The year was 1960; America was about to be thrust into the new modern age. The simmering Cold War triggered the Jet Age and the Space Race, which Detroit translated into long, streamlined highway missiles. Later on, the Age of Aquarius would push everything sideways. But at the dawn of the era, it was still all about size and chrome and sleek style. Plastic was still considered that miracle compound that was used to make toys. Even the names were out of this world—Fireflite, Electra, Galaxy, Starliner. Sloping bubbletop rooflines suggested speed and aerodynamic intentions. And fins? Chrysler and Cadillac weren’t ready to let them go, but Ford and Oldsmobile were looking at that particular styling cue in a new way for the new decade.
Jack Fields and Erik Hernandez have always liked early ’60s customs. As co-owner (with Erik’s brother, Edgar) of Starlite Rod & Kustom in Torrance, California, Jack and the crew have maintained a constant stream of top-quality creations motoring through the roll-up doors. Since opening those roll-ups in 2003, the shop floor has been crowded with everything from the barest of bare-bone hot rods, to crazy ’60s customs, to full-bore muscle cars. It’s apparent right away that this outfit is something special. Lots of hot rod shops feature vintage posters and display cases bulging with machine age artifacts and Starlite is no exception.
But ask anyone in the adjacent South L.A. area, and you’ll immediately hear about “… that green truck.” Edgar’s mind-blowing full-custom ’54 Chevy convertible pickup, “El Durti Martini”, has served as his daily driver and the shop’s official gopher vehicle for years. No worn-out and battered Chevy S-10 for this crew—making a statement while picking up paint supplies or a case of 30 weight is what it’s all about.
As a member of The Autoholics car club, Jack is in a prime position to sniff out new custom projects. Five years ago, a brother Autoholic decided it was time to let his daily driver ’60 Ford Starliner move onto a new owner. With a background that is drag race and muscle car heavy, Jack was at one of those crossroads in life where he wanted to turn in a different direction. He’d been involved in the car’s multiple upgrades, including a front disc brake conversion from Drop’em Stop’em, a four-link rear suspension from Thornbeck Bros., front and rear airbags from UDS, and the replacement of the original 352/Ford-O-Matic trans with a rebuilt 390/C6 combo. The previous owner had shaved the door handles and trim, but otherwise left the body alone.
In no time flat, Jack made a deal to take possession of the Starliner. Thinking he could clean a few things up, drive it for a while, and turn a quick profit on the car, he immediately fabbed up replacement pieces to fill the missing body trim and smooth out the look. He finished out a few bodywork issues, slapped on a primer coat, and moved it to a corner of the garage. As happens all too often, other projects demanded priority attention and the Starliner was subsequently put on hold.
A few years later, that same Autoholic club member who had sold Jack the Ford decided to turn another beauty from 1960, this one an Oldsmobile Dynamic 88. But this time it was Starlite fabricator Erik who made the deal.
“The bubbletop was what drew me to it. I always liked the ’59 Impalas, but they’re just priced too high. This Olds came along and it didn’t take much for me to jump on it.”