Hideaway Hardtop Project: 1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner

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One of the most interesting cars of the late 1950s was the Ford Skyliner. It was the first mass-produced, U.S.-built automobile to have a retractable roof which Ford marketed as the “Hideaway Hardtop.” It was technically complicated but sold in decent numbers, but not enough for Ford to continue past three years (1957-59). This ’58 edition has been sitting for a time and will need a full restoration. Located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, this part hardtop/part convertible is available here on craigslist for $11,950. Kudos to Gunter Kramer for this cool tip!

The Skyliner (not to be confused with the Sunliner, which was a pure convertible) may have been designed to tie into the Space Age craze that was starting to take hold in the 1950s. Based on the top-of-the-line Fairlane, it’s surprising that FOMOCO didn’t choose to make this a Lincoln, Mercury, or even an Edsel product instead of a Ford. There was nothing else like it on the road in those days and Ford managed to sell about 50,000 of them, so it wasn’t a dud in the showroom. The car relied on a complex combination of switches and wiring to lower the top and tuck it away into the trunk when the driver wanted plenty of sunshine.

As the story goes, this vehicle was purchased by his/her parents about 20 years ago and hasn’t been moved since it was parked outside. It’s one of about 14,700 assembled in ’58 which was similar in appearance to the ’57 except for the taillights and the change to dual rather than signal headlights. The seller thinks the engine is either a 352 or 390 cubic inch V8, but the choices in 1958 were a 292, 332, or 352. The odometer has turned over so it’s more like 141,500 miles. The original owner opted for an automatic transmission and power steering but stuck with manual brakes.

As you might expect, corrosion can be found on the Ford but doesn’t seem to be a rust bucket. The body panels are otherwise straight and we’re told there’s no bondo to be found anywhere. The black paint is original as is the red interior. You’re going to need to go through the fuel delivery system and add a battery to get the car going again and keep your fingers crossed that the retractable hardware bits are still functional. For an additional charge, you can have a ’58 Skyliner parts car and another ’58 sedan to lift pieces and components from to restore the main automobile.

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  1. RICK W

    While I love full size FMC vehicles, this reminds me of haters old interpretation of FORD…Found On Road Dead Seriously hope someone has the time, ability and money to bring this one back to life. Às rare as these are, a full RESURRECTION would be a great save. 😉

    Like 6
    • stillrunners stillrunnersMember

      Actually these are just like Edsels in the way people saved them. There were no less then 3 builders that came out of a collectors stash here – local about two months ago and they ended up with a collectors salvage yard.

      Like 0
  2. 86_Vette_Convertible

    These fascinated me when as a kid I saw one work the power top, fascinating. Then about 20 years ago I worked with a guy who said he was a new Ford mechanic and one of his first major jobs was working on one of these that had some issues with the top going up and down. Apparently they have an incredible number of relays and switches that all have to be in sync for the top to function correctly. He said unfortunately he eventually got it working correctly, so for the remainder of his time at the dealership he got every one of those that came in with top issues. He said the only good thing about it was no one bothered him while he was working on the cars with top issues.

    Like 7
  3. Don

    If you are moderately mechanically savvy, and read instruction manuals you can get these tops working fairly easily. Its mostly alignment of limit switches, mechanical solenoids, and patience. I own 2 57 skyliners.

    Like 6
    • Lance

      Don, I worked on one these a while back. I never saw so many solenoids to operate the top in my life. LOL

      Like 1
    • Timmy VMember

      Has anyone ever restored one of these with modern technology to make the tops more reliable and easy to fix? How would you do it?

      Like 2

    I worked on one of those tops several years ago. Two of us eventually got it to work but I heard it went to another shop for the same problem soon after. I’ve heard stories from the OLD guys that these tops were famously a pain in the butt.

    Like 0
  5. Johnmloghry johnmloghry

    A money pit for sure but after a full body off restoration it will be magnificent. A good friend of mine in the grand little burgh of Gun Barrel City, Texas has a 58 in perfect condition. Of course you’ll have more loot in this vehicle after full restoration than you could buy one already done for. Nevertheless a fine automobile it will be, and a knockout at all car shows.

    God Bless America

    Like 2
    • Mack

      If it’s black with a white top…I know the car. Very well.my grandad at at one time had 11 restored and on the ground..at least 50 parts cars..people would come from all over to see how he restored them and his process..it was good..but when the rotisserie and different coating processing came in..Amos Minter perfected it..and attention to detail..grandad got #3 in Nation in retract club..lost by 2 points on a 500 point system…neat cars..run well 300hp and 270 gears..will move down hwy..

      Like 0
  6. Ed

    When I was 11 years old, my father bought a new 1958 Skyliner, gray and white with a red interior. He had no problems with the roof and I discovered (accidentally on purpose) that those things were ahead of the safety control times. One time he was putting the roof back up, I laid my arm on top of the quarter panel where the roof’s sail panel came down. There were jackscrews that started turning when the roof came close to their respective sockets in the quarters. As soon as the roof encountered the resistance created by my arm, it stopped moving and started back up. Even at that young age, I was impressed.

    Like 6
  7. Tiger66

    BF: “Based on the top-of-the-line Fairlane, it’s surprising that FOMOCO didn’t choose to make this a Lincoln, Mercury, or even an Edsel product instead of a Ford.”

    The top mechanism had been developed for the Continental MkII, but was never used on that car. Ford realized they could never recoup its development costs via a low-volume model so it was used on a high-volume Ford, not a lower-selling Merc or Edsel (no Edsel in the 1957 model year anyway).

    BF: “The seller thinks the engine is either a 352 or 390 cubic inch V8, but the choices in 1958 were a 292, 332, or 352.”

    “Interceptor Special V8” on glovebox = 352 originally. But the air cleaner is not correct for a ’58 and it seems to have “Ford”-lettered valve covers, also incorrect for a ’58 352. No problem to swap in a 390 and it would look the same as a 352.

    Like 1
    • Rick

      If this car had a 292 the distributor would be at the back of the block, not up at the front.

      To expand on swapping out a 352 for a 390, why not go all the way and put in a 428? There’s no replacement for displacement.

      Like 0
  8. David G

    Sure is nice to see one without Skirts and/or Conti-kit, even in this condition. Someone updated its Brake MC to the ’60+ style it appears. Also, didn’t these had a small pedal-assist Bellows system under the dash??
    Can’t imagine stopping a Retract (heaviest of all Ford passenger cars) w/o PBrakes..

    Like 1

    These maser pieces of design and engineering cost Ford way more to sell than any of their other cars. There is no profit in being a legacy but as time marches on all those customers who have stayed loyal to a company, that was brave enough to show off their talents, can be proud to say “I’m a Ford guy!”

    Like 1
  10. DJ

    The Skyliner has odd proportions, but I’ve always thought 58 styling looked particularly handsome on it. The large rear panel wears the taillamp assemblies well. 57 is quite nice too, but never cared for the 59’s heavy-handed styling.

    Like 0

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