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1960 Ford Sunliner - The Forgotten Ford

It was for sure the widest Ford ever produced and probably the widest passenger car ever sold in America. It was a half-inch wider than the gargantuan 1959 Cadillac, so we're talking big, big cars here.

Jim & Shari Hutton's 1960 Ford Sunliner. Photo courtesy of The Galaxie Club
Jim & Shari Hutton's 1960 Ford Sunliner. Photo courtesy of The Galaxie Club

It was also a dramatic design departure from the traditional, squared-off, chrome-laden car that preceded it. Gone were the trademark round, multi-faceted taillights and in their place were half-moon shaped, flat lenses that looked chintzy even then. They just looked bad, whether you loved Fords or not.

To its credit, however, the car was aerodynamic. Its coefficient of drag was reduced so much from the 1959 cars that it required 40 less horsepower to keep it moving at 100 mph, which meant better fuel mileage during regular operation. Alex Tremulis (creator of the Tucker and contributor to so many other car designs) was credited with the design of the '60 Fords, but that's chiefly because he was working on the '61-'63 T-Birds at the time and had some input in the design. In actuality, its design was a reaction to the Chevy "batwing" design of 1959.

No matter who takes credit, the design was long, flowing and completely out of character with Fords before or since. It had a full-length fin running at the top of the door line and a big open grille in the front. Ford called it the "fireplace," but others called it the "banana" grille.

The 1960 Ford Models

Fords came in several models for 1960, from a station wagon to the Fairlane four-door coupes, to the Galaxie four-door hardtops, to a sleek Starliner hardtop (it looked quite good, actually) to the Sunliner convertible, of which over 44,000 were produced for 1960. The Sunliner is a very pretty car, however, because in convertible form the overall shape of the car looks right. All the lines converge to make it look long and low and very attractive.

The most significant thing about the 1960 model year was that the interiors were starting to get pretty and far more detailed. The instrument pod mimicked the taillight shape (bad idea) but was very attractively done. The parking brake release was moved to a pull-out knob identical to - and next to - the headlight switch (another bad idea). The trunk lid was narrow due to the depth of the fin area, making it nearly impossible to reach anything from the side of the car.

Although fit-and-finish was pretty awful even for 1960, engineering improvements abounded. Oil change intervals were extended to 6,000 miles and chassis lubrication to 30,000 miles in an era when many cars required oil changes at 1,500 and lube jobs at the same time.

1960 Ford Sunliner.
1960 Ford Sunliner.

Power for the cars came from a base inline 6, but most buyers opted for the 352 cubic-inch V8 that produced 235 horsepower with a 2-barrel and 300 horsepower with a 4-barrel. There was an optional high-performance, 360 horsepower 352 that very few people bought, but it was a very strong engine that could reach 0-60 times of 7.1 seconds.

The 1960 Ford Just Never Caught On

Convertibles notwithstanding, the 1960 Fords didn't catch on then and still don't today. Their values are quite modest when compared with contemporary Fords and other makes, and even the Sunliners in fully-restored condition only sell at the $20,000 level.

Why isn't it more popular? Perhaps it was the styling, although everything in that era tried to look like airplanes or space ships. Perhaps it was the Falcon, which was the big splash introduction of 1960. Perhaps the competitors (Chevy, Pontiac, Olds, etc.) were just better looking, but who knows?

We think it was the taillights.