The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner is a two-door full-size car with a retractable hardtop that was produced by Ford Motor Company 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” – was unique to Ford branded products, and was not offered on Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, or Edsel branded vehicles during this time period. A total of 48,394 units were built.
The Ford Skyliner Retractable was only the second car in history to be mass-produced 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. At the time of its introduction, the Skyliner was the only true hardtop convertible in the world.
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), 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 amounts of trunk space, limiting the car’s sales (however, unlike what most people believe , the mechanism had decent reliability). 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‑US (17 L/100 km; 17 mpg‑imp) overall. The fuel tank was placed vertically in back of the rear seat, which inadvertently added safety in rear collisions. Starting in 1958, Cruise-O-Matic was added, which provided a second “drive” range (“D2”), allowing for an intermediate gear start.
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