The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner is a two-door full-size retractable hardtop convertible, manufactured and marketed by Ford Motor Company for model years 1957-1959.

For model year 1959, the name changed to Ford Fairlane 500 Galaxie Skyliner very shortly after production began (also illustrated as such in the brochure, but described only as "Galaxy" in the related text.).

The retractable roof mechanism, marketed as the "Hide-Away Hardtop,"  was unique to Ford branded products, and was not offered on Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, or Edsel branded vehicles. A total of 48,394 were manufactured.

Design


Falling in Ford's Fairlane 500 range, the Skyliner Retractable was only the second car in history to be mass-produced produced with a retractable hardtop (following the 1938 |Peugeot 402 Eclipse Decapotable);

the first to reach four and five digit mass-production numbers, and the first series produced coupé convertible to feature a roof using two segments. At the time of its introduction, the Skyliner was the only true hardtop convertible.

The Skyliner's retractable top operated via a complex mechanism that folded the front of the roof and retracted it under the rear decklid. Instead of the typical hydraulic mechanisms, the Skyliner top used seven reversible electric motors (six for 1959 models), four lift jacks, a series of relays, ten limit switches, ten solenoids, four locking mechanisms for the roof and two locking mechanisms for the trunk lid, and 610 ft (185.9 m) of wiring.

The top itself largely consumed available trunk space, limiting the car's sales, though the mechanism operated reliably.

Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957, declining to 14,713 in 1958 and to 12,915 in 1959.[8] An electric clock was standard.

Fuel consumption was around 14 mpg‑US (17 L/100 km; 17 mpg‑imp) overall.[5] The fuel tank was placed vertically in back of the rear seat, offering increased safety in a rear collision.

The wheelbase of the Skyliner was 118 in (3,000 mm) and the overall length was 210.8 in (5,350 mm).


1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner with both the Galaxie and Fairlane 500 badges


During the 1959 model year, Ford added the new top-of-the-line Galaxie series to its full-aize lineup, and the Skyliner model became part of that series.

Although the 1959 Galaxie was designated as a separate series,[11] Galaxies carried both “Fairlane 500” and “Galaxie” badging, on the rear and sides respectively.

It came with the standard 292 cu in (4.8 L) 2-barrel 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) V8 engine.

Requiring a shorter roof and longer trunk, the retractable roof concept was originally intended for Ford's Continental brand.

The mechanism's complexity would have required an even more expensive marketing position for a Continental, and when Ford projected losses for this route, the company re-conceived the model and restyled it from the waist down — projecting it would attract more buyers under the Ford brand.

Though prescient, the concept ultimately attracted more attention than sales; it was expensive, thought to be unreliable, and consumed almost all trunk space when retracted.

Although the actual mechanical differed, the Skyliner's retractable roof design was later adopted for the Lincoln Continental fabric convertibles of 1961-67.

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