MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 8.4.2021

A 1960 Ford Falcon ad Ford Motor Company Archives 1A 1960 Ford Falcon ad (Ford Motor Company Archives) 

One of the most popular and iconic automotive advertising campaigns of the early 1960s featured the Ford Falcon along with Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts Gang.” This very effective campaign brought a great deal of attention to the various Falcon models over a number of years, particularly from parents and young children.

A 1961 Ford Falcon ad Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 2A 1961 Ford Falcon ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In late 1959, the Ford Motor Company introduced a brand new car called the Falcon. In retrospect, it was a great looking model with a sleek looking design. Some automotive historians have said that the Falcon was Ford’s answer to the recently introduced 1960 Chevrolet Corvair and other smaller cars from foreign competitors.

Color Ford Falcon ad featuring the Peanuts Gang Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 3Color Ford Falcon ad featuring the Peanuts Gang (Ford Motor Company Archives)

To promote the new model, Ford secured advertising licensing rights from cartoonist Charles Schulz. The Ford advertising staff wanted to use the “Peanuts” characters in a variety of print ads and commercials. Schulz agreed to work with Ford on the Falcon campaign. The Peanuts characters had already been enlisted to sell everything from breakfast cereals to snack cakes, from insurance and to photographic film.

Between 1960 and 1965, Ford paid an annual licensing fee for exclusive rights to have the Peanuts gang speak about the new features of the Ford Falcon. The popular new Falcon models were powered by a six-cylinder engine and priced at $1,975.

1962 Ford Falcon ad Ford Motor Company Archives 41962 Ford Falcon ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

1960 was also the year that Ford introduced the Falcon Ranchero pickup priced at $1,865. By 1961 and 1962, the Falcon models were beginning to appeal to more women buyers, who admired their great styling features and economical price.

Peanuts ad for Ford Squire wagon Ford Motor Company Archives 5Peanuts ad for Ford Squire wagon (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The ad with the headline “Falcon 61 has these wonderful birthday presents for you!” had to be changed due to a last-minute design change where the fender ornaments were removed from the model. For 1961, the Falcon’s styling and pricing pretty much stayed the same.

Ford Falcon illustration with the Peanuts Gang Ford Motor Company Archives 6Ford Falcon illustration with the Peanuts Gang (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The 1963 Falcons were introduced in the fall of 1962, and this would be the final year of the body design first used in 1960. In 1963, the Falcon name plate added the Sprint name, which proved to be successful, and the popular Squire wagon which sold for $2,670.

1964 Ford Falcon Squire wagon Ford Motor Company Archives CROPPED 71964 Ford Falcon Squire wagon (Ford Motor Company Archives)

In addition to the print ads, the Peanuts gang were featured in many television commercials for the Ford Falcon. The spots included entertaining and sarcastic exchanges between Charlie Brown and Lucy.

1964 and 1965 were the final years that the Peanuts characters were used to promote the Ford Falcon. During this time, the company had new sports car models that were being introduced to the public like the Mustang, which became hugely successful.

Charles Schulz 8Charles Schulz

In conclusion, Charles M. Schulz introduced the world to the Peanuts characters in 1950 when his comic strip debuted in seven newspapers. Later, the Peanuts characters would make an indelible mark on popular culture, including Ford Motor Company. Schulz died in his sleep on Saturday night, February 12, 2000 at his home in Santa Rosa, California, just hours before his final Sunday strip ran in newspapers worldwide. He was 77 years old.

Bibliography

Dammann, George H. “Illustrated History of Ford 1903-1970.” Crestline Publishing, 1971.

Staff at The Henry Ford. “’The Peanuts Gang’ from Comic Strip to Popular Culture.”

Cronin, Brian. “TV Legends Revealed How Schulz’s Ford Led Indirectly to a ‘Charlie Brown Christmas.’” CBR.com, December 18, 2013.