Rare Retractable: 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner

We’ve all seen project cars where you just know that there will be months or years of work before they are ready to hit the road once again. That isn’t the case with this 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. It has recently been revived after sitting idle since 1988. There are a few little tasks left to tackle, but a weekend’s tinkering in a home workshop would have the car presenting at its best once again. The Skyliner is located in Morris, Oklahoma, and has been listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has reached $11,211, and the reserve has been met.

What a great looking classic! The Colonial White Ford presents very nicely, and the owner says that thanks to the fact that it has been previously undercoated, it remains rust-free. That isn’t to say that it’s perfect. He notes the fact that it has received some prior bodywork on the right lower quarter panel, just forward of the wheel well. He does say that there is some bubbling there, but that he believes that this is a flaw in the paint, and isn’t a sign of developing rust issues. It would appear that the rocker molding on that side was removed when the work was undertaken. This hasn’t been replaced, and it isn’t clear whether it is even present. Beyond that, the paint presents with a high shine, while the panels are extremely straight. The glass and trim appear to be in good order, while the vehicle is fitted with a functional spotlight on the driver’s side. The retractable top does work, but it does require a bit of physical assistance to get it moving. Until recently, the Skyliner has been parked since 1988, so it could be that this situation improves with further use. You would have to hope so because with a multitude of motors, relays, lift jacks, solenoids, and latches, these are incredibly complicated. If the top does eventually need some work, then this is a task that is best suited to someone with experience.

Looking at the interior reveals the most apparent need with this classic. It isn’t clear why he did it, but the owner has chosen to remove the carpet. He doesn’t say whether he has retained, and if so, what condition it is in. If it had deteriorated beyond the point of no return, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Replacement carpet sets are easy to find, and generally sell for around $200. Fitting these is also pretty straightforward, and should be able to be achieved in a weekend. One positive aspect of the missing carpet is that it affords a clear view of the floors. These look about as clean as you could ever hope to find in a vehicle of this age. With a new carpet set, the interior would look stunning. The seats look like they are wearing new covers because there are no signs of any faults or flaws. The remaining trim appears to be in good order, while the dash also presents well. In addition to replacing the carpet, there are a couple of other small tasks to perform. Neither the radio nor speedometer function, so both will require some investigation.

Taking a peek into the engine bay reveals a 292ci Y-Block V8. This would have produced 212hp, which found its way to the rear wheels via a 3-speed Fordomatic transmission. As a bonus, the Fairlane comes equipped with power steering. As part of the revival process, the owner undertook a reasonable amount of work to return the car to a roadworthy state. This included fitting a new fuel tank and pump. Also, the brakes received new wheel cylinders, a new master cylinder, along with new hoses and lines. Once you add a new water pump, fresh plugs, points, a new cap, new wires, fresh oil, and a new filter, the Fairlane is said to now run and drive well. The engine starts quickly, the transmission shifts smoothly, the brakes are strong, while the power steering works perfectly. The only fault that the owner identifies is the fact that the single exhaust will require replacement shortly.

Tackling the full restoration of a classic car can be a daunting task. The prospect of months or years of work, along with a substantial capital outlay, can encourage some people to drop the whole concept into the “too hard basket.” That’s where cars like this Skyliner fit into the equation. They are fundamentally ready to go, but there are just enough little tasks that will allow a dedicated owner to place their mark on the vehicle. I’m glad that there are many thousands of miles between the Ford and me because I would love to park it in my workshop. I will be interested to see whether any of our readers feel the same.

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  1. snarky

    Anyone have a link to a video of one of these tops in motion?

    Like 1
  2. Bob C.

    These were beautiful cars. Too bad the tin worm got a lot of them, which explains why not many are around today.

    Like 2
  3. Classic Steel

    These are cool cars 👍

    Its a definite keeper..

    Like 4
  4. Will Fox

    For some reason, I’ve always felt `57 Fairlane 500’s of all types look best in all white. Ford did a good job styling the `57s, and to me it shows especially well in white. Nice Skyliner!

    Like 5
    • Jack Gray

      I had a ’57 Fairlane 500 2 door hardtop. After a slight altercation with the rear end of a 49 Dodge, had it repainted from 2 stone black and red to all Diamond Lustre Black. Sure would like to have it back now, but traded it 56 years ago for a new ’64 Falcon…sorry!

      Like 1
  5. Tempo Matador Ray

    Cool cruiser…it appears to have solid bones and a good start for the next custodian to accept the baton. A strong consideration would be to access the technical information with regard to the retractable top. Although a clever bit of engineering, there are a lot of moving parts that make this assembly operate properly. With this vital information one would be able to troubleshoot this unique system with confidence…Continue to innovate not duplicate. 🛠

    Like 8
  6. Doug Harvey Member

    I thought that all 57 Ford Fairlane came with the 312 motor that’s what I had great car wish I still had it

    • Vince H

      The 292 was the base engine into the 60s. I am not sure it was the base in 57. I think the 272 was still the base V8.

  7. Fred W

    Bought one (red and white) in the late 90’s needing paint, bodywork and top work. I got a wiring diagram and tackled the top myself. With that experience as hindsight, I wouldn’t hesitate to take this one on, since the top already works. Once the pivot points and turning screws are lubed, about all that can go wrong are limit switches (along with loose connections). It’s easy to understand with a diagram and a basic knowledge of how the system works.

    Like 18
  8. Ray Dantes

    They were sharp looking cars but grossly under powered due to the weight of the car, raced a few with my 283 Chevy block and blew them away. It’s to bad GM never had retractable hard tops like that, would of been interesting back then

    Like 1
  9. DonP

    Not to be an iconoclast about things, but I always thought the ’57 Fords were better looking than the ’57 Chevies. Plus the 292/312 Y Block engine was close to bulletproof for its era. You can still walk into any NAPA store and get most of the engine parts off the shelf.

    Like 7
    • Craig Newman

      Sales figures and current demand would not support your thesis about 1957 fords galaxy being more desirable than 1957 Chevy Impala.

      Like 1
      • Vince H

        No Impala in 57. Ford did out sell Chevy across the board in 57

        Like 5
  10. Vince H

    This was supposed to be on the Mark 11 but the cost was too much for a ca that lost money on each unit. I don’t think Ford made any money on the Skyliner either. This was the second time Ford used the name. It was on the 54-56 cars with the plexiglass top.

    Like 2
    • Rob

      I thought the 54-56 with the clear top was a Crown Victoria? I have one, but it’s only it’s a slight smaller (1:18 scale) LOL

      • Rob

        WAY ahead of it’s time, and too expensive @ $4200 I remember sitting in one in the showroom.

      • Vince H

        54 was not a Crown Victoria. 55-56 were Crown Victorias. The clear top made them a Skyliner. Not very many were made. The regular Crown Victoria was not a Skyliner.

        Like 2
    • Rob

      Your right. 1954 only year. Some sites say it was a glass top.

  11. FarmerBoy

    My parents had one of these brand new when I was only 7. First car I really can remember in a long line of special cars my dad insisted on “giving” to my mother as her daily driver.
    Best story: on a long trip back east to visit my father’s family we drove this through a raging rainstorm and the seal between the windshield and the roof leaked. Like someone was holding a fire hose at the seal. Dad refused to stop, and my mother stuffed clothes and tissue paper in the crack to try and stop the flow while dad swore like the Army Sargent he had been in WWII.
    Mom’s 100yrs old now and in assisted care and we still laugh about that car and that story.

    Like 30
  12. Huntley Hennessy

    I restored one of these in 1970. It was a great car with the 312 4v motor. It drove better than my 57 Belair Sport Coupe, except when the top was in the trunk. Then it felt light and floaty in the front end. Wish I still had it.

    Like 2
  13. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Bless your mom for hanging in there for 100 years +++. My dad and I just about went nuts when the Retractable Club had its annual show in the DC area sometime in the 1980s. Lots of photos in the photo album–he was getting up in years and wanted to be photographed next to every one. We had driven all the way to Dearborn several years before (1976-78) only to find that year’s annual meet had been canceled. Alas, we ended up collecting every color of Franklin Mint 1957 Ford Retractable in scale which is the highlight of my model collection to this day. Working tops included.

    Like 8
    • Rob

      Wow, how much did that model cost? I collect 1:18 cars, but never paid over $35. The top works? Is that a Midget in your pic.?

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        The Franklin Mint 57 Retractible was 1/24th scale, I believe. Precision made diecast model with working top in most of the factory colors. Came with a display case and a pair of cotton gloves to handle the piece. This was when Franklin Mint cars could be ordered from a catalog or directly at stores like the one near us in Tysons Corner, Virginia. I don’t recall how much they cost, maybe $125 retail? There is a huge secondary market for Franklin Mint models and people seek out specific colors which drives up the prices. On the other hand, some that were not well cared for or used as toys sometimes show up at antique malls for $35-50 bucks. The car in my profile thumbnail is my time capsule 1974 MG Midget. 26k miles.

        Like 1
    • Rob

      Thanks for the reply! I had a 70 Midget, that pumpkin color, I loved it, my wife not so much, she said “It’s a giant Hot Wheel car”. Not fun when a semi passed you. A shame the chrome bumpers went away. No way to upload pic here I guess.

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        “Harvest Gold” or as I like to say “Poupon Mustard.” Pretty common color in the mid-1970s. I’ve owned the three most unique colors offered in 1974, Aconite purple, Teal blue, and this one.


    I had a 58 that for a few years in tneearly 1970’s. I loved that car but rust was getting the better of it so I sold it and bought a 70 Javelin with a 3 speed manual. The 57 Skyliner here is up to $15,100 with 1 day and 7 hours left. I wouldn’t be surprised if it passes $20,000 or even $25,000. It is a very desirable car. If only I had the space and money.

    Like 1
  15. kckencat

    I had a ‘57 back in the mid ‘60s with the 292/Fordamatic. Changed out to a built 361 out of ‘58 Edsel with 4 speed and 4:10 rear. Added 3-2 carb set up and had a real driver. Lots of fun with the retractable top and surprising performance. The cam/valves/springs, etc. for a 406 all fit the 361!

    Like 2
  16. Al

    My dad and I went to the local Ford dealer in Corning, NY to check out the first one in town before the reveal. We were ushered to a back room in the shop and there was this beautiful 2-tone brown Skyliner. It had that great “new car” smell. Dad carefully surveyed the car ending with a window sticker/price sheet. “twenty nine hundred dollars for a Ford!” That was 63 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. Great car. It’s calling my name or maybe Dad’s.

    Like 5
  17. TimM

    This is a beautiful car!! I love it!! The design I feel was way before it’s time and hard to believe that it wasn’t tried again till Mercedes did it in the 90’s I believe!!

    Like 1
  18. Daniel Farrell

    My first car was a 57 ford convertible. The big issue with those Y-block engines is getting oil up to the rocker arms when the engines get older and sludge accumulates in the narrow oil passages. Jay Leno knows a guy who’s an expert on those retractible roofs, he did a video on his Lincoln with a retractalbe metal roof.

    Like 1
  19. Bob Mck Member

    Love it!

  20. TennisTim

    Reminds me of my 1959 retractable. The car needs to be on level surface for the top to operate best. But a work of art and beauty. Nothing like the sound of the screws going in to secure the top. Mine had a Tendency to rust in the rockers and lower quarter panels. This one looks very clean

    Like 2
  21. TennisTim

    It’s best to keep the car parked on level ground when opening and closing the top. My 59 with a 352 quad tended to rust in the lower rockers and quarter panels. Nice looking car

  22. Dennis

    I loved the comment in the add with Lucy and Desi; “a weekends worth of luggage”. My friend’s father bought one and traded it in very soon when he realized for a family of five a weekends worth of luggage was more than one case. I believe it was basically a box in the center under that rear cover. That said; as a collector vehicle who needs luggage. You could probably pick up a few dollars from people like me that pay to see the top functioning.

    Like 1

    People were amazed by the retractable top even in the early 1970’s. There was just enough time at the average stop light to raise or lower the top.

    Like 1
    • Rob

      Now most makers offer one, once again, Ford innovation (Mirror in the glass windshield, floating gas pedal, 3 way tailgate, sequential turn signals, Aluminum body F 150, etc.) sometimes they blundered, but they tried to be innovative. In that era GM’s stance was “we’ll tell them what to buy, and they will because it’s GM” Vacuum wipers in a 1960 Chevy? Had a 1951 Plymouth with electric wipers! Well thats my 2 cents, some fact some opinion.

  24. Kenn

    I bought one of these needing “restoring” in 1993. Body and engine looked great. I opened the trunk, saw the solonoids, switches, relays wires, motors and, even with a wiring diagram and experience actually building my own sports car from plans, decided this was more trouble than I was willing to exert. My admiration for anyone willing to tackle maintenance on this beautiful automobile.

    Like 1

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