It’s unique. And it’s very, very cool.
Photos courtesy of Jim Noto
Click here to see more photos of Jim’s Falcon
You can follow Jim’s build on Instagram via @jn393