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.

1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner
The 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner didn't have '50s-style flash.
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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.

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.

For more classic convertibles of the 1960s and 1970s, see:

1960 Dodge Polara
1960 Edsel Ranger
1962 Dodge Polara 500
1963 Chevrolet Impala SS
1963 Ford Falcon Futura
1963 Plymouth Sport Fury
1965 Chrysler 300L
1965 Rambler American 440
1966 Chevrolet Corvair Monza
1969 Plymouth Road Runner
1969 Shelby GT-500
1973 Mercury Cougar XR-7
1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale
1975 Pontiac Grand Ville
1976 Cadillac Eldorado
1963 Studebaker Lark Daytona1968 Mercury Park Lane 1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

For more information on all kinds of cars, try these: