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Retractable Top! 1959 Ford Skyliner

Earlier in the week, we covered this 1961 Ford Sunliner and I made mention of the ’57-’59 retractable top Skyliner. Well, today, looking very fiftyish in its salmon and white two-tone finish is just such an example, a final year ’59 model that’s in extremely nice condition. It’s located in Las Vegas, Nevada and is available, here on craigslist for $19,000.

Modern convertibles (Volvo, BMW) have gone the route of the steel folding top but the job has been made easier by virtue of body processors that measure and control everything that can be measured or controlled. Back in the fifties, long before such technology existed, engineers designed a system that relied heavily on electronic relays functioning in a correct sequence. I have been told that finding an individual who really understands the entirety of how one of these Skyliners actually works can be challenging enough. I’d ask our informed readership to comment on that matter. Popular? Sure, convertibles were still in vogue in 1957 and Ford mustered sales of 48K Skyliners over three years. That said, the popularity waned pretty quickly dropping from 20K units in ’57 to about 12K in ’59. Why the fall off? The Skyliner was an expensive car, lacked trunk space, and the retractable top was believed to be unreliable. And of course, the Sunliner accomplished the same objective without those three issues.

Not the subject car, used as an example for illustration.

The seller tells us, “zero rust very low mileage been sitting several years minor TLC to get up and running…“. It certainly looks good, the few included images show no foibles or needed attention. The mileage is recorded as 53K but there’s no testament to its authenticity or indication if this car has been restored or is in its original state. If you’ll note, this Skyliner wears both Galaxie and Fairlane 500 badging.

The interior, with its multi hue of pastel colors, screams the 1950s from the rooftop. The seats are showing some fade, whether it’s age-related or the result of too much retractable top time is unknown, but it still presents well and could be left, and enjoyed, as is. The material on the door panels is starting to wrinkle and pull, and they’ll need attention, but again, they’re passable as is.

When you’re selling a special car like a Skyliner, and make no mention of the engine, or its running prowess, you’ve made a big mistake and that’s the problem here. We know that this Skyliner has a V8, they all did, but it could be a 200 HP 292 CI engine; a 225 HP 332 “Thunderbird” Special; or a top dog 300 HP, 352 CI powerplant. The seller claims “matching numbers“, so OK, it’s the original motor, but which one? As listed, an automatic transmission handles gear changes.

The seller tells us, “priced for quick sale taking a huge loss“. To which I say, why? Yes, the price seems reasonable but I’d want to check this car very carefully before pulling the trigger on a buy, wouldn’t you agree that would be prudent?


  1. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    There is an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage where Jay introduces us to “his guy” that’s the expert on Lincoln convertibles of this same vintage. The episode is really interesting as the chap describes the complex workings of the Lincolns, which I imagine are quite similar to the workings of this Ford. The guy makes a living going all over the country just working on these mechanisms.

    Like 9
  2. Mike

    I know they had to make the top fit inside, but the back end on these look bigger than it should. (please, no booty jokes)

    Like 4
    • Ronny Reuter

      They were and wer larger on the 58’s and 57’s. It looks as if the company used a Ranchero body and tailored it to fit. The roof took up space as did the spare tire, jack etc. plus all of the essential motors and other gizmos that moved that roof and rear trunk lid.

      Like 1
      • Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

        I’ve always thought the same thing. And my solution wasn’t implemented until around the 2000s with the Mercedes, VW, Audi, Cadillac and others. Fords problem in the 50s was they only had a very short fold in the steel roof. Had they moved that fold further back, you wouldn’t need to elongate the rear of the car, at least not as much. Making the rear of the car longer and higher has always bothered me about the Skyliners.

        Like 4
  3. jrmedsel

    Looks like a nice car for the price they are asking. There are experts out there who repair and adjust these tops, as well as the Lincoln/T-bird convertibles that used many of the same mechanisms. The top on my retractable has been very reliable and has only needed minor adjustments once during 20 years of ownership.

    Like 4
  4. Wes

    Hi, Mike. Not sure why you have that impression, every Galaxie had exactly the same measurements, Length : 208.1 in.; Width :76.6 in.; Wheelbase : 118.0 in. I have looked at lots of Fords and I have never found myself thinking that. It may be the way he took the photos.

    Like 0
  5. Rex Kahrs Rex Kahrs Member

    I gotta go with Mike on this one. I always thought the rear deck on these Skyliners was bigger than the standard hard tops.

    Like 5
    • Joe Bru

      they shortened the doors & lengthened the rear qtrs, etc

      Like 1
  6. Johnmloghry johnmloghry

    I love these cars but this one has very few options and that’s where the value comes in on these cars. There’s no electric windows, no A/C, no outside rear view mirrors with or without spot lights, no mention of engine size no continental kit, like or don’t like those kits they add to value. No fender skirts the list goes on and on. Low optioned cars just don’t get the value as well optioned cars do. Sorry but I’d have to pass on this one.

    God Bless America

    Like 0
  7. George Birth

    Nice looking car but non runner? Too much info missing on this one, I’d pass on this one.

    Like 0

    the picture with the top partially up looks like a different car and not the actual car in the ad so I wonder if the top actually works or not. I would request a video of the top working.

    Like 1
    • Wes

      Nice catch, David!
      Different wheel covers, rear skirts, and what color is the top? Like everyone else, I accepted the fact it was the same car, but looking at it closely, there are too many ‘gotcha’ differences.

      Scratching this one off my list……

      Like 0
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        Look at the caption that I placed under the image.


        Like 1
    • Wes

      The top body color is also different in that photo.

      NO, WAIT, maybe they put on rear skirts (chromed, no less), changed the wheel covers and had the car repainted for that photo, …… wonder how many buyers will even notice …

      Like 0
  9. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    When I saw the first picture of this car, it immediately transferred me back to the fifties. That color! I could visuize this car parked in the driveway of a mid century house.
    Just a beautiful example. And I’m not crazy about Fords, LOL

    Like 2
  10. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    I was one of the Ford techs who was enrolled in the last Retract/Lincoln/T-bird convertible top course Ford taught [1972]. If you have a basic understanding of electrical circuitry and mechanical systems, along with the FoMoCo convertible top manual, and you have the basic automotive tool selection including a Volt/ohm/amps meter [VOM], these are quite easy to fix.

    It’s important to remember every action for the operation of the top and rear deck is in sequence, either as it opens or closes. Wherever it stops working is where the problem lies. Typically it’s either an out of alignment switch or corroded relay contacts. The switches rarely fail, but the relays are often the source of the failure.

    It’s important to know one basic tip: Always keep a 9/16 deep well socket, 3/8 drive ratchet, and 6″ extension, and a flat blade screwdriver, in the glove box [not in the trunk]. If the deck lid fails to open, you don’t need to panic, as on each side, inside the wheel well, just forward of the tire, is a 9/16 bolt head. This is a bolt that holds the deck lid screw down point, one on each side at the forward corners of the deck lid.

    If they have never been removed, they are probably covered in dirt or undercoating, so use the screwdriver to clean around the bolt heads. Then use the socket set to remove both bolts. Using 2 people, you can now gently raise the deck lid up a few inches so you can reach in and disconnect the twin screw jacks that open the deck lid. [The use of 2 small 2X4 wood blocks is advised to support the deck lid.] Once those have been disconnected, you can raise the deck lid and access all the internal working parts of the retract top assembly and deck lid parts.

    ANY decent mechanic, armed with the repair manual & tools, can perform all the adjustments and repairs, just take your time. No special “retract only” tools are required.

    I remember about 35 years ago when a 1961 Lincoln convertible owner drove into my shop, the trunk lid butchered by another shop trying to get into the trunk area so the top could be raised. [They cut multiple holes in the deck lid trying to access the mechanism.] Within 10 minutes I had the deck lid open and found the corroded ‘deck lid unlock’ relay. $200 to repair the problem, and another $1,500 for a rust-free replacement deck lid & matching paint.

    Like 6
  11. Angel_Cadillac_Diva Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    My father was a machinist and mechanic. When raising the convertible top on my 1962 Lincoln stopped working halfway through the cycle, my took about 10/20 minutes to get it working again. That was the one and only time that top gave me a problem.

    Like 1
  12. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


    I’m not surprised, they really are easy to work on and repair. The ones I usually had to spend all day working on were usually as a result of an idiot who should not have tried to work on it, making all the wrong adjustments to the switches, and bingo; nuttin’ worked anymore!

    Like 3
  13. E Robinson

    Looks to have a cracked windscreen and also the inner cloth roof lining looks to be sagging

    Like 0
  14. Jim ODonnell Staff

    I was going through some prints that I have and found this one of ’57 Ford Skyliners coming off of the assembly line. I don’t know where it was taken, though obviously in the ’57 model year. I thought you all might enjoy it.


    Like 1

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