Hide-Away Hardtop: 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Project – SOLD!

by | Jan 2023 | Classifinds, Topless Thursday

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January 26, 2023 Update – We’re not surprised the seller of this ’57 Skyliner deleted their listing with no replacement found after less than one week.  With an asking price of only $9,000, we’re not surprised this Retractable sold so quickly. We’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

Regarding convertibles, the holy grail for car designers is to provide the open-air refreshment an open-top provides during nice days combined with the water-tightness and security of a coupe when the weather turns bad.  During the past twenty years, several manufacturers leveraged modern computer control and lightweight materials to provide retractable hardtop convertibles. However, Ford gets credit for offering such innovative technology first all the way back in 1957.

The 1957 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, 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, all relying on over six hundred feet of wiring.

The seller of this 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, originally listed in January 2023 on Craigslist in Manchester, New Hampshire, reports their California-sourced project car features a non-working top, so trying to debug and restore all of that complexity could quickly become a tortuous affair for someone not familiar with the intricacies of Ford’s innovative top design.

Last offered for $9,900, Classic.com, the analytics and search engine for the collector car market, confirms the ask is well below the one-year rolling average of this guide’s summary for all Ford Skyliner Retractables produced between 1957 and 1959.  By clicking on the green dots in the graph below, you can navigate to each comparable car sold as a way to help you evaluate the price of the Skyliner featured here:

As a second data point, the  Collector Car Market Review Online Tool reveals the seller’s ask falls about halfway below this guide’s #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $18,600.

Ford produced its innovative Fairlane 500 Skyliner two-door full-size car featuring a retractable hardtop for the model years 1957 to 1959. In 1959 the model name changed to Ford Galaxie Skyliner shortly after the production of the 1959 models had started. The retractable roof mechanism – also known as “Hide-Away Hardtop” – was unique to Ford-branded products and was not offered in any of the company’s divisions. Ford built a total of 48,394 units during the three-year production run.

Part of the Ford Fairlane 500 range, the Skyliner had a complex mechanism that 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 ), 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 a total of 610 ft (185.9 m) of wiring.  The large top took up vast trunk space, limiting the car’s sales.  Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957, declining to 14,713 in 1958 and 12,915 in 1959.  The fuel tank was placed vertically behind the rear seat, which inadvertently added safety in rear collisions. For consumers who still wanted a more traditional convertible, Ford continued offering a Sunliner version of the Fairlane 500.

In this 1957 Ford commercial, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz demonstrate how easily the retractable hardtop works:

The biggest wild card in buying this 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner for sale is determining what will need to be repaired or replaced to get the Hide-Away hardtop functioning reliably again.  Potential buyers should home in on that as the first order of business as they can very likely double the value of the car in its current condition just by getting the retractable top working.

Here’s the seller’s description:

“1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
Our 1957 Ford retractable hardtop is a good running project. A California car, until 2016 (old title included), has been registered in Vermont until September of 2022.

The car will need a lot of cosmetic work, but the body and undercarriage are solid, having been a western car. New windshield glass and attention to the left rear quarter dent are needed. Mechanically, the Ford runs, drives and stops but should be gone through as it has been sitting. The retractable top does not function, and I have not tried to fix it.
It is a very good base for a restoration or drive as is and improve it while enjoying the ride.
Please reach out with specific questions and a phone number. I’m happy to answer questions. I will not respond to “is it available”. Scammers don’t bother.  I need the room, so it’s priced to move at $9900. Sold on a Vermont DMV Bill of Sale.

Restore or enjoy as is: What would you do with this 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner project for sale?  Please comment below and let us know!

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