Hardtop Convertible: 1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

Today the concept of a power retractable hardtop convertible is modern and considered a high end feature. That was also the consensus in 1957 when the Skyliner was released with its dual weather roof. Although baring all of the great styling queues of a two door sedan, this is actually a convertible in sheep’s clothing. This neat convertible has spent the better part of 30 years in a barn, only to be recently drug out and put up for sale. Appearing solid, with the possibility of original paint, this Ford is going to need some work. Bidding has reached $7,100 with the reserve unmet. Find it here on ebay out of New Lebanon, Ohio.

Lightly covered in surface rust, the 332 cubic inch V8 is not currently a runner. The seller installed a battery and checked some various electrical items on the car, but claims that the engine wouldn’t crank. Now I am unsure what that means exactly. If the engine is frozen, then the engine will not crank. Or if the starter solenoid is stuck, then the engine will not crank that way either. The seller has given no real details about the engine so this is a buyer beware situation. Despite the surface rust on the engine and its accessories, the engine bay and its paint look nice.

Taking a peek inside of this convertible reveals a very original interior that could use a little help. The seats are covered in original upholstery, but have clearly succumbed to the test of time. The dash looks to have a couple of cracks, and the paint finish is worn on the steering wheel. The door paneling is in fair shape, needing some tidying, and cleaning like the rest of the interior. What I don’t particularly like is the rampant amount of dirt and particles on the driver floor area. Described as having “fairly solid floors” leaves some wiggle room for that definition. One mans rust, is another mans scrap heap. There is no real evidence of rust in this Ford, but having spent 30 years on a dirt floor in a moist barn may have played a bad hand for this cool convertible. Either way, further details would be greatly appreciated to draw a conclusion to this Fairlane’s condition.

I always enjoy seeing an even layer of dirt, and dust, on a car that has spent some time hibernating.  Remarkably straight, with what appears to be a lot of original paint, this Fairlane is a cool dual purpose classic. Aside from the mystery rust in the floors, this Fairlane looks very solid from the outside. There are no real signs of rust, other than some very minor rust on the front grill and bumper. I would would be willing to bet that this car would polish up nicely. Clearly the crowning feature of this car is its electric retractable hardtop. The motors, and mechanisms work for the most part, needing assistance on closing, but opening fine. Thankfully this Ford is complete with no major flaws to be seen on the exterior, making this Skyliner appear as a rare opportunity. Are you a fan of this hardtop convertible?


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  1. bill

    Restoration costs for the retractable top will be much more than a fully restored car will bring at auction.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Nonsense . . . These are really easy to repair and troubleshoot, as long as you have a decent understanding of electrical systems and mechanical aptitude. The entire system for the top operation goes one step at a time. Wherever it stops – there is your trouble! Check relays first, then check to see if any of the switches are out of adjustment. Set them to the right specs, and assuming there are no burned out motors or relays, it will likely work. I’ve never had one I couldn’t have operating in less than a day, as long as all the motors & relays were in good shape. Same with the 61-67 T-Bird & Continental convertibles.

      And don’t forget to keep 1/2 & 9/16 deep sockets on a ratchet with a 6″ extension, there are 2 small bolt heads up under the rear wheel wells to remove the screw base latches holding the deck lid down, and a few more screws on the trunk floor to release the screw jacks. Once they are removed, you can gain access to everything in the trunk area. [On the 61-67 cars you only need the 9/16 socket to unlatch the deck lid.]

      I worked for a Ford dealer in the early 70s, they sent me to the retract/Lincoln/Tbird top repair school. Still have the manuals and the course work books.

      Back in the 1980s a guy brought a ’64 Continental 4-door convertible into my shop, he had cut huge holes into the trunk lid skin with tin snips, trying to gain access to the trunk area. While he watched, I took an air ratchet with the deepwell 9/16 socket & in less than 5 minutes had the trunk lid open.

      Back in the 1970s & early 80s I was one of the technical helpers with the Ford Retract club. Have had a ’58 & a very late ’59 GALAXY retract. [The Galaxy name was added to the Ford line only a few weeks before they stopped making the retract.] The ’58 had factory 3 speed & OD.

      • Fred W.

        You didn’t even have to be a retractable school graduate. I bought a ’57 in the mid 90’s with a non working top, having never seen one in person before. Got a shop manual and with a couple of days of troubleshooting I had it working. Took some more time to get it working WELL, but not too long. You just have to find the offending relay, switch, adjustment or motor and fix or replace. Very straightforward once you understand the system. I enjoyed the challenge. After restoration, mine looked like this one.

      • fordfan

        My dad had a 1959 galaxy 500 town victoria , I also rember seeing the same model car badged as farlane 500 ,I guess our car was a late 59

  2. Adam T45 Staff

    This is a beautiful and rare car. The Ebay ad demonstrates one of those qualities that really makes me wonder about some sellers though: If you’re going to put a heap of detailed pics in your advertisement, why not pump up the tyres on the car?

    • Edward Finnesey

      Or used “tyres”. I think the last set of those I had were on my velocopide.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      Ok guys, maybe I’m a bit old school. Does the word “inflate” sit better for you? As for the word “tyres”, I’m Australian and that’s how we spell the word. Sorry that you need an interpreter. It may surprise you that it’s called the World Wide Web because people outside the US can see it!

      Like 1
    • Rex Kahrs Member

      I see HeadMaster1 understands how great America is going to be again!

    • Ed P

      It was enough for me.

    • FordSon

      As if, just as many Brits cannot be ignorant ?…and it is, by the way, “Nit-Pick”. A proper Englishman would have never allowed such an indiscretion.
      Continue to smile….ignorance is bliss.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      Thanks HeadMaster1, it’s ok. I appreciate your support. The trouble is that Americans speak English, but some of them haven’t realised that English came from a country called England. I don’t mind if they want to stir me. I guess it keeps them amused and off the streets. As for the comment by Rex Kahrs about how America is going to be great again? Only time will tell on that one.

      Like 1
    • Mike H. Mike H

      Right? Some folks have an entirely narrow world view.

    • Rex Kahrs Member

      That was intended as a joke.

  3. nessy

    You can already see how nice this car will look with just a simple bath. Why do so many sellers think the filth is a turn on? If I owned that car, I would not be able to wait 5 minutes before I got out my wash bucket and the hose. Yuck. I like these. I had a 57 Skyliner once for a short time. It needed work but the main reason I bought it was because the top worked. When the top stopped working a year later, I sold it. I did the same thing with a 67 Lincoln 4 door convertible with the same type of top setup. I bought it because the top worked, when it quit, I sold the car. This top setup is insane to repair. What an electrical beast to fix.

    • Brad C

      “Why do so many sellers think the filth is a turn on?”

      Because if it takes 20 years for a car to collect dust like that… then it means a car from the 50s has been waiting a third of its life to be rediscovered, nobody monkeying with it or pulling parts off. And it lets us feel like we were part of that discovery.

      These barns are our Valley of the Kings; these cars are our slumbering Pharaohs. Some folks just want to stand in a museum and see the shiny sarcophagus. But the rest of us want to be with Carter, descending the stairs into darkness… and hoping to discover wonderful things.

      Like 1
      • jaygryph

        My experience has been that cars covered in dust gather more enthusiastic buyers. I know I look for cars like this when barn shopping because as you said, it often means nobody has messed with it, and the fewer idle hands pulling apart stuff the better. Nobody likes a basket case project.

        A thick layer of dust enhances the fantasy, and if you’re the one selling it, you’re better off in many cases to leave it that way where you can honestly say you have no idea what the car may need. Sometimes that helps with sales, selling the sizzle ahead of the steak.

  4. CapNemo

    If I was interested in this car, I’d want to buy it just as it is, with all the dirt on it. I take joy in being the first one to wash it in all those years. Seeing the difference and getting to know the car in a day’s worth of cleaning is a great motivator to me. Yes, I’m a little weird lol!

    • Adam T45 Staff

      If you’re weird CapNemo, then so am I! The thing about buying a car that’s in this state is that in your mind you know how bad it looks. When you’ve finished your restoration you can reflect back on how it looked when you bought it, and how far you have taken it. I get it.

      Like 1
  5. Anthony

    Seems to me that 30 years in a barn cant be good for all the relays that work the retractable roof

    • Bill McCoskey

      The relays on the 57-59 cars are sealed and look just like the Ford starter motor relay, except for the addition of one additional small electrical connector post. Most of the switches are hidden in places where they don’t get direct moisture, and are almost always OK.

      These relays rarely go bad, it’s the square more modern relays used in the 61-67 convertibles that fail & are getting hard to find. As I recall there are 20 relays to operate the top system and the rear door windows, there are 4 different versions and one has been made of unobtanium for about 30 years now.

      The big problem with cars that sit for many years is with the wiring connectors on the 57-59 retract relays, they are round push-on connectors made of brass, and they get corroded. However they are easy to clean with the modern brass cleaners, just dip them in the cleaner for a few minutes, rinse, & dry with some compressed air.

      • Gear Head Engineer

        I agree that these systems aren’t hard to troubleshoot and repair if you take your time to understand how they work. I started with a ’64 Lincoln that had the entire top mechanism taken apart and jumbled in boxes.

        The Lincoln relays are also pretty reliable, although they can fail – usually due to moisture and/or corrosion. If you are careful, you can take the case off and clean up the internal contacts. I’ve fixed many of them that way. Worst case, you can replace the original relay with modern relays. I’ve seen guys put a very small relay in the original “can” so you can’t tell the difference. Personally I don’t worry about the looks on my ’64 because the relays are hidden and my car isn’t stock anyway. You just have to replace the original connector.

        As for the subject car, I like it. I think the seller should have taken some pics in the “as found” condition, but then cleaned it up a bit. I want to see what I’m getting and not have potential problems hidden by the dirt.

        – John

  6. Wagon master

    Im a glutton for punishment having owned 4 of these. Cool idea but a nightmare when it quits. $10000 to refurbish the entire mechanism with more modern reliable components.

  7. Ohio Rick

    I vividly remember as a youngster seeing a number of these along the road with the top half up and the owner standing there with frustration oozing from every pore.

    • Bill McCoskey

      When I used to get calls about the top stuck half way, 95% of the time it was because the stupid owner tried to put the top up or down without the engine running, and the battery would run out of energy about half way thru!

      • Brad C

        Having watched the process of the roof in motion, it’s easy to imagine how it would drained a battery pretty quickly. If I stand back and squint enough… I can almost imagine a humpback whale breaching the surf in slow motion, then crashing down and disappearing under the waves.

  8. L.M.K. Member

    A lot of potential exists here in the right hands….
    Anybody else notice the Raven black 62 coupe sitting beside it?

    • Jay M

      The 406 car was on here last week.

      • ACZ

        The 406 car from last week that wasn’t a 406 and didn’t have the tri-power.

  9. Rustytech Member

    I have always like the looks of the 59 Fords. I would rather have a regular convertible though, besides the complicated and expensive top mechanism, I always felt these looked weird with the top up. I have seen pristine examples of these hit close to $100k so this looks like it could be a good investment for someone with the resources to do it right.

  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    Personally, if I plan to spend money on a woman, I want her to show up freshly showered! Dinner I mean…

    • Adam T45 Staff

      I never thought that you meant anything other than dinner. Then again, I’m an Aussie and we are a bit gullible at times!

  11. John C Cargill

    I had a 1959 Ford with the same color scheme in 1967. But it was a bare bones Custom 300 6 stick, two tone and let outside mirror the only options. I bought a stock radio for 10 bucks including antenna, Ah great memories. I’d love to have the money to do this one right.

  12. FarmerBoy

    Mom had a yellow and white 57 – roof leaked like a sieve. We all drove east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a rainstorm and I still can see Mom trying to stem the tide from the leak between the windshield and roof and Dad cussing away. Also remember riding with Mom to the local Ford dealer more than once with the roof jammed half way up (or down). Good times…

  13. JP

    There is a guy in my town that has 12 of these, some of which are #1 cars. He let me see them once, they are really beautiful when fully restored. It really helps to have the A/C and the 352 engine though. This one is really iffy but it does the padded dash which is an option and Indian Turquoise is a good color.

  14. G.P. Member

    I know a guy that has 2 retractable cars, he is 83 years old and just sold his farm in Jan. 2017. They are not completely assembled. There are a lot of parts, and extra parts. The cars and parts are now at his sons garage north of Menomonie WI. Al is in Texas until spring. If anyone would like more info. or pic’s let me know. I need to ask them if it’s ok to post there phone number first.

    • Juanita M Smalley

      Hi. I realize this is Nov. 2020. Is there any possible way, you would have the phone # for the fellow who has the 2 Ford Retractable parts? My brother has been searching for some parts for his. Though not perfect it is his childhood dream to own a 59 retractable. Hoping you can help or know someone. Thank you and God Bless!

  15. Tracy

    How much truck space for luggage is lost when the top is down?

    • Mike H. Mike H

      The “trunk” is actually a box nestled in the cavity where the top lives. Top up or stowed the amount of trunk space remains the same.

      Access to the box isn’t necessarily easy, ever, and is probably a bit worse with the roof stowed. However, there are many of us who are willing to sacrifice a little comfort for style.

  16. G 1

    My 4th grade teacher had one. One day it rained and the top was down. Nobody said a word. Kids can be mean, but so was she.

  17. RicK

    Perry Mason often drove a similarly equipped ’57 Skyliner (retractable) during the first season of his eponymous show

  18. Brad C

    Pretty cool car, though I’ve never fallen in love with them when seeing them all perfect at cruise nights. I prefer this one looking a bit more well-loved and less show-offy.

    A couple people over the years have transformed them using Edsel front clips.. and they’re awfully pretty. Plus, how many people get to say their car is “one of none”?

    • Ed P

      Brad C: I’ve seen a Ranchero given the Edsel treatment. I did a double take on that one.

      • Brad C

        Right! The infamous Edselchero. Toilet seat, horse collar… whatever. I like ’em!

  19. Eric 10Cars

    An hour left in the auction and it’s at $8400 now. While there are a number of complaints among the comments about the way the car is presented, there are a number of positives. The car appears to be entirely complete and unmolested. No missing trim or lens, door cards, buttons, handles…even correct hubcaps and all badges. The roof mechanism appears at least in pictures to be working. Door gaps are reasonable, suggesting that it’s never been in a wrap. We don’t see the under carriage, and the inner right door rocker area looks iffy (unless that’s just debris and detritus).

    I’m guessing the reserve is $10K and if the bid stays at its current level, they might take it and run. I think that this is a great project with lots of upside, even though the 59 was not one of my personal favorites from Ford (loved the 57), and the hardtop convertible has a somewhat ungainly roof line, IMHO of course.

    • Brad C

      You were close! Sold for $9100. Good luck to the buyer – should be a fun project!

  20. Brian M Member

    Arthur Godfrey,( anyone remember him?) had one of the first 1957 Skyliners and had it on his show, filmed in Hawaii, I believe. He demonstrated it several times during the show for various guest celebrities and, guess what?, did it with out starting the car! I think that the third time was NOT the charm as it stopped part-way through whichever process it was performing. The next day, on his show, he mentioned that it was better form to have the engine running when opening or closing the roof. He could have benefited from Mr. McCloskey’s sage advice, eh?

  21. starsailing

    Always wanted to have one of these. I could have had a 57 Retractable back in the 80’s for free from a farmer, but I had 3 58 Chevs already at the time. Dad had the 59 Ford Country Sedan wagon, 352 300H.P. 3:90 gears, Holly carb, 3 on tree. Brother had 59 Galaxie 500 352 300 H.P. Auto with Carter carb(made a big difference.) We often swapped the 3:90s into my brother’s Ford when the folks took mom’s car to the cabin. My brother then took the Holley off dad’s car as well for running Lake st Mpls. We got caught as we did not get the gears changed back in time. Dad had a few heart attacks so the wagon sat a year with only use to local stores. We took the wagon up north to deer hunt, sure enough dad was racing a 63 ford Wagon with 390 engine and the woodgrain side. Dad blew him away at the stop light light 3-4 times, got further up north where two lanes will turn to one, they both slowed way down, dad gets into second, they stomp it, dad pulls away..til round out…..Several miles down the road, I am sitting back in the 3rd seat and there is smoke coming up from rt rear tire area, I mentioned to dad that the wheel bearing was howling when we started….Well gasket was bad, wheel bearing was locking up, axle grease leaked out and started a fire…..Wow, cool, just like a NASCAR race….Oh wait, the gas tank 1/2 full, filler etc….dad speeds up to keep flame going towards the back and not up. We pull into town, brother laying under neath trying to wrap car blanket around to get the fire out, we are using coffee and hot chocolate on the fire, then a bucket of washer fluid from the gas station….we get it out. Ford dealer closed…local guy knows one of the Mechanics, we call, he comes in and fixes the car by noon. Before dad bought the wagon had been run on Mn Dragways a few times winning every time in it’s class. Found a photo of it 2nd in line to run, , have to pull out later. Dad raced the Swede’s 60 T bird 430 a few times winning everytime until it was a title race. Dad won, and cashed out the T Bird on east Lake St. Brother Tom had to sell his 59 per dad, who made Tom buy the fastest car they could find, 65 Ply Belvedere 2 dr hdtp 426 wedge 4spd. My other brother Bill used the wagon a lot when he got his license. Winning races. Mom found out again, and Bill had to buy his own car..a 62 Chev Bel Air bubbletop 327 4spd. I was winniing races at the strip with my 61 bel air bubbletop, dad felt my car was too slow, and off we go to the car lot where he cosigned for my 66 442. Tom, Bill, and me owe our fun cars all to the 59 Ford Wagon being so fast for dad. Dad blew the engine in it, Tom said the replacement engine was the big Edsel engine from a 59 Edsel. Dad then sold it…Boy that was tough to do, take it to the dealer and drive home with a puny 63 Chev wagon 283 2brrl. The 59 was a legend back in the day. Someone will be very proud of this retractable….wish it was me.

    Like 1
    • John m leyshon Member

      That was long !

      All the better. Love stories like that, good times, great memories !

      Thanks for sharing Starsailing

      Like 1
  22. Melvin Burwell

    This is a dream car of mine. If I had the money and resources I would buy it.

  23. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    One of my all time favorite cars. Lucille Ball advertised them and drove one. The 59 is my favorite. These cars have gone up in value, in 2011 they sold for about 25k fully restored, now I see them listed from 50 grand on up. I hope to have one before I bite the big one, but for now I’m putting all my time into my 64 Rivvy.

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