Inside Detroit, the story of how Robert McNamara came up with the idea that became the Ford Falcon has long been a kind of litmus test for executives.
McNamara, a rising executive at Ford in the 1950s as one of the statistical-minded "Whiz Kids," had seen the Edsel program fail in 1957 while buyers switched to smaller vehicles in a recession.
During church, McNamara drew out an idea for a smaller Ford — the company's first compact. He showed the results to another executive — who noted that instead of drawing the shape of the car, McNamara had written down a series of specs like weight and interior space.
As later recounted to David Halberstam, the executive said: "Bob, you’ve got everything down except what kind of car you want.” The car McNamara wanted would eventually become the Ford Falcon, revealed in a ceremony on this date in 1959.
Designed to McNamara's exacting rules for cost savings, the 90-hp Falcon was slow, cheap and popular, selling more than a million copies in two years — and still ranks as the divide between the "car guys" who want passion in their products and the execs who follow in McNamara's footsteps. Here's how Ford sold the Falcon back then, with an assist from "Peanuts:"