1960 Ford Starliner: Rust-Bucket Fixed

Motor Matters

Years of attending antique car shows did nothing to assuage the itch that Dennis Connole had to own one of those old cars himself. He had always been fond of the 1960 Ford Starliner, a sleek two-door hardtop model with an airy greenhouse.

But a friend attempted to discourage him by saying that particular model was notorious as a rust bucket. Nevertheless, Connole set out on what he expected to be a mission of long duration searching for a 1960 Ford Starliner. So imagine his surprise when, in his own neighborhood in Worcester, Mass., he saw a 1960 Ford Starliner parked in a yard near the street wearing a “FOR SALE” sign. The floor of the trunk of the rust-prone car was gone, but otherwise all the parts and pieces were there and in remarkably good condition.

“The back windows were known for leaking,” Connole says, which led to the rusted-out floor of the trunk. In less time than it takes to report, the 3,617-pound car changed ownership and Connole drove it home.

“I was lucky,” he says, “because everything except the trunk floor was solid.” That winter he began to take his Ford apart, down to the last nut and bolt. “I spent the winter under the car scraping off the undercoating before I could have it sandblasted,” he says. Connole learned that his Ford, one of 68,461 manufactured, was built in Ford’s Norfolk, Va., factory. When new, it had a base price of $2,610. Then the search began for needed restoration parts.

From Washington State came the red vinyl and red cloth for reupholstering the interior. The padded dashboard was found in California, as was the package shelf beneath the huge rear window. The white headliner and black carpeting were replaced, and new stainless steel spears on the quarter panels near the rear wheels were found and installed. An expansive new tinted windshield replaced the flawed original. All the rubber gaskets and seals were replaced, and Connole was happy to trade the aftermarket chrome wheels that were on the car when he bought it for a set of original-style 14-inch steel wheels. They now support the Ford on its 119-inch wheelbase.

Connole discovered that the 352-cubic-inch V-8 engine had recently been rebuilt and had been driven only 3,000 miles. He left well enough alone as he methodically reassembled his Starliner. The wide dashboard holds the AM radio while the heater is hidden from view underneath. Optional power steering, automatic transmission, and power brakes help ease the operation of the Ford. Connole repainted his Ford Starliner the same Raven Black that it wore when it first left the factory in 1960.

The speedometer is prepared to register speeds up to 120 mph. “I’ve had it doing 90 mph,” Connole reports. The engine develops 300 horsepower. Only a limited number of miles have been accumulated on the spectacular restored car. Connole says a new gasoline tank has been installed on the other side of the new steel floor of the trunk. With the virtually new overhauled V-8 engine fed via four-barrel carburetor drinking from the new tank, Connole “guesstimates” that his Ford delivers about 9 miles per gallon.

Now that all the heavy lifting has been accomplished, Connole and his wife principally enjoy driving the sleek Ford Starliner during the fair weather months at cruise nights and a few select car shows in Massachusetts.

This 1960 Ford Starliner is one of 68,461 manufactured. It was built in Ford’s Norfolk, Va., factory. When new, it had a base price of $2,610.