Clean, simple, and refreshingly gimmick-free, Ford's big ones -- like the 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner -- were among the most pleasing of 1961 cars. They took a while to be fully appreciated, however -- even the sun-loving ragtop.
Ford Division greeted the '60s with three separate car lines: a bigger new standard Ford, the popular four-seat personal-luxury Thunderbird, and an enormously popular new compact, the Falcon. Though Falcon was little changed for '61, the T-Bird was all-new, with a sleek "rocketship" profile. Big Fords moved the other way, adopting clean, simple styling on carryover bodies that were actually a bit shorter and lighter than the 1960s. There was also a pleasing absence of frivolous '50s-style gimmicks.
The 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner didn't have '50s-style flash.
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This relative lack of flash may explain why collectors took so long to "discover" the big '61 Fords, but we can be glad they have. Otherwise, we'd be deprived of the sleek Sunliner convertible shown here.
Still part of the top-line Galaxie series, the '61 Sunliner started at $2849. As in earlier years it had a standard V-8, now a 175-horsepower 292. Options included the veteran 352 with 220 bhp (shown here), plus a new 390 big-block with 300 bhp. Ford also sold a few triple two-barrel 390s with 375 or an amazing 401 bhp to leadfoots with big wallets and racing licenses. A dealer-installed four-on-the-floor manual trans-mission was new, too, but most big Fords had either two-speed Fordomatic or three-speed Cruise-O-Matic self-shifters.
Though total Ford sales fell slightly for '61, the Sunliner virtually repeated its 1960 performance, attracting 44,614 orders.
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