Just the Facts
Year: 1961
Make: Ford
Model: Starliner
Owner: Ron Reitenbach
State: California

The story is familiar. "I want the car that I had when I was young." Many hot rodders at some point in their "rodding career" want the car they once had or a car they wish they had. Either way both dreams bring back lots of great memories. It's part of what makes rodding so much fun—you can have it your way, just like your favorite burger.

Ron Reitenbach of Lake Isabella, California, remembers the time when he had just purchased a brand-spanking-new 1961 Ford Starliner off a dealer lot and for the next eight years he and Judy, his soon-to-be wife, rode around in it; right through dating, engagement, wedding, out the reception door on their way to a honeymoon, and family. Now that's history!

Another story many a rodder has heard is the one about getting rid of a car because family and life brought about changes; changes that needed to happen in order to keep the new family rolling forward. Ron sold the Starliner but never forgot about the great times in a great car. From Model A to drag-raced 1951 Chevy, Ron spent plenty of time around cars but always knew where his true love was—automotive that is! Years, in fact let's say decades, went by and Ron still realized that he had a fondness for the 1961 Starliner and if the time and place arose he would once again have his favorite ride back.

Life goes on and pretty soon Ron finds himself in the throes of retirement and thinking back to the car he had when he was 20 and wishing for it all over again. His brother, Bill, in an effort to help his brother realize his dream, found a perfect candidate in Nova Scotia, Canada, and had it shipped to its new home.

In the world of hot rod building, three years to perform a frame-off rebuild of a 1960s-era project isn't long. Ron, working with his son, Randy, who did much of the fabrication and helped in the design changes, it was three years of wishin' and a hopin', coupled with ample doses of good and not-so good, but in the end the persistence paid off, yielding a budget-stretching project that's everything that Ron had wished.

The frame is based on a stock 118-inch wheelbase Galaxie that was ground smooth, followed by powdercoating. CRC Transmissions rebuilt the Ford 9-inch rearend, no surprise there, but now it is fitted with 4.11 gears, a Detroit Locker, and 32-spline axles; a serious rearend to make the full-size Ford scoot. Traction Masters bars, 3/4-inch sway bar, and Monroe shocks are also at home on the 9-inch, along with Ford 12-inch drum brakes. (At some point in the future the drums may be replaced by discs, according to Ron.) The IFS is pretty much 1961 Ford, now equipped with 2-inch dropped spindles, Monroe shocks, 11-inch rotors topped with disc brakes, operated through a Wilwood proportioning valve and master cylinder. Steering is the Saginaw box runs through the factory steering column and wheel. At the corners are Boss Motorsports wheels measuring 20x8 in front and 20x10 in back, all shod with Hankook rubber sizing in at 245/45ZR20 in front and 255/45ZR20 in back.

Ford's workhorse V-8 in the late 1950s until the mid 1970s was the FE. (Introduced by Ford in 1958 for the Edsel it measured 332 cubes, and in 1965 available in Ford trucks at 351 cubes. The letter designation "FE" is often written as referencing "Ford-Edsel", although still open to interpretation.) Ron enlisted Jim Grubbs Motor Sports (Valencia, CA) to rebuild and modernize the V-8. The current FE still sports its original 390 cubes, 401 hp, and 425 lb-ft of torque. The crowning piece of speed equipment on this FE is the original factory three-deuce setup based on Holley two-barrels. It is impressive and responsive, making it ideally suited for a street-driven hot rod. (OK, it may not have the driveability of a modern EFI but the "cool factor" is off the charts!) The spent gases are exited through a Morris Muffler fab'd exhaust system based on 2-1/2-inch pipes running through Flowmaster Series 45 mufflers. A March Performance serpentine belt system is adapted to the vintage V-8, providing the necessary "juice", power brake and steering, and A/C power.

There was some mild shaving going on with the removal of several badges; "Ford" from the hood, "Starliner" from the front fenders, and "Galaxie" from the decklid, along with the key lock cylinder. From here other touches included polishing, plating by DMP Enterprises (Chatsworth, CA), and addressing all of the brightwork throughout the car. The final touch came in the way of PPG Chesapeake Blue paint (original color for a 1961 Starliner) applied by Chino'z Auto Body (Canoga Park, CA) over their own bodywork and that of Ron's son Randy.

The stock bench seating in front and back is covered with vinyl and cloth in a three-tone blue that would have been found in a Ford of that era. The factory dash retains the original gauges but thoroughly rebuilt and outfitted for modern use by Redline. The factory radio was rebuilt by Vintage Radio Restoration. From here a 1960s period Vibrasonic was coupled to the factory radio with this installation handled by Ron and Randy. They also used an EZ Wire kit to handle the car's electrics.

As written earlier three years isn't a long time to spend building the car of your dreams but waiting 40-plus years to get started is. One thing is for sure: All good things in time.