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Skyliner! 1959 Ford Retractable Project


This 1959 Ford Fairlane Skyliner was taken off the road for a complete restoration, but the owner died part of the way through. The large Fords with the metal retractable roof were only made for three years, with 1959 being the final one. This project is located in Laredo, Texas and is being sold here on eBay with a buy-it-now of $8,000 and lower offers considered.

image courtesy madchrome.com

The Skyliner used a system of electric motors and solenoids to perform it’s magic. Eventually going out of production due to lower than expected sales, the top mechanism alone is worth owning the car for; it’s quite a show! I hope this project can look like the car in this picture soon; perhaps with your help?


Despite the surface rust on the front fenders placed on the car, another set is included and I believe the general structure to be very solid based on the numerous detailed pictures. The seller tells us there is rust on the lower quarter panels and rockers, but the necessary patch panels had already been purchased and will be included with the sale. The ad states all the parts not on the car are in boxes, but you know what a scavenger hunt that can turn into! This one might be worth it, though.


The odometer is showing 64,959 miles and it might be correct. I was pleased to see what look like solid floors, and a dash that doesn’t look sun-ravaged. Here’s hoping this car was taken care of prior to the restoration attempt. I love the dash on these old Fords! This one is equipped with an automatic transmission, and the VIN decoder here tells us it was originally equipped with the 225 horsepower, 332 cubic inch V8.


Ready for a surprise? This V8 starts and runs! I wouldn’t have guessed that considering the general condition of the car. Low retail according to the NADA guide is $15,950, which should give you some room to work if you do it all yourself. I know, though, that getting the top mechanism to work correctly (I found one source that described 610 feet of wiring!) is a very elaborate and labor intensive job. If this is your dream car, though, perhaps this is the project for you? Let us know if you dive in!


  1. Avatar photo Lee Hartman

    It looks do-able, but not the car for me. Someone will enjoy working on it.

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  2. Avatar photo AMC STEVE

    You will eat up $16 grand in a flash on this car. Electrical and body work alone will make this car not worth the effort. You can find better examples already finished.

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    • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

      I agree if you are talking paying someone to do it. If you are providing the labor, including the painting, that shouldn’t be the case. It rarely makes sense for a “checkbook restorer” to purchase a project car unless it’s particularly rare and that’s the only way you can find one. On the other hand, if you are willing to work yourself, it costs about the same to paint this car as it would to paint a 2000 Crown Victoria.

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      • Avatar photo Gary I

        Checkbook restorers exist for more reasons than wealth. Try a restoration of this complicity by yourself and let us see pics of the results. Experts who paint, wrench, fabricate and assemble these cars daily are able to get results that most people are NOT capable of. I know it’s not cheap, but neither is spending five to ten years on a garage restoration, doing it all by yourself, only to get second rate results that do not pay you back on your financial and time investment. Unless you are an out of work professional paint and body guy or have worked in a shop for several years you will lose track of time when life happens. Baby Boomers are driving the prices up on collector cars and classics because they are chasing the cars that never materialized in the grand plan of life. I have to bite my lip and be nice when at local car shows all the time because I see guys proud of shamefull efforts. Buy it and try, what could you lose, these cars are beautiful when finished right and valuable.

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      • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

        Hi, Gary–I do have a different point of view, but I see yours as well. I’ve been wrenching on cars since I was 8 and have completed several restorations, including one of a pretty much hand-built Anglo/Italian hybrid where the only options for most parts was to make them. It was good enough to take best-in-show at a national event after completing a 1,000 mile road rallye to get there, so it must have not been too bad, although I’m sure some would have done better. The important thing to me was that I can look at almost every component of that car and see my handiwork (and yes, I notice everything I got wrong as well!). I didn’t do it for the money and value…if I had done that I wouldn’t have picked Triumphs as my marque of choice, that’s for sure!!! I do it because I love the work, and over time, have gotten pretty decent at it. Am I proud? Yes. Could a professional have done better? Undoubtedly in some cases, although I’ve seen some pretty shoddy professional work as well. Was I slower? Sure! But the fact is, I could have never written the check…so I wouldn’t have MY dream car any other way than doing the work myself.

        Unlike some folks, I don’t begrudge those that can afford to write the check at all. But where you are biting your lip at folks proud of “shameful efforts”, I bite mine at the folks who pay to have a car restored and don’t even know how to replace a spark plug once it’s completed. No offense intended here! There’s room for both points of view!

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  3. Avatar photo ydnar

    These cars bring way more than 16K, if my memory serves me. This will get scooped up in a hurry. Not for me either though.

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    • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

      Randy, that was low retail. High retail is over $60k…check out the link in the article.

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  4. Avatar photo Duffy

    We put one together and believe it or not the rewiring on the top was not bad considering about 40 solenoids. Test light works wonders. This one appears solid. Floors look decent. Might take a shot at it myself. The last one we rebuilt and it was complete brought us $52000.

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  5. Avatar photo Jim

    I’ve got a 2010 G6 that puts on the same show for a bit less.

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  6. Avatar photo Vincent Habel

    I think the 59 was the best year for the flip top.

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  7. Avatar photo RON

    bet you never see any2010 g-6’s bring 8 grand in the very distant future!!

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  8. Avatar photo fred

    I did a partial restoration on a ’57 Skyliner myself in the late ’90s. I farmed out the paint and body and did electrical and upholstery myself. The top didn’t work at all when I bought it, and I can tell you it was a real feeling of accomplishment the first time I watched it go through the motions.

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  9. Avatar photo Ed P

    The retracting mechanism is an engineering marvel. Any restorable Ford with this feature is worth restoring. Besides price, the other problem with these cars is very limited trunk space when the top is down.

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  10. Avatar photo piper62j

    You have got to be S______g me.. Is there a mobile crusher nearby??
    Fork lift it over..

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    • Avatar photo Texas Tea

      I’m with piper62j. I’ve been around for a while and was into cars professionally most of my adult life. I am in disbelief that so many think this heap is a good deal.

      Why don’t one of you jump on it if this is such a good deal.

      That’s what I thought.

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      • Avatar photo Dan

        If someone really likes that model, they don’t care if it’s a ‘deal’ or not, they will just buy it and work on it. Passion usually trumps common sense. (speaking from experience)

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      • Avatar photo Duffy

        Trying to make a deal on it right now as we speak.

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      • Avatar photo Jamie Staff

        Good luck, Duffy! Keep us informed!

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  11. Avatar photo Mike

    Deep pockets required to put this car back on the road!!! IMO

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  12. Avatar photo Charles

    I remember my dad talking about how badly these Ford cars with the retractable tops leaked water if left out in the rain. I figured it was sort of like the t-top equipped Trans AM’s that I collect. If all of the seals are perfect, and the car is parked on a level spot, the tops may not leak. Otherwise they probably will leak.

    I like the looks of these old Fords when they are all sorted out. As rare as these cars are, someone will pay the asking price and pay the price to restore it. I don’t resent the folks with deep pockets who shell out huge amounts of money to put these old cars back in pristine condition. Average people can’t afford this sort of expense. If wealthy car collectors did not want to spend the money, few of these cars would be saved for future generations to enjoy. So to all of those car folks with deep pockets, you keep buying them, spend lots of money fixing them, and I will come to the shows and enjoy looking at them.

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    • Avatar photo Ed P

      Agreed. The retractable tops were not cheap when new. This car was not built for the common working man. They were aimed at a more upscale market. So, it makes sense that only the well heeled can afford them now is just a continuation of their original market.

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  13. Avatar photo '59FORDfan

    100%, in agreement, with you, Dan; and, good luck, Duffy!

    Like 0

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