The great misadventure

By: 
Walter Sprague

Photo courtesy of Holly Borton

Garrett Borton works on the back end of a 1960 Starliner on the trip home from Texas, with the Colorado Rockies looming large in the background.

 

Walter Sprague

Art and Culture Reporter

 

When Garrett and Holly Borton got their 1960 and 1961 Ford Starliners, the last thing they expected to see was God in the adventure. It started a while ago when Garrett and Jim Shields were making small talk about what they thought was the best classic Ford. Garrett was partial to the ’67 Fairlane, a car he had fallen in love with at about age 10. But Shields was shaking his head. He pointed Garrett toward the ‘61 Starliner.

“I’m a Ford fan,” Garrett said, “But I didn’t know this car.” 

When he looked it up, he saw those futuristic lines and was intrigued. The car had those Cadillac-type fins, the bubble top and sleek lines.

“You take in what America was into in the late ’50s and early ’60s,” Garrett said, “It had all that space travel look, Jetsons and the like, very futuristic for the day. I really started to like it.”

Garrett and Shields decided to message each other if they found one for sale somewhere. It turned into a kind of game.

When Shields died of COVID-related pneumonia on Nov. 5, 2020, Garrett no longer had that connection. 

“We weren’t really close,” Garrett remembered, “But in losing Jim, I realized I no longer had my ’61 Starliner buddy around anymore. We shared that interest before. Now it resided in my own flavor. You can see where that was at for me.”

Holly didn’t know about this game, nor had she even heard about the Starliner at that time.

Then, one day as they were getting ready for a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Garrett ran across a ’61 on a classic car website. They were going to have an overnight layover in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and this car was in Waxahachie, Texas, just 37 miles south of Dallas. 

“You don’t run into these cars very often,” Garrett said. “But this one was modified the way I like it. It wasn’t stock.”

“It’s more of a ’61 Starliner hot rod,” Holly said. 

Garrett called about the car. Holly said he talked on the phone for hours. But by the time he finished the call, Garrett was not just comfortable with this car, he was excited. So they made plans to look at it during their layover, and Garrett brought money to put down on it and have it held for them.

“Garrett always likes to multi-task like that,” Holly said. “Bundling things together.”

During that visit to see the ’61, Holly saw another Starliner, this one was a ’60.

“Garrett wasn’t even paying attention to it,” she said, “He gets single-minded like that. But I’m looking at this ’60, and it has this gorgeous redone all-red interior. It didn’t have those bucket seats the ’61 had. You can see similarities, but this one just had beautiful lines. I wanted it.”

Garrett and Holly smile about the experience now. Ford only made the Starliner in 1960 and ’61, and here were both of those cars. Holly said Garrett had brought money for the ’61 and made plans to go back to Dallas to get it at a later date, again bundling tasks. Troy Cade needed a trailer picked up in Oklahoma City. So, they drove —  empty — to Oklahoma City and then with trailer in tow down to Waxahachie. After that, it was a quick haul, 1,147 miles home to Newcastle, with a four-hour side trip to see Holly’s family in Arkansas. Garrett had his ’61, Troy had his trailer, sans the shipping cost, and Holly had her dreams of owning the ’60 Starliner. 

When she had pointed out the ’60 to Garrett, it must have stuck because once they were home, he realized they could have cars from both years that Ford made. The thought would not leave his mind. So, they also made the trip to pick up the ’60, this time flying in and planning to drive the car home. It was in mid-July when they took this trip. Because it was sweltering, and they didn’t want to make a beeline north through Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, where it’s hot with plenty of nothing the whole way, they decided to make an adventure of the trip. The plan was to head through Amarillo, Texas, and go through New Mexico and the mountains, going through Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

“Mind you,” Holly said, “This is not the first cross-country we’ve done. We once made a trip in a ’63 Squire wagon. It was the middle of December, and we had a 3-month-old baby. We went to see my mother in Arkansas.”

On that trip, Garrett had to re-do the alternator on the side of the road, fabricating a modern alternator to fit the older car.

“So this type of adventure is kind of a thing for us,” Holly said, indicating that when all goes well, they barely even remember those trips. It’s when problems happen that it becomes an adventure worth remembering.

While heading north, they had goals each day, but right at first, things started to go wrong. First, traffic put them about three hours short of their first night’s goal, but the car was working well so far.

Garrett’s idea was to be cruising through Wolf Creek Pass early the following day with a cup of coffee in hand. But, in Taos, New Mexico, he noticed something going on with the rear end of the ’60 Starliner.

“When I’m going straight, there wasn’t much of a problem,” Garrett said, “But as I’m turning on these sharp curves, it was clunky and pulling.”

“It felt like the tires didn’t want to spin freely,” Holly said.

About 160 miles of mountain roads later, the rear end was noticeably worse. They were in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, by then.

“There’s no straight shot out of there,” Holly said, “It’s either further up the mountain toward home or down the mountain the way we came, but it’s all mountains.”

They stayed there on Saturday night and then had to find parts for the car on a Sunday. This time, while scanning through all the paperwork of what had been fixed on this car through the years, Garrett realized that it was a typical, standard Ford part used for many years and that it shouldn’t be a terrible wait for some obscure part for an old car.

“I wasn’t worried,” Holly said. “Honestly, I don’t worry with him. He can fix anything. He’ll figure it out.”

After asking a local about what he needed to fix the car, the man told him that he might have the part in his yard. As they rolled into the yard, Garrett saw a sign that said, “I own a backhoe and a gun. Sometimes I need both.”

“After reading that,” Garrett said, “I knew I was in the right place.”

Holly took some pictures of the mountains in the background as Garrett had the car jacked up and replaced the faulty part. It took a few hours, but Garrett said it was a simple fix. And then they were heading home again.

As they were coming into Wyoming, there were more problems with the car.

“If I knew then what I know now,” Garrett said, “I would have headed straight up I-25 and just got us home quick.” 

Later, though, he recalled the wonderful people he met, those who helped and those he talked to. Now he wouldn’t trade the trip for anything.

Eventually, the car made it home. It was only firing on six of its eight cylinders, and the trip took a couple of days longer than planned. They needed help along the way more than once, and just the right person was there to help them. Holly posted pictures of their trip on Facebook and described the mishaps, the adventure and the beautiful people they met on the journey.

As Garrett looked through those pictures, he came across the one she took of him fixing the rear end. There, in the background, were the magnificent mountains of Colorado.

“I was so focused when I worked on that car,” Garrett said, “that I missed it the whole time.”

As he looked at the picture, he realized that God was with them the entire trip. There might have been problems, but it was full of his helping hand. From the inception to the moment they drove the car into Renegade Paint and Pipe, God had been holding them in his hand the whole way.

The Bortons say they will cherish the trip always and are also looking forward to showing the set, a his-and-hers collection of all the years that Ford made the Starliner.

“When you collect Camaros,” Garrett said, “You’ve got to collect a new car every year because they’re still making them. But we now have all the years, both of them, the Starliner was made.”

He’s still working on the ’60, and the parts are on the way to fix all the problems. But Garrett said it still drives, and they are looking forward to showing the cars at the Shine & Show at Dow Park on Saturday.

“I mean,” Holly said, “How many people have both years of the Starliner?”

“We were lucky enough to have found someone, to begin with, who had both for sale. And now we have this beautiful pair of cars,” Garrett said.

Having arrived home safe and sound, the Bortons say they feel the entire adventure was a God thing.

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