Bubble-Top 428 V8: 1961 Ford Starliner

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The Starliner was a two-year Ford offering at the high end of the Galaxie series. It employed fastback styling which may have been cooked up to compete with the Chevy Impala Sport Coupe (“bubble-top”) and to help Ford compete more aerodynamically in NASCAR. This 1961 edition has been buried inside a garage and the owner has since passed away. A 428 cubic Inch V8 purports to be under the hood, but that engine wasn’t offered until 1966. Located in Lyons, Michigan, this once-hot Ford is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $8,500 OBO. Thanks for the cool tip, Jim A!

This Ford was not the first time the Starliner name would be used in the transportation world. Studebaker used it on a car in 1952-54 and Lockheed employed it on the L-1649A airplane. With its thin roof pillars, fastback styling, and slippery aerodynamics, the Starliner symbolized the 1960s Jet Age design (in line with the Galaxie name debuting in 1959). After 1961, the Starliner name was dropped and replaced by the Galaxie 500 and 500 XL.

In 1961, the Starliner used a 292 V8 as standard equipment with the 352 being optional along with the new Thunderbird 390. We don’t know which of these motors was in the seller’s car, but if it’s a 428 the owner went to the trouble of changing the script on the front fenders. If the intent was for the Starliner to compete with the bubble-tops at Chevy, it came up way short. In 1961, Ford built 29,669 Starliners vs. Chevy’s nearly 178,000 Impala Sport Coupes.

As the story goes, this Ford was sold new in North Carolina and migrated to Michigan in the early 1990s. About that same time, it received a new paint job and we presume the color combination on it now was the same as when it was new. The seller, who is acting on behalf of the family of the deceased owner, confirms that the 428 is not the original engine (only a time machine would have accomplished that). It’s occupied the space it’s in now for at least 10 years and has the dirt and dust to prove it.

Regarding the interior, this 200,000-mile Galaxie-derivative was beset with mice and they went to chewing on things, perhaps even the headliner. The carpeting and door panels have been removed and are probably MIA. Restoring this car may be an uphill climb, but could be worth it. When was the last time you saw a Starliner in person, while the Impalas from the same model year are plentiful by comparison?

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  1. 8banger 8bangerMember

    I’ve always loved the word “beset”.

    Like 1
    • Pnuts

      Especially when it followed Jacqueline.

      Like 17
  2. KC JohnMember

    This is so tempting. Wish it was closer. Good luck to the new owner.

    Like 4
  3. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

    Looks like a classic with potential though the mouse issue could be a major headache. It’s cheap enough and it would be interesting to find out exactly which 428 is under the hood. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know the difference myself. Most of them had pretty good hp and torque but, of course, you’d have to determine if the engine is actually a vintage 428 and not, say a 390 or a big block from the malaise era. I’m sure somebody on BF will know. Too bad the pictures weren’t better, but the price is attractive so many we’ll see a quick sale.

    Like 2
    • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

      so MAYBE we’ll see a quick sale. Where is the “Edit” feature when you post a comment?

      Like 3
  4. Rex Kahrs Rex KahrsMember

    Good question FordGuy. About 95% of the time when I post, the edit feature is absent.

    Like 2
    • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972Member

      It’s really annoying Rex Kahrs. I always proof-read my comments before I post but I’m old and lazy so sometimes I miss something. The BarnFind IT guy should really address that issue and fix it so we can edit our errors after we post so we don’t look like we dropped out of high school.

      Like 13
      • Mark RuggieroMember

        When I post, it pops up the post and starts counting down the 3 or 4 minutes you have to edit. That’s on the computer, maybe not on mobile?

        Like 3
      • Mark RuggieroMember

        Make that 5 minutes, works fine from my mobile too

        Like 0
  5. angliagt angliagtMember

    From what I’ve seen,there is no “edit” available for
    early posters.Not sure of the timetable,but it does eventually
    show up (for later posts).

    I’ve always thought that there should be a drive-in/drive-out
    fumigation service for killing off anything that might still be living
    in vehicles like this.
    Of course,if there was,you’d probably have the PETA people
    protesting outside.

    Like 5
    • Eric B

      The fact that some people would have a negative view of others that care about the welfare of other animals and make light of organizations that work to inform and protect is both sad and hilarious. But, not in a funny way.

      Typically the problem is the “inform” aspect. Some/ most people aren’t. Do you like dogs? Do you own any leather made in China? Google that.

      As far as the fumigation idea goes, I’d be more concerned about noxious chemicals. Besides, how hard is it to get rid of a rodent in a car? Once disturbed they’re gone.

      Like 4
  6. HoA Howard A ( since 2014)Member

    Remember that story of the junkyard dude stacking flattened cars on a flatbed with a big forklift back in the 80s ? This was that car! Still makes me sick to think of that.

    Like 8
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

      Howard A,

      Back about 1985 I was driving on the outer loop of the Washington DC beltway [AKA the DC Bloodway] when I spied a big rollback truck in the inner loop going the opposite way. On the back of the truck was a brand of car I recognized because my shop specialized in that make, and while it looked pretty far gone, I wanted to buy it.

      I noted the truck had the emblem of a well-known scrapyard in Brandywine, MD, so at the next exit I turned around and headed for their location. I knew the place was not a junkyard that sold parts, this was a scrapyard only, and they typically scrapped a car almost immediately provided it had a good title and there were no other vehicles in line to be shredded.

      On arriving at the yard, I went directly to the office, and asked about the car. I was informed they had already begun the process of marking the vehicle as scrapped, assigning a Maryland DMV certification number for a scrapped vehicle. Legally it was now scrapped.

      This place was focused on a vehicle’s scrap metal value only, and if it was brought in for scrap, that’s what they did best. I’ve always thought these people would go ahead and scrap a gold plated Cadillac with diamonds all over it, just for the scrap metal value. They just didn’t care how rare the vehicle was, it came in to be scrapped and that’s what happened.

      Well it was too late. I waited around awhile in an effort to somehow stop the process, and I ended up watching it get shredded.

      The car? A late 1950s Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith limousine with the folding landaulet top over the rear seat. I never did find out the VIN, so I can’t track it down to the exact car using the Rolls-Royce factory paperwork, but I think it was a Hooper & Co one-off landaulette. I figured Hooper built it, because they were one of the few coachbuilders still using white ash body framing to support the aluminum outer panels, and the car was in such bad condition, the doors had fallen off due to wood rot.

      On the way back to the shop I mentally figured out what the car was worth in parts; Engine & automatic gearbox; at least $15,000. Grill/radiator assembly, at least $4k. Headlights [Lucas P-100s] $1k. Various dash pieces & gauges: $500. And that was just for the big stuff. When parting out a Rolls-Royce, even the small items will eventually sell.

      Like 5
  7. ACZ

    This could be the bargain of the week. Hard to tell because of the crappy photography. I had a 1960 Starliner with the hi-po 352. That was a long time ago but it was a sweet ride.

    Like 8
    • B302

      It was the bargain of the week!!! Somebody got a great deal.

      Like 3
  8. Michael Tockey


    Like 1
  9. Jarvis J Faught

    My Father had the 1961 Starliner in Yellow with White Interior as his Company car. Thought it was too Flashy & tried to exchange it!! Then was offered the car @ cost when he retired but declined. As a young boy I thought it was Cool!

    Like 0
  10. Allen

    What a deal. I may be way off but the 60 and 61 Starliner was the nicest ford ever made. Mine was a white 390 – 401 hp three on the tree. A few were made with a 4 speed at the end of the run but 99% with the 401 were 3 on the tree. If I wasn’t so old, I would have this one. I notice the headers on this one are not the 401 headers but newer factory headers They could be from a 406 or 427 motor.

    Like 4
    • al

      yes the 401 hp 390 with tri power except I think Ford called it a 6 barrel had a friend with a 1961 with 4 speed great car next year 406 with tripower only had 4 more horse power

      Like 0
    • Patrick Michael Shanahan

      My cousin bought a ’61 390 2 dr 3 on the tree new. The car was a bear. Nothing like the tamed down 390 of later years.

      Like 0
  11. TPK


    Like 0
  12. Solosolo UK Solosolo UKMember

    Can’t understand why the Chev outsold the Ford by such a margin as to me the Ford is a much better, less fussy, looking car. Maybe it was a performance issue. As for the edit problem for some people, I have never had a problem.

    Like 2
  13. BrianT BrianTMember

    Loved this body style. Does anyone remember the movie “Hollywood Knights”? Terrible movie with great cars. There was a beautiful black one in the movie.

    Like 3
    • ACZ

      Beautiful iron in that flick!!!

      Like 2
  14. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    I used to post a photo of a white Starliner on a vintage slant-deck COE truck, every time one came on the site.

    Alas, no longer have that privilege, no longer a Member. When my auto-pay source hiccuped (not my fault) I was kicked out and not invited back…
    Without a 250% cost increase, anyway…

    See if you can find it. Some didn’t like the wheels, but it was a really beautiful car!

    Edit: Sometimes I don’t get to alter my posts either, seems hit and miss. Has been that way for many years.
    Regarding this car, seems like a bargain, unless the frame or underside is rotted out. The garage where it has been stashed looks to have been kept dry, so less likely that is an issue. When It comes to rodents and their detrimental effect on cars… well, GRRR!

    Like 0
  15. ThunderRob

    Bubbletop is a GM term,The Starliner was a fastback or just..Starliner top.Best looking car of the 60’s period.

    Like 3
  16. Al

    They said the 406 0nly had 4 more HP but don’t believe everything they say. Everybody was lying about there HP then.

    Like 3
  17. Al

    As a former 61 Starliner 401 hp owner I will have to say that the Chevrolet Dodge and Plymouth performance cars were much lighter than the Fords but there was a 389-tri power 62 Grand Prix that wasn’t a problem for me. Another thing that hurt the Fords was that a 4 speed wasn’t available from the factory until the end of the run when they were gearing up for the 62’s.

    Like 2
    • al

      390 was a strong engine I bought a new 1968 Torino gt fast back 390 4 speed 335 hp friend had a 1965 gto 389 325 hp 4 speed Torino ate it for lunch

      Like 1
  18. Gary

    I drove a 64 427/2x4bbl/four speed back in 1980. What a ride. I wanted it so bad but not for sale. Black, red interior, just a absolutely gorgeous car with under 30, 000 mile

    Like 0
    • Pnuts

      Yea, you didn’t see many of those with high mileage. Usually well before 30K they were sitting in the driveway or behind the barn with the hood off propped up in the back by the hood springs. Or had a 390 or 352 in them.

      Like 0

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