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Convertible Hardtop: 1957 Ford Skyliner

1957 Ford Skyliner

If this were a regular 1957 Fairlane I’d be calling this a parts car, but Skyliners are pretty special with their early hardtop convertible configuration. If you’re not familiar with it, the power hinged metal top folds in several places and ends up in the trunk. That’s right, BMW/Dodge/Pontiac/Mitsubushi/VW fans (and I’m sure I’ve missed some marques), your favorite marque didn’t have the idea first! Thanks go to Barn Finds reader Robert R for this find, located in Pelham, Alabama and offered here on craigslist for $2,750. The seller told us all about Skyliners in the ad, but not much about this one in particular, other than that it does still have the original engine and transmission in place. However, the picture above is the good side of the car – the picture of the other side would dissuade me from trying this one on for size. There are so few Skyliners around, though, maybe this is a way to have one for less than usual, if you’re willing to do a LOT of cutting and welding!


  1. Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

    Gone at 2:10 pm EST. Guess someone was willing to take the project on! There is a 1959 available in the same area, but they want a LOT more for it…

  2. DREW V.

    Better have a degree in electrical engineering when it comes to rebuilding all the motors and repairing the wiring harnesses…

  3. Gus

    If I remember correctly, there are a total of 12 electric motors that make the top go into the trunk, some where there will be a wiring schematic for that part of the project. Those cars are very rare

    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Here is a listing of the electric motors, front to back:
      Front of roof, to lock/unlock roof.
      Under roof assembly, to lock/unlock roof pillars at body.
      Under trunk mat, to raise/lower roof assembly [twin screw jacks].
      Under trunk mat, to raise/lower trunk lid assembly [additional twin screw jacks].
      On trunk lid, to fold/unfold package tray.

      Many people believe more motors were used, however the above motors drove flex shafts from both ends of the motors. The system was quite simple and very reliable. On the rare times it did stop, the typical cause was a failed relay. The system used about a dozen relays similar to the Ford starter motor relay, with an extra (4th) connection post. The relay contacts would become corroded, but it was an easy repair, the top always stopping at the point in the cycle that had the bad relay. The other common problem was not the car’s fault; it was from people not familiar with the top operation who misadjusted switch locations, causing the system to try to go into 2 operations at once.

      I was a student at the last tech class Ford gave on the Skyliner/T-bird/Lincoln convertible top systems in 1971. I still have all my original workbooks and factory manuals. I have also owned 2 1959 Skyliners, and 1965 & 66 Lincoln convertibles.

      Picture here is a 1959 Fairlane Galaxy [quite rare] Skyliner I found in a junkyard in south central PA. It was equipped with stick shift & overdrive because of the poor back road conditions in the mountains. The Fairlane Galaxy Skyliner was introduced just a few weeks before the 1959 model year came to a close.

  4. Tim Moore

    I recall seeing a custom bodied duesenberg from about ’32 that had a retractable hard top, and I think there were a couple attempts earlier than that on some European marques. It really was amusing though, in the early 90’s when Mitsubishi ran an advert claiming the 3000gt was the worlds first ever retractable hard top. They pulled the ads very shortly after. Research fail lol

    • Ceezy

      I believe it was a 1930s Peugeot with the first retractable top.

      Like 3
  5. Chebby

    Looks like the car they pulled from the lake at the end of “Psycho.”

    • Marshall

      That was a 1957 Ford four-door sedan that was in “Psycho”.

  6. kenzo

    At 2750 and you already are working on one. it is a cheap parts car. as it appears most or the needed stuff is there.

  7. Harit Trivedi

    There is only one such car known in India, and it is displayed at the Heritage Transport Museum near Delhi ( ), worth a visit. The owner told me about these motors required to operate the disappearing top system, and how he painstakingly procured these from the US and got it working.

    Do visit the Museum when in Delhi

  8. Jim Marshall

    I know the 57 Fords were notorious for rust problems and Not sure the 59’s were as bad but to bring one of these babies back from the grave would be costly even before you tackled the top issues. Back in 1975 I was with a Ford dealer and a 58 was stored back in the corner of the shop. I inquired about it found out the owner had passed and there was a mechanics lien against it for $85.00, the amount I could have purchased it for. The car was a strong #3 but I passed. Oh well.

  9. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    57-59 these are my favorite cars of all time. They required a very long trunk and the trunk lid opened backwards giving a kind of weird look from the back. They were very expensive cars when new, for their time. The 59 is my favorite for several reasons; better engine selection, more options, and in my opinion a much nicer visual appearance. This particular example will end up costing a lot more after restoration than buying one already restored. Never-the-less these cars are so special even this one deserves restoration. I hope a lover of these magnificent cars gets this one and returns it to the beauty it was designed to be.

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