Rick H 1960 Starliner

You never forget that first love!

It wasn’t until the mid-sixties that I began to notice and appreciate the cars I saw on a regular basis. I don’t know when my brain actually locked on to the beautifully-sculpted lines of those uniquely-styled rolling works of art, but as a boy in his early teens, I was experiencing a major transformation. The speed at which my focus in life changed was incredible! Soon I was able to spot and identify any given vehicle from a block away…so unlike today!

Still riding my bike around our small town, I would spot cars that made an immediate impression on me. There was the ’34 Ford Victoria in the alley behind the welding shop that hadn’t been licensed since the late fifties. There was the ’62 Galaxie with the 406 up the street, whose driver ‘enjoyed’ the acceleration that big block provided. There were all sorts of new muscle cars roaming past my house…Chevelles, Road Runners, Mustangs and even the lone AMX in town. My blood was turning to gasoline with each passing day! That was when my friends and I would visit the dealerships in town, each fall. The new models were displayed and donuts were offered to those who stopped in for a look. Sadly, that anticipation is lacking nowadays.

But it was witnessing the sudden appearance in town, of a freshly-painted 1960 Ford Starliner that blew me away! The black paint between the two roof moldings, gently expanding in width as it flowed rearward to the three stars, just above the quarter panel, was the prefect contrast to the white on the rest of that massive body! The flowing contours of that one-year-only body style had just penetrated to the depths of my soul. From that first encounter onward, I was forever branded with that sleek profile etched into my brain. My mission was clear from that moment…I WOULD own one, some day!

Soon the search began and within a year, I found the one that became my first. The 352-4V pushed around those several thousand pounds of metal, quite nicely. Minimal body work was needed on the red body and the transmission’s inability shift into high gear was easily corrected. The first winter I actually placed an electric space heater in the car so I could repaint the interior metal surfaces! That might sound a little over-the-top, but is not much different than suddenly falling in love and wanting to spend every moment together. You can imagine the looks I got from passersby, as this dumb kid was painting in side his car, in the middle of a snow-covered yard!

That car was later traded for a big block 1967 Fairlane, but the loss of my ‘first love’ hounded me enough right away, that I searched for another one and I became a two-car owner shortly thereafter. Making good money by that time, I was able to ‘fix it up’ (restore, in today’s terminology) into a very nice Starliner…and because of my boyhood neighbor’s influence, I bought a brand new 406 Engine from a local Ford Dealer. Living in a trailer at the time, I had one bedroom converted to body moldings; it was affectionately called ‘The Chrome Room’, even by my girlfriend, who has been my wife for 38 years!

It was through those first few ownership years that I immersed myself in learning about all things mechanical, which lead to my becoming a career mechanic; on cars, trucks, tractors and even airplanes as an A&P Mechanic.

The second Starliner was sold in 1983 so I could take flight lessons, although I never did. I have a ’65 Ford Falcon these days. It doesn’t have the most powerful engine, or the most powerful stereo, but it has the unique ability to transport me back in time whenever I drive it. I often wonder why I even installed an AM-FM Radio with CD Player, into this little Falcon. I hardly ever turn it on, because the solitude of driving in my ’65 Time Machine is enough to satisfy. Many times I just jump in and drive a couple hundred miles, for the peace it offers. I can leave this world and escape to a simpler time, when cars were distinctive, recognizable, easily repaired and most importantly…made impressions that lasted a lifetime! Ah, yes. Love at first sight!

Rick Heth

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Phil Snyder Audubon, NJ February 16, 2014 at 19:07
    Great story Rick! I felt as though I was with you! What a shame cars just do not have that stop and gawk look anymore and kids today just don't get it. Most all know is where to put the key, and some cars don't even have that anymore! Sad, but glad we lived that fantastic era of Detroit Americana!

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