1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible

Courtesy of Mile Hi Skyliners Car Club that loaned this car to the Forney Museum and courtesy of the Forney Museum of Transportation that displayed it in 2012. [www.forneymuseum.org, at 4303 Brighton Blvd., Denver, Colorado, USA.]

Photos are by David Barth and may be used if credit given to David Barth.

Edited by David Barth 6 August 2012. Note that many of the comments below are heresay and opinions that may not be factual.

The Ford Skyliner was produced for three years, in 1957, 1958, and 1959. This car was found in an irrigation ditch in the 1980s and was retrieved and restored as a cutaway model to display the mechanism by the Mile Hi Skyliners Car Club.

The cutaway shows the complexity of the roof operating system that transitioned the car from a hard-top to a convertible.

Advantages of the design:
  • A hard-top is considered to be safer than a soft-top in roll-over situations.
  • A hard-top is more secure from vandals and thieves because it cannot be sliced open like a soft-top.
  • The rear window of a soft-top is usually plastic which tends to yellow and crack over time, while the Skyliner, and future hard-top convertibles, used a standard, glass back window.

Skyliner design details:
  • Electric motors: 7
  • Wire: 610 feet
  • Solenoids: 10
  • Switches (e.g. limit switches): 13
  • Circuit breakers: 9

One report said that the reasons Ford discontinued production of the Skyliner were:
  • The complexity and high parts-count of non-standard parts made it difficult to produce on Ford assembly lines.
  • Post-purchase maintenance by dealerships was difficult and costly because it was so different from other automobile systems, requiring specialized training and parts.
  • The design, using electric motors turning jack screws, was not robust enough.
  • Demand for the car was low, reducing the cost/benefit to Ford and its dealers.
  • The system required periodic lubrication of the jack-screws to prevent binding that could overload the motors. [Note that the electro-hydraulic implementation used by Mercedes-Benz, discussed below, had no periodic maintenance requirements for the mechanism that operated the top.]

Although this may not have been the very first hard-top convertible, it was the first mass-produced car of its type, and it spawned the design that was used, in nearly identical fashion, in future automobiles. Many companies, including Mercedes-Benz, with the SLK series; Chrysler, in its Crossfire (while owned by Mercedes-Benz); Porsche; Lexus (Toyota); BMW; and others built hard-top convertibles that used the same concept that Ford pioneered with the backwards-opening trunk lid and hinged, folding top.

Most of these cars were of the two-seat variety, although there were some small, four-seat models that had retractible hard-tops, including one by Mercedes-Benz.

At least one manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz for example, uses a different philosophy to power the roof up and down. In the SLK there are seven electro-hydraulic power packs. (Note the same number of power units that the Skyliner used). Instead of motors running jack-screws, Mercedes has motors running hydraulic pumps, and this design appears to be much more durable and easier to implement. Instead of having to adjust the critical position of jack-screws and motors to prevent binding and to direct the force in the correct direction, electro-hydraulic power packs are attached to the car where ever mounting locations are available, and hoses run from them to self-lubricating pistons.

1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible


1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible
1957 Ford Skyliner Hardtop Convertible