Lexus V8-powered 1960 Ford Starliner

This Starliner looks like it's come straight out of an American custom shop. But it hasn't

Photographers: Cruisin Japan

STARLINER — cool name, even cooler car. Not surprisingly, we didn’t get them here. Yep, up until 1961 we had to make do with the ’59 Ford styling. I love the old Tank Fairlanes but when you park one next to the 1960 model, it might as well have come from outer space.

This article was first published in the July 2007 issue of Street Machine

This example — named Sting — didn’t come from some far-off galaxy (no pun intended) but somewhere even further away from 60s American car culture: Japan. Yep, we all know they can make really good dishwashers and transistor radios but lately they’ve been turning out some of the coolest and wildest hot rods and customs you’ll see anywhere.

Just as they did with new cars, electrical appliances and fast food, the Japs are showing the Yanks how it’s done when it comes to customising cars. Put together by Koji Uda of K’s Body Works (, this is the car’s second incarnation; it was first seen in US mag Custom Rodder in September ’04 and didn’t look very different to this.

As nice as the car was then, Koji had bigger plans. Wearing a suede silver two-tone paint job and a fairly stock interior, it was a tidy ride but the running gear and interior didn’t quite match the modern vision that Koji had in mind.

A lot of the hard work had already been done, including the lowered roof. A lot of customisers hate it when people say the roof has been ‘lowered’ when they mean ‘chopped’ but in this case, the roof has actually been sunk into the body by about three inches. With roof chops — sorry, lowerings — like this, you need to cut the glass or get new stuff custom made. That wasn’t really an option for Koji, so he did a lot of head-scratching and a fair bit of computer-aided design to figure out how to make it all work.

The good thing with doing it all on computer first was that he could see what would happen if he sank the glass — and it turned out the front and rear screens would foul on the bonnet and boot when you tried to open them. This meant the trailing edge of the bonnet had to be reworked and the hinges relocated — major stuff — and he had to shorten the roof to allow the rear glass to clear the boot when it opened. Instead of simply making a wider tulip panel — the bit between the window and the boot lid — he extended the leading edge of the boot. That’s some clever work and the kind of detail that separates a top show car from the stuff in the car park.

After such a cool haircut, it wouldn’t have been right to leave the garage all scruffy, so a shave was in order. The door handles and emblems got the flick — including the trio of badges on the rear pillar — the bonnet was nosed and peaked, and the boot was decked. What the custom-speak means is that all the daggy bits that tear up your polishing rag were pulled off and the holes welded up.

A custom acrylic lens was fabricated and then lit up from behind by a row of LED lights. Very trick, very cool, and above all safe! Exhaust has been routed through the bumper

To tidy it up even more, the stock grille was chucked in favour of a billet tube unit, the quarter windows were removed and the panel between the tail-lights was turned into a massive third brake light. Koji cleverly shaped a piece of acrylic and then put a row of LEDs behind it. No problems with idiot tailgaters now!

The donk is now a much more refined 4.0-litre Lexus motor. Designed to push around a fairly heavyweight luxo-barge, as far as the engine is concerned, things haven’t changed much!

The final custom touch was one that you wouldn’t pick, it looks so right. If you check out the rear shot you can see the exhaust exits just below the tail-lights. Normally that’s just a recess in the bumper but Koji made use of it by cutting a hole and fabricated some tailpipes out of stainless steel.

The old shoe-polish tins that Ford used for brakes just weren’t going to cut it, so a pair of ’03 LS430 discs got whacked on the front. Out back, the nine-inch still copes with a set of drums

Custom Rodder didn’t mention anything about the drivetrain in its 2004 story, other than commenting that Koji had plans for a change, maybe something from a “big ol’ Lexus”. And that’s exactly what happened.

True to his word, Koji replaced the Yank iron with an engine and ’box from a little closer to his home: a ’93 Lexus LS400. Though they’re only four litres, these little Jap V8s go and sound like the real thing. The change seems somehow appropriate; Toyota, which owns Lexus, recently wrestled the title of world’s largest car maker out of American hands.

Interior manages to retain 60s charm while being updated with Dakota Digital gauges, Lexus seats and shifter, and tan leather trim. Lexus badge on the stock wheel lets people know something is going on

A bit of Lexus styling was applied inside too, with CS400 bucket seats replacing the bench seat — guess he doesn’t have a girlfriend — a custom console and the shifter from a 2004 IS300 in place of the old column-shift. To keep with the modern theme, a set of Dakota Digital gauges fills the space of the original dash, while the same company’s gear keeps tabs on the Air Ride Suspension system.

As cool as that suede paint was, Koji decided it was time for some shine and to that end he added a new two-tone combination. This time HOK Kandy Organic Green over Organic Olive Green got the nod. Rolling stock is a set of Billet Specialties Stripe wheels, 18×8.5 up front and 20×9.5 out back, wrapped in low profile rubber.

Looks like the Yanks better watch out; not only are the Japanese building more new cars than them but they’re matching them in the custom stakes too.


After taking the 50s jet age styling as far as they could, US designers were looking for the next big thing. That, of course, was the space age. The brand new look for 1960 was much sleeker and devoid of all the glitz and glamour of the late 50s cars. You have to admit, however, that the fins on the ’60 Fords look a lot like the offerings from Chevrolet in 1959, although a little more subtle. While the design was sleeker and cleaner, the 1960 model was around six inches longer and wider than the ’59.


Colour: HOK Kandy Organic Green/Organic Olive Green

Brand: Lexus LS 400
Capacity: 4.0-litre

Gearbox: ’93 Lexus LS 400
Diff: Ford nine-inch

Brakes: ’03 Lexus LS430 (f), stock drum (r)

Seats: Lexus CS 400 buckets
Material: Tan leather
Modifications: Custom centre console, Air Ride switches, Dakota Digital quad air-pressure gauges
Shifter: ’04 Lexus IS300
Gauges: Dakota Digital

Wheels: Billet Specialties Stripe 18×8.5 (f), 20×9.5 (r)