When a 1958 Ford Skyliner Retractable Hardtop was listed on the Cars-On-Line.com website for sale this week, we knew right away it was something special. This incredible Ford Retractable was restored frame-off in the 1990’s and you would swear it is a fresh restoration today.
A Canadian company called RM Restorations (the same company that founded RM Auctions, now part of RM Sotheby’s) did the restoration on a 1958 Ford Fairlane Skyliner Retractable Hardtop in the 1980’s. (Follow this link to find the ad page and contact information.) It achieved the high honor of being rated an AACA Senior First Place Award winner at the AACA Nationals in 1989. Now some thirty years later it still looks like a fresh restoration. This week, Vanguard Motor Sales in Plymouth, Michigan has just posted it for sale at their website. To prove that this is one of the finest restorations ever done on a 1958 Ford Skyliner Retractable, Vanguard did this detailed video of the car. Watch the virtual test drive, then stick around as Greg puts it up on a lift and shows you the amazing undercarriage. You will be amazed.
Vanguard tells us that RM Restorations was, at that time, the premier restoration facility in Eastern North America. The paint and body still look like it was done last week. For a black car to look as straight as this one does is amazing. Click here to look at the dozens of detailed photos in the ad.
The interior is all original and was fitted with custom, clear plastic covers to not only preserve the original material but the let it show. Everything on the dash works and was restored or refurbished at the time of restoration as needed.
The engine is a numbers matching 352ci and it was just recently rebuilt to stock specs and runs like a top. Mated to the numbers matching engine is the Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission. The car was very highly optioned when it was new and is equipped with power steering and power brakes.
The previous owner lovingly cared for this beauty for the past 30 years. You can tell how well he cared for it by how clean and fresh it still looks.
The Skyliner top was just rebuilt in 2017 and rebuilt or refurbished as needed. Vanguard tells us it works perfectly both up and down and all the components were either replaced or rebuilt, so they are like new.
With the restoration being a frame-off, the undercarriage was restored as well and has all new bushing as well as anything that required replacement or rebuild.
History of the Retractable Hardtop
Ford’s amazing retractable hardtops were produced by Ford Motor Company from 1957 through 1959. If there was ever a technology that was way ahead of its time it was the retractable hardtop. People would watch in wonder to see that magical hardtop disappear into the trunk. The word of the “disappearing hardtop” spread throughout the country and people came in droves to the Ford dealerships to see the Skyliners in action. That first year, 1957, Ford sold 20,766 of these convertible hardtops. Nothing like it had ever been produced on a mass scale before.
The Ford Skyliner Retractables were a completely new technology for the 1950’s. A young engineer named Ben Smith was brought in to head up the retractable program. In the early 1950’s it was thought that Smith was going to create the retractable hardtop for the Lincoln Continental. By 1953 he had a working 3/8-scale model of the hardtop. They first tested it on a 1952 Lincoln. It is said that politics inside Ford was the reason why the retractable hardtop first appeared on a full sized Ford. But the scale of the development costs also dictated that investment would have to be spread out over the per unit sales of the lower cost, higher production Ford Fairlanes.
Unlike other convertibles in those days, the retractable did not use hydraulics to raise and lower the roof. No the Skyliner’s retractable top was a much more complex mechanism. It required seven reversible electric motors designed just for this use, four lift jacks to move the deck lid and roof, a lot of relays and ten limit switches, ten solenoids, with four locking mechanisms for the roof and two for the trunk lid. A total of 610 feet of wiring made it work. Because of the depth needed for the trunk area, a special fuel tank was designed to fit vertically in back of the rear seat. It actually was much safer that way in case of rear end collisions.
In 1958, there were 14,714 Skyliners sold.