Although only offered for two short model years, the Starliner name captivates car enthusiasts even today. When it was introduced for the 1960 model year, the radical fastback roof was unlike anything Ford had offered since 1948, and it was attached to one of the most flamboyant designs ever to come from Dearborn. When it returned for 1961, it was perhaps the only recognizable feature from the year before, and it has been perennially identified with the resurgence of Ford performance in the early '60s—both in its absence for 1962, and in the way it led to the creation of the memorable 1963½ semi-fastback Sports Hardtop.
While the name Starliner sounds like a passenger ship for the cosmos, it was a natural extension of Ford styling and marketing themes of the era. Automobiles were the technological marvels of the early 20th century, but they had become thoroughly commonplace by the post-World-War-II era. In such a mature market, it was natural to attempt to associate cars with increasingly more glamorous feats of engineering: first piston-engine airplanes (think of the grille of a 1949 or '50 Ford), then jet aircraft (the afterburner taillamps and faux side scoops of 1952), and after the October 1957 launch of Sputnik I, outer space.
Ford really liked that "-liner" tag in the 1950s. First came the Crestliner, which arrived for 1950. The Crestliner utilized Ford's conventional pillared sedan body, but with a padded roof and extra trim to create a halo model to compete with the Chevrolet Bel Air hardtop. Although the Victoria hardtop became available with the 1951 line, the Crestliner continued in production alongside.
For 1952, Crestline (the "r" dropped) became the top Ford trim level and encompassed not only Victoria hardtops but convertibles, which Ford for the first time dubbed Sunliner, a name that would last almost a decade. For 1954, another 'liner joined the Crestline series: a variation on the hardtop with a transparent panel above the front seats, called the Skyliner.
Ford was a company in transition in this era, and the Crestline series was replaced for 1955, with the new Fairlane series (named for Henry Ford's estate in Dearborn, Fair Lane) slotted at the top. The Sunliner was a part of this series, as was the Skyliner, where it formed the basis for the memorable Crown Victoria Skyliner of 1955 and '56.
Ford Motor Company went public in 1956, with the Ford family allowing outside shareholders for the first time since Henry clawed back control from his initial investors in the 1910s. With new voices to be considered, big changes were afoot and among them were much fancier Fords—cars that came at the expense of the traditional badge hierarchy, especially Mercury. One of the first results was the long-wheelbase 1957 Ford Fairlane 500.
The Fairlane 500 series offered considerable luxury for a Ford-branded car and accordingly received both the Sunliner and Skyliner models. The Skyliner badge no longer denoted a transparent roof panel on a hardtop, however. Now, instead, the car's entire steel roof assembly retracted into the trunk area to provide true open-air motoring and completely weather-tight comfort in the same car.
Although it was produced through 1959, the retractable Skyliner was heavy and expensive. It also mandated a roofline that was out of step with styling trends in the late 1950s. Chrysler had introduced its Forward Look line for 1957 with the tagline "Suddenly it's 1960." General Motors responded first, scrapping the last Harley Earl "longer, lower, wider" designs and coming out with the swoopy 1959 body, which included a fastback-style hardtop that was quickly dubbed the "bubble top."
Although the 1959 Ford is now considered a classic and indeed was even selected for a Gold Medal for Exceptional Styling at the World's Fair in Brussels, Belgium, Ford stylists clearly thought something more in the vein of the Forward Look was warranted. After all, Mopar had gotten to 1960 three years early.
When the full-size Ford debuted for 1960 (alongside the new Falcon compact), the derivative styling was obvious. In many ways it resembled a Fordified 1959 Chevrolet. Even the trademark round taillamps had been discarded in favor of a half-moon design, six to a side, which seemed to echo the 1960 Impala. While objectively good looking to many observers, the traditional Ford buyer was repelled, and sales suffered accordingly.
Ford built 464,336 examples of the 1959 Galaxie (the first year for that nameplate, which was created above the Fairlane 500 and used a Thunderbird-style roofline), but the 1960 numbers fell to 289,268, of which 68,641 were the new Starliner hardtop. Ford may have felt the Victoria name, which had previously graced hardtop bodies, warranted replacement given the nature of the new roofline—and the fact that the older body name dated from the carriage era and was first used by Ford on the Model A.
Those who purchased a 1960 Ford got a car that, aside from the driveline, was entirely new. The 1960 Galaxie was longer (213.7 inches on a 119-inch wheelbase), lower, and wider (81.5 inches) than its 1959 counterpart (208 inches long on a 118-inch wheelbase and 76.6 inches wide). The horizontal fins added to the impression of width, and often the breadth is the most memorable feature to those who remember the cars new. The 1960 Ford was also heavy, with a V-8 powered Starliner tipping the scales at 3,667 pounds, versus 3,439 pounds for a 1959 Galaxie Club Victoria. One place the new Ford body did well was at the racetrack. The extra weight didn't help in the NHRA's fledgling stock classes, but the slippery shape was welcomed by teams at NASCAR's oval tracks. Also welcome was the new 360-hp 352-cu.in. FE-series big-block V-8. The FE had debuted for 1958 under the hoods of Ford and Edsel cars with displacements of 332- and 352-cu.in. (Ford) and 361-cu.in. (Edsel), but because of the 1957 AMA racing ban, its performance potential had never been seriously plumbed. Now that was beginning to change.
More pedestrian Starliners could be had with the sedate and thrifty 145-hp, 223-cu.in. six-cylinder; the base, 185-hp, 292-cu.in. Y-block V-8; or the 352 V-8 with 235 or 300 hp. Transmission choices were all column shifted: a basic Borg- Warner three-speed manual, an overdrive version of the same, or the well-respected Ford three-speed automatic.
For 1961, Ford learned from buyer response and kept what worked (the basic chassis, the driveline, and that sharp Starliner roof), discarded what didn't (the excessive size and GM-like styling), and created a Galaxie that looked entirely new from the beltline down. The full-width grille was totally different, the horizontal fins were replaced by the modest canted type first seen in 1957, and the afterburner taillamps were back. On the posh Galaxie line, ribbed-aluminum stone guards (often termed "washboards" by enthusiasts) showed up behind the rear wheels.
The 1961 Starliner was a more manageable size than its 1960 predecessor. The 119-inch wheelbase remained, but overall length was down to 209.9 inches. The newer car was also lighter, at 3,615 pounds with the base Y-block V-8, now down-rated to 175 hp. The Mileage Maker six was also down in power, to 135 hp. The big news, however, was with the FE-series engines. The 352 was now relegated to two-barrel induction, with 220 hp. The basic block had been bored and stroked to displace 390-cu.in. for the hotter engines. More practical lead foots could order the hydraulic-lifter 300-hp Thunderbird V-8, and those willing to periodically adjust mechanical lifters could have the 375-hp Thunderbird Special. A dealer-installed manifold with triple two-barrel carburetors boosted the rating of the 375-hp engine to 401 hp, and proved a credible threat on both the drag strip and the NASCAR tracks.
Sales rebounded for 1961, with a total of 349,665 Galaxies produced, though only 29,669 of those were Starliners, making them rarer than the 1960 edition. Ford evidently blamed its styling, giving the Galaxie line a slab-sided makeover for 1962, which included eliminating the Starliner hardtop to focus solely on the Thunderbird-type formal roof, which had been reintroduced for 1961. Even the Club Victoria name had been revived.
The losers were those on the NASCAR ovals, where the "box top" roofline proved far less aerodynamic and placed the Ford hardtops at a disadvantage, despite a new 405-hp, 406-cu.in. version of the FE V-8. Ford revived the Starliner roof in an attempt to skirt the rules—instead of being permanently attached to a hardtop car, the roof was called the Starlift and intended as a removable hardtop for Sunliner convertibles. NASCAR disallowed it after just one race, and it appears none were ever sold to the public.
Finally, partway through the 1963 model year, Ford found its solution. The 1963½ Sports Hardtop revived the aerodynamic properties of the Starliner, though not its actual shape or the name. The 1965 Mustang fastback roof was closer and if you look at present-production Mustangs, it's clear that the Ford Starliner, while around only briefly, had a lasting effect on Ford styling.
There's more to the Starliner story than just racing glory, however. The styling of the 1960 and '61 Fords, before the Cuban Missile Crisis and President Kennedy's assassination, was the last hurrah of forward-looking '50s optimism in auto design. Those who own them recognize the Starliner as the pinnacle of those trends and cherish them appropriately. Whether you think of them as ground-bound starships or just time machines to the early '60s, there's just something wonderful about a Starliner.
Article courtesy of Hemmings, written by David Conwill.
The original Ford Mustang Mach 1 was a sensation from the time it hit the streets in the 1969 model year.
After a 13-year vacation, Ford has revived the Mach 1 name for a high-performance version of the Mustang that’s due to appear in the showrooms in the spring of 2021. So naturally, we figured it would be fun to roll the clock back to 1969 when the original Mach 1 appeared. Available only in the fastback Sportsroof body style, the ’69 Mach 1 featured special paint, trim, and equipment, as well as a full list of powertrain possibilities, from a 351 Cleveland two-barrel V8 with 250 hp to the fearsome 428 Cobra Jet V8,
The 428 Cobra Jet, which initially appeared in the Mustang midway through the ’68 model year, was a game changer for the Dearborn carmaker. For all its success in global motorsports in the ’60s, from Indy to Daytona to LeMans, Ford didn’t really have a championship contender down at muscle-car street level. Assembled from existing pieces in the Ford performance parts bins and rated at a demure 335 hp, the Cobra Jet was a solid 13-second performer at the local drag strips, bowing to no one.
In fact, some will say that from many angles, the CJ Mustang was a better everyday street performer than the exotic and expensive Boss 429. Meanwhile, the Mach 1’s attractive appearance and performance package, coupled to an aggressive marketing campaign, made it a fast mover in the Ford showrooms, too. You can catch the excitement in this original 1969 commercial below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
When the final 1954 Packard rolled off the line, it marked the end of the straight-eight epoch in the Motor City.
Packard didn’t invent the straight-eight engine, of course. The cylinder layout is obvious, natural, and nearly as old as the automobile itself. But it was a signature Packard feature for decades, starting with the 1924 Single Eight and its innovative two-plane crankshaft design. (Read about the Single Eight here.) While the automaker on East Grand Boulevard also offered a fine inline six and a mighty V12 Twin Six, among others, the inline eight was Packard’s most popular engine through most of the company’s history.
Through these years, most of the Motor City’s automakers, from Buick to Hudson, also offered straight eights in their premium car lines. (Cadillac and Ford were two rare exceptions with their V8s.) But by 1954, only two straight eights remained in the American car market: Packard and Pontiac. And for 1955, they were gone, replaced by the ubiquitous overhead-valve V8.
This 1938 120C, above, is a typical example of Packard straight-eight engineering. Featuring a conventional cam-in-block, L-head layout like all Packard eights, the 120C displaced 282 cubic inches (3.25-in. bore x 4.25-in stroke) and developed 120 horsepower at 3800 rpm. Advantages of the inline eight include straightforward design, a narrow footprint, and good natural balance, due in part to the eight firing impulses per operating cycle, four with each rotation of the crankshaft. Packard’s inline eights were renowned for their quietness, smoothness, and long operating life. It’s been said that the old chauffeur’s trick of balancing a nickel on an engine at idle originated with the Packard eight.
Along with the benefits, the eight-in-line layout had some natural drawbacks as well. The cylinder block and crankshaft were extremely long, and as a result, had to be massively constructed to maintain sufficient rigidity. So the straight eight was not just considerably longer than a comparable V8, it was also significantly heavier—by hundreds of pounds in many cases. And as time went on, these twin burdens of length and weight grew more problematic every year. Through much of the Classic Era of 1925-1948, the straight eight was a perfect fit for the long hoods then in style, but by 1954, a more balanced profile was was in vogue—for example, in the 1954 Corporate Limousine above. Even in this massive vehicle, the straight eight was not an efficient package.
For Packard’s final year with the straight eight, the company actually offered two distinctively different engine families. The smaller of the two, featuring a five main-bearing crankshaft, was offered in two sizes, 288 CID and 327 CID, and three output ratings: 150, 160, and 185 horsepower. The senior Thunderbolt straight eight, shown above, sported nine main bearings and a displacement of 359 cubic inches, and was rated at 212 horsepower.
With hydraulic valve lifters, a Carter four-barrel carburetor, an aggressive (for an L-head) compression ratio of 8.7:1, and better than 200 horsepower, the mighty Packard straight eight was, on paper at least, a competitive match with the new and advanced V8s from Cadillac, Chrysler, and the rest of the industry. But in truth, the Packard eight was at the end of its development life, and the high-compression V8s were only beginning to show their potential. For the 1955 car season, Packard retired its inline eights for good and introduced its own overhead-valve V8.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Let’s check in at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds in 1962, where the test engineers are beating the daylights out of the new Chrysler 300. Good times.
For 1962, Chrysler product planners gave the division’s familiar 300 performance series a twist. The vaunted 300 letter-series cars were continued—now up to the letter H in the alphabet—but a new 300 Sport series was added to the lineup, replacing the Windsor line. Externally, the 300 Sport was nearly identical to the 300H, save for wheel covers and badging, but with additional body styles available, including a four-door hardtop and sedan. A 383 cubic-inch, 305 hp V8 was the base engine in the 300 Sport, but the mighty 413 cubic-inch V8 from the 300H, sporting 380 hp, was available as an extra-cost ($486) option. By checking the right boxes on the order form, buyers could obtain something close to letter-series performance at a bargain price.
In this original 1962 factory training film, the new 300 Sport series is put to the test at the company’s Chelsea, Michigan Proving Grounds. And just for fun, the leading competitors—Buick Invicta, Pontiac Bonneville, and Oldsmobile Super 88—are included for some comparison testing in acceleration, braking, and handling. And wouldn’t you know it, somehow the Chrysler 300 always comes out on top. Hmm, might we detect some bias? We don’t wish to sound cynical, but we suspect that if Buick, Pontiac, or Olds were conducting the testing, they each could produce a win for the home team. At any rate, it’s still a lot of fun to watch. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
One of America’s oldest car companies, Studebaker spent its last two years in existence as a Canadian manufacturer.
By all rights, the end of the line for Studebaker as an automobile manufacturer should have arrived on December 20, 1963, when the sprawling plant in South Bend, Indiana was closed down for the final time. But through a curious twist in corporate decision making, Studebaker’s Canadian chief Gordon Grundy somehow persuaded the corporation to continue production at the company’s small but efficient Hamilton, Ontario plant, not far from Buffalo.
And so it came to pass that for Studebaker’s last two years in the business, it was a Canadian car maker. In the USA, these final Studebakers were sold under the slogan “The Common Sense Car.” But north of the border, the tagline was “Canada’s Own Car.”
At the Canadian operation, model lines were greatly simplified. Trucks, Hawks, and the Avanti were discontinued, while convertibles and hardtops were axed as well. All remaining models were built on the former Lark platform: a two-door sedan on a 109-in. wheelbase and the four-door sedan with 113-in. wheelbase. The top-of-the line Cruiser Sedan is shown above. Styling and trim were essentially carryovers from the 1964 model year.
With the South Bend operations shut down, Studebaker Canada no longer had an internal engine supply, so arrangements were made with, McKinnon Industries, the engine and foundry division of General Motors of Canada, to use Chevrolet powerplants, namely the 194 and 230 CID inline sixes and the venerable 283 CID V8. Here the famed small-block V8 was called the Thunderbolt and rated at 195 hp with a two-barrel carb. These engines were coupled to Studebaker’s traditional three-speed manual and Flightomatic automatic transmissions, manufactured by Borg-Warner. Some Studebaker enthusiasts prefer to refer to these engines as McKinnons rather than Chevrolets.
With the Avanti and Gran Turismo Hawk erased from the lineup, the closest thing to a performance model was the Daytona two-door post sedan (above). By checking the right boxes, buyers could select the 283 CID V8, front disc brakes, bucket seats, Twin-Traction rear axle. and heavy-duty suspension. A vinyl top in white or black was standard on the Daytona.
Although it wasn’t a big seller, one specialty model that was continued was the novel Wagonaire, the station wagon with the sliding roof panel, above. (Read about the Wagonaire here.) The wagon was available only in Wagonaire form for 1965, while both fixed-roof and Wagonaire models were offered in 1966.
For 1966 (below) the Studebaker line received a minor restyling job by industrial designer Brooks Stevens, with twin headlamps and a painted grille replacing the quad headlamps and chrome bezels used in ’64-’65. In Studebaker’s first year as a Canada-only carmaker, sales nearly met Grundy’s calculated break-even point of 20,000 units, but in 1966 the results fell far short of the mark. Fewer than 9,000 cars were produced before production was halted on March 17, 1966, and Studebaker was out of the automobile business for good.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.
Practicality and thrift are the themes in this sales pitch for the 1966 Plymouth Valiant.
In this original 1966 Chrysler Corporation spot, the Valiant is described (deep breath) as “a neat, trim, solid, inexpensive, solid little saver.” That’s quite a stack of adjectives, but they all seem to apply to the Plymouth division’s entry in the compact class for 1966.
Totally redesigned in 1963, Chrysler’s A-body Valiant package received an extensive facelift for the final year in its four-year production cycle, with a body-color center grille divider, massive new bumpers, and a revised roof design. Buyers could choose from three model lines: base model 100, mid-range 200, and the deluxe Signet. The heater-and-keys 100 series was by far the best seller in the Valiant lineup for ’66, accounting for better than half the sales—more than 78,000 of the nearly 138,000 cars produced. Chrysler’s vaunted Slant 6 (read about it here) was the standard powerplant, naturally, while the 273 CID V8 was an available extra.
The top-of-the-line Signet Hardtop Coupe is the featured vehicle here, and this one is nicely equipped with the optional bucket seats, center console, and floor shift. We found it interesting how buying habits have changed since the ’60s. Here the Valiant is pitched as the perfect vehicle for a young couple with two little boys and a large dog, but today a family of that size would probably be shopping for a two-row SUV at the least. Time marches on.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.