One of the cars that caught my eye at this year’s Iola Old Car Show was a light-blue 1960 Ford Starliner, one of those airy, fastback-styled two-door hardtops (i.e., sport coupes) that dazzled the senses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Chrysler Corp. used this thin-pillared, glass-friendly roofline from 1957 through 1961, making it the longest user, with General Motors second, having used it from 1959-’62 (All 1959-61 two-door hardtops, and just one straggler in 1962 — the 1962 Bel Air Sport Coupe).
Ford Motor Co. used this roofline for the shortest period, having a relatively heavy fastback roofline in 1957-’58, dropping it for 1959, and then returning with it in 1960 and 1961. By 1961, the Starliner had to share the stage with another hardtop — the formal-roofed Victoria — and in 1962, the Victoria took over. Racers tried to bolt an aero-friendly, Starliner-like top called the Starlift to some 1962 convertibles, but the idea died when the roof was banned as a non-production item.
The main competition to the 1960-61 Ford Starliner was, of course, the 1960-61 Chevy, of which there are many survivors. But where have all the 1960 and 1961 Ford Starliners gone? In my travels, I have counted (and photographed) only two 1961 Starliners and two 1960 Starliners. Chevrolet did build many more two-door hardtops than Ford these years (more than three times as many in 1960), but using that ratio, I have certainly seen more than six 1960 or 1961 Chevrolet bubble tops.
One person explained that 1960 Fords were “lemons,” but I am not buying that, given Ford’s reputation for strong engines. However, I still can’t answer the question “where they went,” but I can tell you what it takes to bring a long-stored, one-family-owned 1960 Ford Starliner with 32,000 miles back to the road. This Starliner (pictured here) appeared again at the 2010 Iola Old Car Show, and you’ll read about its story in the Aug. 12 “Iola in Review” issue of Old Cars Weekly.