1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

While a retractable-hardtop convertible might seem old hat these days, it was quite remarkable in 1957, when Ford introduced a full-size car with a steel roof that folded dramatically into the trunk and disappeared. This was only the second time in automotive history that such a production car was attempted, the first being the streamlined 1938 Peugeot 402 B. Ford’s was named the Skyliner and it was offered for three model years, first on the Fairlane 500 and in 1959.

The Pick of the Day, a 1959 Ford Fairlane Skyliner, is an immaculate-looking example of this rare model, of which just over 12,000 were produced that year. The hardtop-convertible supplemented Ford’s regular cloth-roof convertible, named Sunliner. “Only three years for the Skyliner!” says the Fort Wayne, Indiana, dealer advertising the car on “1959 was the last year for this engineering marvel.” Engineering marvel, indeed. If you’ve never seen and heard one of these in action, it is quite marvellous.

Operated by a complex system of reversible servo motors controlled by a line-up of 10 electric solenoids plus relays, switches, locking mechanisms, cables and about 600 feet of wire, the Skyliner presents nothing less than a mechanical ballet danced to the accompaniment of various clicks and whirrs. The dance includes the top lifting, its front lip folding under, the trunk lid opening from the front, the whole shebang gliding into the trunk and the lid closing, all done automatically and long before electronic gizmos made it seem easy.

Top up or down, the Skyliner is easy to spot on the street because of its shortened cabin and lengthened trunk lid, which is a cool look in itself. Aside from the splendour of its roof, this Skyliner finished in Antique white in great condition, and it runs and drives nicely. The body, paint, chrome and interior look very good, and it “needs very little to be a knockout.” The Skyliner is powered by the desirable 300-horsepower, 352cid Thunderbird V8, and the 3-speed manual transmission is equipped with a manually operated overdrive for relaxed highway cruising. The odometer shows just under 26,000 miles.

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