A rare 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner (better known as a Retractable) is featured in the Cars On Line newsletter this week. Not only does it have a wonderful classic ’50s look and stance, but this one is super rare. The seller says you could not find a nicer one anywhere.
Now, our readers know that a fresh Ford Retractable listing will show up in our new listings nearly every week. After all, even though it was just a mid-year offering in 1957, Ford produced 20,766 retractable hardtop Fairlanes that year. But here is where it gets interesting. When you open the hood on this 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner you find a rare E Code 312 ci V8 engine with dual 4-barrel carburetors and the double hump air cleaner. It was factory rated at 270 horsepower. There were only 39 E Code Fairlane Skyliners produced by Ford that year. This is one of them. (Find more information and photos in the ad online, or find the link in our Classic Ford Section.)
It all started in that post-WWII era when American companies felt they could achieve anything. One of the most amazing experiments by a major American auto manufacturer happened when the Ford Motor Company decided to build a Fairlane 500 with a retractable hardtop. More significant than just a new car offering, it was a sign that American ingenuity would lead the world into the space age. Even today, every time a Ford Skyliner hardtop retracts into its trunk it is sure to draw a crowd. It always brings up the question, “How did they do that way back in 1957?”
The retractable roof mechanism was a Ford-only product. It was the world’s first retractable hardtop, making it both a hardtop and a convertible when the hardtop was folded into the trunk. A pushbutton mechanism folded the hardtop panels electronially in sections. This was accomplished using seven reversible electric motors, four lift jacks, a series of relays, ten limit switches and ten solenoids. To operate the retractable hardtop required 610 feet of wiring.
The Texas owner selling his 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner has the original factory invoice for this car, and tells us it was restored by Jerry Miller of Jerry Miller Restorations in Springdale, Arkansas. He is a noted Ford Retractable restoration expert. This one was restored in Coral Sand over Raven Black paint. It came from the factory heavily loaded with options, including: Ford factory Select – Air air conditioning, Continental kit, power steering, power brakes, power windows, Town & Country radio, front bumper Vee Bar, front bumper Wing Guards, backup lights, dual exhaust deflectors, Ford safety package and padded sunvisors.
Collectors often forget that Ford outsold Chevrolet in 1957 to become America’s top manufacturer. Total Ford production hit 1,655,068. The Fairlane 500 Skyliner cost $3,012 and weighed 3,916 pounds (more than a station wagon of that year.)