Working Retractable Top! 1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner

The 1950s was an era for experimentation by U.S. car manufacturers. A good example would be Ford’s retractable hardtop from 1957-59. It had a complex operation but was dependable despite what pundits may say today. But they didn’t sell well enough to be built into the 1960s. From the last year of production is this 1959 example, in better shape than you see a lot of unrestored retractables. Located in Omaha, Nebraska, this old Ford is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $11,291.99 with no reserve in the way.

These full-size retractable hardtop convertibles began as the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. By 1959, the name was changed to Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxie Skyliner since the Galaxie 500 was the new top-line model (like Chevy did with the Impala). The “Hide-Away Hardtop” – as it was called – was unique to Ford-branded products, not offered on Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, or Edsel. 50,000 must be a magic number for production minimums within the company. The 2-seat Thunderbirds reached 46,000 units in 1955-57 and they became a different car for ‘58. The Ford Skyliner managed 48,000 copies in three years, and they got canceled.

The 1959 edition of the Skyliner saw its lowest production numbers at 12,915, so arguably ones like the seller’s car would be the rarest of any survivors today. The car’s retractable top “technology” folded the front of the roof and then pulled it back under the rear decklid, using six reversible electric motors, four lift jacks, a series of relays, ten limit switches, ten solenoids, and 610 ft of wiring. In the photos the seller provides, we see the top both up and down, and the seller says it operates as it should.

As best as we can tell, everything about this car is original, including the paint. There is evidence of rust in a few places, but it does not appear rampant. There are a few dents and dings as well, but once you got the car running reliably, you could hold off on dismantling the Ford to return it to 1959 standards. At 58,000 miles, the 332 cubic inch V8 with automatic transmission runs, but the seller wouldn’t recommend taking it far because the tires are ancient. The windshield will need replacing, but the rest of the glass is good, and the windows go up and down properly.

The interior of the Ford may need attention before the body, as the driver’s seat is torn and taped up. Parts of the retractable top’s headliner are out but the seller says he has that piece that you can put back in. According to online resources, these cars don’t change hands very often, probably because restorers don’t want to deal with issues relating to the operation of the top. In good condition, $20,000 seems to be the average resale for one of these vehicles and this one has only gotten halfway there.

Comments

  1. Torqueandrecoil Member

    I’m local and very familiar with these if anyone wants a good personal inspection.

    Like 8
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    My buddy has one, claims he has never had a problem. And he drives it a lot. Always displays it at shows half up. It is pretty cool.

    Like 12
  3. nlpnt

    I always thought Ford should’ve made the Ranchero as a crewcab 2-door hardtop.

    Use all the same stampings as the Skyliner sans top mechanism, just weld the top in place, omit the trunk lid and “wash basin” and hinge the rear panel as a tailgate

    Like 3
  4. David

    I once walked into a Ford galaxie enthusiasts’ garage and he creating a working 59 sunliner from a “hardtop”.

    Like 1
  5. HC Member

    Compared to others I’ve seen, this one is in surprisingly good condition. Especially with everything working as it should like the top. It will be sold soon I bet, somewhere in the mid teens. Shame it’s clear across the country for me. Shipping would be pricey these days. Great find.

    Like 1
  6. A.G.

    Styling sacrifices were made to accommodate the mechanical design. Over all the concept and execution was well done. The drawback is the car’s profile. With the hardtop up the proportions look off. The passenger compartment is pushed forward while the large rear overhang makes the wheelbase appears short.

    This looks like an honest car. Having everything working makes an excellent project starting point. There’s no need to inventory scattered parts or undo Mr. Bentwrench’s shade tree handiwork.

    Like 6
  7. Fred W

    This is one car you don’t want to buy when it has been stored outside. The top compartment is like a vault when the lid is screwed down, and if those screws rust, good luck getting the vault open. This one appears to be un messed with. The whole mechanism is surprisingly easy to diagnose and troubleshoot if you have a schematic and a little knowledge of the system. This one probably needs some lube at the proper points and little else.

    Like 2
  8. Abi

    Unless a seller of a 5 digit odometer car has detailed documentation, it’s 158k miles. People didn’t simply abandon daily drivers back then unless something major happened to them.

    Like 4
  9. David

    I had bought a 57 skylines back in 1966, I paid 200.00 for it and the kid I bought it from said he came to school and the transmission stopped working, the car was in great condition so I asked him if the top worked and he said it worked perfectly, so after school I picked it up with a wrecker took it to the gas station I worked at and that night we pushed it in the bay and started it, checked the transmission fluid and it was full of gunk,short story cleaned it out with kerosene,filled it with fluid and it ran perfectly, that 292 had some nice power to it, kept it for 8 months and sold for 1200.00 great car and today I sill wish I had it!

    Like 5
  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    It seems odd that the firewall is red.

    Like 7
    • jrmedsel

      Agreed, it couldn’t be the original paint with the firewall painted red. Also, replacing the broken windshield will be pricey, as it is unique to the Skyliner/Sunliner convertibles and shorter than the windshields used on all other models.

      With that said, this looks like a nice car that’s well worth fixing up. I agree with what others have said, the top is reliable if in working condition. I’ve had a retract for nearly 20 years and, with periodic minor adjustments, the top has always worked as designed.

      Like 4
  11. HC Member

    It’s a little odd that the engine bay is red,but the inside of deck lid and trunk is white. That’s more trouble than most paint shops, or expense owners would have paid to have done.

    Like 2
  12. Bob Washburne

    Ja the red engine compartment is weird to me, but the rest of the interior internals (trunk, etc) are white. Maybe it was a Ford thing?

    The car does look solid, and my wife is absolutely thrilled that its 1500-miles away.

    Like 3
  13. gaspumpchas

    Looks like a beauty–might be the one to buy especially since the top works. Something screwy with the bidding tho- you have like 10 bids by the same bidder?? Good luck, the great info the guys offered should really help a prospective buyer. Happy new year!
    Cheers
    GPC

    Like 3
  14. Joe Haska

    Over the years I have ran across many of these FOR SALE and I never considered buying one. It seemed like no body else did either. They were always way cheaper than anything else that would seem to be in their category. I am sure all were afraid of the mechanics of the top and with good reason. I would be much more tempted to buy one now. However ,if I really wanted one, I would find the best one I could, and I don’t think this one is it.

    Like 1
  15. HC Member

    Someone is gonna wind up with a true Skyliner Classic for around $15-$17 k and it will be worth every penny. This is one of the cleanest ones I’ve seen here in a minute. One of my dream models.

    Like 3
  16. tiger66

    Quote: “…since the Galaxie 500 was the new top-line model (like Chevy did with the Impala).”

    Incorrect. There was no “Galaxie 500” until 1962. The top-line series was the Galaxie (no 500) from ’59-’61, though in ’59-only the Galaxie also had “Fairlane 500” badging on the trunk. Even so, it was considered a separate series. In ’62, the full-size Fairlane and Fairlane 500 models were dropped (both names were moved to the new intermediate models), the Galaxie name was moved down a notch to replace the former Fairlane/Fairlane 500 position and the Galaxie 500 was added as the new top-line series.

    Like 3
    • AnthonyD

      What about the Ford Starliner?

      Like 1
  17. HC Member

    Whether it’s a Fairlane Skyliner 500 in 57-59 or a 59 Fairlane 500 Galaxie 500, who cares.? We all know what it is and there was only 3 years made of them with the retractable top. Unless a nitpicker cares to make corrections. This 1959 Fairlane Galaxie 500 will probably sell quickly.

    Like 1
  18. HC Member

    Whoever gets this 1959 Galaxie Skyliner in this good of condition with a working retractable top is going to be one happy camper. Wish I had the room for her

  19. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

    It’s a low optioned model. Small V8 manual windows, no a/c, no spot lights. Still it does have value as a unique vehicle.

  20. DON

    A lot of Skyliners were two toned (as well as most mid 50s cars) ; Id bet the car was originally red and white

    Like 1
  21. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Johnmloghry,

    You are correct, it doesn’t even have power steering or brakes. Many years ago I had a Turquoise and white Galaxy Skyliner, all original nice car. Putting accessories like P/S and P/B onto this car is simple, just find a parts car with them. Power windows are harder to find, but they are the same as the 2-door hardtop Ford.

    I tried for many years to find a complete Ford factory A/C system in a parts car, but never did find one. [This was before the magical internet!] I can tell you finding factory A/C in a retract is not easy.

    Like 1
    • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry

      No slight on your car Bill. A 59 Retractable has been on my bucket list for a long time, but when I DO PULL THE TRIGGER I hope to find one fully loaded. I have seen a few for sale, but be prepared to spend a lot more than what you’re asking. John

  22. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Forgot to mention, This car has the paint code of R. That is for an all red car, even the top. Color name was “Torch Red”.

    Like 3
  23. HC Member

    Maybe it was originally red and white, and two toned. Because I doubt anyone ever went thru the expense of painting the interior deck lid and compartment white. That would be expensive even in today’s prices.

    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      HC,
      The color code on the body data plate is one letter only [R], and that indicates it was painted only one color [Red]. If it was a 2-tone car from the factory, the plate would show 2 letters, like ER for a red body and white roof.

      We will likely never know why the color change was done to such a high degree.

      Like 2

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