1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
The car was originally sold in Pennsylvania and was purchased by the current owner in 1992. The current owner reports that at the time the odometer read 59,730 miles. According to the build codes the cars original was Star Mist Blue with Blue Air Weave Vinyl interior. Under previous ownership the car apparently was changed to Flame Red with Red/White Cloth interior which the current owner maintained.
Under the current owner, a complete restoration of this beautiful 1957 Fairlane 500 Skyliner was completed in 1995.
The bodywork and paint were completed along with new interior and mechanical updates. This included rebuilding the engine and transmission, all new wheel cylinders, brake linings, rebuilding the carburetor, power top components, adding electric windshield wipers, power steering, power brakes, air conditioner, windshield washers, and exhaust.
Body work restoration included the Continental Kit, fender skirts, thunder bird wheel covers, Town and Country radio, adding a hidden FM converter, bumper extensions (for the Continental Kit), spot lights, radial whitewall tires, re-chroming, buffing the stainless bright work, headlight rings, new padded sun visors, padded dash, Kleenex holder, fan guard, 6 blade fan and delta wing tip exhausts.
The car has been lovingly cared for during its subsequent 7,000 miles the current owner has put on the car. Today the car looks as if it was a recent restoration.
The car runs and drives in excellent condition. The owner reports that in all the time he has owned the car the top has worked perfectly. The owner reports that two things he has done to help ensure the top continues to work well, is that he only operates the top when the car is level, which keeps the components from binding as it raises and lowers and keeps the top in the down position when the car is stored reducing the need to raise and lower it every time it is used. He feels this is useful preventative maintenance.
1957 Ford Fairlane “fun facts”
The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner is a two-door full-size retractable convertible, manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company for model years 1957–1959. However, early into the 1959 model year, its name was expanded to Fairlane 500 Galaxie Skyliner. The retracting roof system was marketed as the Hide-Away Hardtop, and was exclusively sold on this Ford-branded model, for three model years.
Ford’s 1957 Skyliner was the world’s first retracting hardtop convertible to be truly mass-produced by a car company from the factory, coming close to 50,000 sales. Earlier, French car-maker Peugeot had offered several such models in the 1930s, with the help of a coachbuilding company, which sold only in very limited numbers. It also marked the first time the hard roof featured a folding front section, to retract and fit inside the car’s trunk.
The Skyliner’s retractable top operated via a complex mechanism that folded the front of the roof and retracted it under the rear decklid. Instead of the typical hydraulic mechanisms, the Skyliner top used seven reversible electric motors (six for 1959 models), 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, and 610 ft of wiring. The top largely consumed available trunk space, limiting the car’s sales, though the mechanism operated reliably. Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957, declining to 14,713 in 1958 and to 12,915 in 1959. An electric clock was standard. Fuel consumption was around 14 mpg 17 mpg) overall. The fuel tank was placed vertically in back of the rear seat, offering increased safety in a rear collision.
The wheelbase of the Skyliner was 118 in and the overall length was 210.8 in. in 1959 Ford offered the Galaxie Skyliner with both the Galaxie and Fairlane 500 badges. During the 1959 model year, Ford added the new top-of-the-line Galaxie series to its full-size lineup, and the Skyliner model became part of that series. Although the 1959 Galaxie was designated as a separate series, Galaxies carried both “Fairlane 500” and “Galaxie” badging, on the rear and sides respectively. It came with the standard 292 cu in (4.8 L) 2-barrel 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) V8 engine.
Requiring a shorter roof and longer trunk, the retractable roof concept was originally intended for Ford’s Continental brand. The mechanism’s complexity would have required an even more expensive marketing position for a Continental, and when Ford projected losses for this route, the company re-conceived the model and restyled it from the waist down — projecting it would attract more buyers under the Ford brand. Though prescient, the concept ultimately attracted more attention than sales; it was expensive, thought to be unreliable, and consumed almost all trunk space when retracted. The listed retail price was US$2,942 ($26,632 in 2022 dollars) with several items available optionally like power windows, power-adjustable front seat, power steering, power brakes, heater and windshield defroster.
Two manual transmissions, a three-speed and three-speed overdrive, and a 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.
The all-steel hardtop’s movement seems like magic, but thanks to the help of some carefully engineered componentry that included three drive motors, 610 feet of wiring, 10 solenoids and many other relays, circuit breakers and locking motors, it works like a charm. For its time, the folding hardtop was an astonishing feat, and still remains so today, some 58 years after it was first introduced.
In all, Ford produced 48,394 retractable hardtops. Its proper name is the Skyliner, which is often confused with the similar-sounding Sunliner name of the regular convertible model. The Skyliner was offered for just three years, and in 1957, its premier year, a total of 20,766 were produced, followed by 14,713 examples in the 1958 model year. When sales dwindled to just 12,915 Skyliners for 1959, Ford ceased its production as it was too expensive to manufacture such a complex and labor-intensive retractable hardtop in such limited numbers.
For those three years back in the 1950s, Ford’s retractable hardtop was the biggest sensation on the road, and no doubt contributed to Ford being America’s best-selling brand for 1957. When first introduced in 1956 for the 1957 model year, the retractable models stunned the public, making them a hit everywhere they went, especially when the hardtop was in motion.
Beyond its matchless removable roof, the 1959 Ford was a very attractive automobile, whose design was based on the 1957 Ford, but with four headlamps instead of two. In fact, so stylish were the 1959 Fords that at the Brussels World’s Fair, the entire Ford model lineup was awarded the Gold Medal of the Comite Francais des L’élégance of Paris for its outstanding style and fine design. It was considered “the world’s most beautifully proportioned car.” In European car circles, it was a very prestigious honor. In fact, during the ceremony, one French fashion authority had this to say about the 1959 Fords: “Ford has achieved in this new car such a classic harmony of design, an expression of ‘pure’ automobile, that it will go beautifully in any scene of your life. It is a car for motoring pleasure–and it looks most beautiful of all when it is in motion!”
While the 1959 Ford styling looks like the ’58 model’s, there are subtle differences that make the ’59 a standout design. The hood is squared off and no longer fitted with a hood scoop, and the aluminum grille insert is strikingly beautiful with its “floating star” design. The side trim has been reduced in size and placed towards the top, where it flows better into the rear quarter panel. And with the unique shape of the front wheelwell opening, combined with the tasteful stainless steel rear wheel spats and fluted paneling, it’s no wonder the 1959 Fords received such accolades. It truly is an American beauty.
Now available at Horsepower Enterprises LLC, a full service, repair and restoration shop and special interest automobile showroom. Lancaster, Pennsylvania, (717)392-0599 option 2.
Exterior: Flame Red
Engine: 292 cu in 200 HP