Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

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Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner.JPG
Also calledFord Galaxie (500) Skyliner (Retractable)
Production48,394 from 1957–1959
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size car
PredecessorFord Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner
See also Ford Crestline Skyliner for the 1954 Ford and Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner for the 1955–1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria, both with an acrylic glass roof panel.

The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner (Retractable) is a mid 20th century convertible car with a retractable hardtop, produced by Ford Motor Company in the United States for the model years 1957 to 1959. In 1959 the model name changed to Ford Galaxie Skyliner very shortly after production of the 1959 models had started. The retractable roof mechanism – also known as "Hide-Away Hardtop" [1] – was unique to Ford branded products, and was not offered on Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, or Edsel branded vehicles during this time period.

The Ford Skyliner Retractable was a two-door full-size car, that was only the second car in history to be series produced with a retractable hardtop; the first to reach four and five digit mass-production numbers, and the first series produced coupé convertible to feature a roof composed of more than one segment. Additionally, the trunk-lid also consisted of two pieces — one segment took the place where other convertibles typically had a separate lid to cover the soft-top stowage compartment. Both the folding roof and trunk-lid are power operated through an exceptionally complex system.


1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner with both the Galaxie and Fairlane 500 badges

Part of the Ford Fairlane 500 range, the Skyliner had a complex mechanism which folded the front of the roof and retracted it under the rear decklid. No hydraulic mechanisms were used as in regular convertibles of the era; the Skyliner top has seven reversible electric motors (only six for 1959 models [2]), four lift jacks, a series of relays, ten limit switches, ten solenoids, four locking mechanisms for the roof and two locking mechanisms for the trunk lid,[3] and a total of 610 ft (185.9 m) of wiring.[4] The large top took up vast amounts of trunk space, limiting the car's sales (however, unlike what most people believe[citation needed], the mechanism had decent reliability).[3][5][6] Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957, declining to 14,713 in 1958 and to 12,915 in 1959.[6] An electric clock was standard.[7] Fuel consumption was around 14 mpg‑US (17 L/100 km; 17 mpg‑imp) overall.[3] The fuel tank was placed vertically in back of the rear seat, which inadvertently added safety in rear collisions.[5]

The wheelbase of the Skyliner was 118 in (3,000 mm) and the overall length was 210.8 in (5,350 mm).[4][8]

During the 1959 model year the Galaxie series was added to Ford’s full-size range and the Skyliner model was absorbed into that series.[7][9] Although the 1959 Galaxie was designated as a separate series,[9] Galaxies carried both “Fairlane 500” and “Galaxie” badging, on the rear and sides respectively,[10] it came with the standard 292CID 2-barrel 200 hp V8.[7]

At the time of its introduction, the Skyliner was the only true hardtop convertible in the world.[11] Today, it has become a collectible car.

The design attracted more attention than sales; the option was expensive, suspected to be unreliable, and took up almost all the trunk space when retracted, it required the roof to be made shorter than the other Fords, and the trunk to be larger. This was because the design was originally to be a Continental coupe.[12][13] Projected losses of the retractable roof Continental resulted in a decision to restyle the vehicle, from the bottom of the windows down, as a member of the Fairlane 500 family because it could attract more buyers as a Ford with more reasonable retail price compared to adding extra costs to the already expensive retail price of a Lincoln Continental;[14] the solid roof pillar of the Skyliner is similar to the appearance of 2nd generation Ford Thunderbirds of 1958-1960.

Engines and transmissions[edit]

The following engines, all V8s, were available on the Fairlane 500 Skyliner.

Size [6] Horsepower [6] Model Years [6]
272 cu in (4.5 l) 190 hp (140 kW) 1957
292 cu in (4.8 l) 200 hp (150 kW)
205 hp (153 kW)
212 hp (158 kW)
1957, 1958 & 1959
312 cu in (5.1 l) 245 hp (183 kW) 1957
332 cu in (5.4 l) 225 hp (168 kW)
240 hp (180 kW)
265 hp (198 kW)
1958 & 1959
352 cu in (5.8 l) 300 hp (220 kW) 1958 & 1959

Two manual transmissions, a three-speed and three-speed with overdrive were available, as well as three-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. Starting in 1958, Cruise-O-Matic was added, which provided a second "drive" range ("D2"), allowing for an intermediate gear start.[4]

Crestline Skyliner & Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner[edit]

The Skyliner name had been used by Ford on earlier models, namely the Crestline Skyliner of 1954 and the Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliners of 1955 and 1956; these models have a two-door hardtop body style with a clear acrylic glass roof panel over the front seats.


  1. ^ "1957 Ford Skyliner brochure". Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  2. ^ Ford Motor Company, 1959 Ford Car Shop Manual, 3rd Edition, page 502
  3. ^ a b c Willson, Quentin (1995). The Ultimate Classic Car Book. DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-0159-2.
  4. ^ a b c Owner's plaque, 50th Anniversary Draggins carshow, shot 3 April 2010.
  5. ^ a b Langworth, Richard (1982). Great Cars from Ford. ISBN 0-89009-537-X.
  6. ^ a b c d e Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (2007-07-20). "1957–1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner". Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  7. ^ a b c Flory, Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946–1959 Every Model Every Year. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3229-5.
  8. ^ "1957 Ford Skyliner brochure". Retrieved 2011-11-20.
  9. ^ a b John Gunnell, The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1945 to 1975, Revised 4th Edition, page 402
  10. ^ "1959 Ford brochure". Retrieved 14 January 2011.
  11. ^ John Gunnell, The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1945 to 1975, Revised 4th Edition, page 397
  12. ^ "Lot 115 - 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable Hardtop". 2014-11-15. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  13. ^ Bonsall, Thomas E. (2003). The Lincoln Story: The Postwar Years. Stanford University Press. p. 56. ISBN 9780804749411. Retrieved 2016-01-23.
  14. ^ Aaron Severson. "Raising the Roof: The Ford Skyliner 'Retrac'". Ate Up With Motor. Retrieved 2016-12-09.


  • Holmes, Mark (2007). Ultimate Convertibles: Roofless Beauty. London: Kandour. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-1-905741-62-5.

External links[edit]