Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable Convertible Coupe
Introduced in 1957 and built through 1959 for a total of 48,394 units built (production for 1957 - 20,766 cars, 1958 - 14,713 cars, 1959 - 12,915 cars) was the worlds first and only production retractable hardtop/convertible. It seemed like a great idea at the time, a hardtopfor protection from the elements and the benefits of a open convertible for those Sunday drives with the family or to impress the ladies. It proved itself to be a complicated beast with a lot to go wrong, it was also expensive by late ‘50’s standards, $400.00 more that the conventional Sunliner soft top. Both factors put a major crimp in sales,1959 year sales were down 38% of the 1957 sales figures.
Designers did the best they could to provide enough room for that big roof to slide back and into the trunk area. Even though the roof was shorter than that of other models and it’s front section hinged for more compact storage, the Skyliner ended up with a higher, longer rear deckand a slightly bulging rear panel. The gas tank was relocated behind the back seat instead of under the trunk floor to allow extra room to house the hardtop when down. Actual luggage space in the trunk was limited to about the size of a medium ice chest, deceptively small if looking at the size of the trunk deck. At 17 1/2 feet long (208.1 - 210.8 inches) having a 118 inch wheelbase and weighing between 3916 pounds (1957) and 4069 pounds (1958) it was just slightly larger then the 1958 - 1960 Thunderbird. Dealer pricing new for 1957 would run you in the area of $2942.00 and by 1959 with the larger engine was up around $3346.0
It was also different from previous Fords in that it was only offered with V-8 engine, there were five engine options during it’s three years of production, from a 190 BHP 272 CID in 1957 up to a 300 BHP 352 CID in 1958 and 1959. Heavily restyled and reengineered for 1959 and officially part of that years new top line Galaxie series though it continued to wear the Fairlane 500 designation.
In spite of the mechanical and electrical gremlins it became known for, it holds a strong technical fascination and is quite the crowd pleaser at any car show you are lucky enough to see one at. They are actually less troublesome than most people think. It is considered a milestone status car, with one of a kind technology never to be duplicated. An interesting car, an interesting concept and a gentle reminder of an age when Detroit thought it could do anything.