Pick of the Day: 1957 Ford has retractable roof system

Flip a switch and hardtop coupe becomes open-air convertible

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1959 Skyliner
Obligatory photo showing mechanism that maneuvers the hardtop up or down

For the 1957 model year, Ford not only re-engineered its Fairlane and Fairlane 500 models but offered the top-of-the-line Fairlane 500 with a retractable hardtop that turned the coupe into a convertible.

The Pick of the Day is a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible being offered on ClassicCars.com by a private seller who notes that this example was produced before the name “Skyliner” was adopted by the automaker.

“I have owned this car for about 40 years and still drive it on occasion,” the seller reports, adding that this car “is one of the very few I have seen with both a continental kit and cruiser skirts. It is a real head turner with the wire wheels also added.”

The original stock wheels are included in the sale of the Fairlane, the seller adds.

Although others had experimented with retractable hardtops on concept cars, only Lancia, in 1934, had put such a roof system into production before Ford.  In Lancia’s case, the mechanical marvels were installed by coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout.

Retractable hardtops have become almost commonplace, but in 1957 Ford’s Skyliner was huge automotive news. The system involved seven electric motors, four jacks, a bunch of switches and solenoids and locking systems, and weighed more than 600 pounds.

More than 20,000 people bought Skyliners during the 1957 model year, but that figure declined to only 12,900 by 1959 and Ford discontinued the option.

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The Pick of the Day shows nearly 85,500 miles on its odometer, and the seller says that figure is accurate but might increase by the time the car is sold since it still is driven on occasion.

The car’s 312cid V8 engine (aka E-code Thunderbird Special) was rated at 270 horsepower in 1957 and in this car is connected to an automatic transmission. The seller says the engine has been “upgraded to use unleaded fuel.”

The seller adds that the car “looks and drives fine” and, “yes, the top operates just fine.”

The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 is located in Ronald, Washington, and is being offered for $43,500. To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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