Classic Cool Feature
The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner wasn’t the first car to have a convertible roof – after all, the car began its life without a roof and the adjustable fabric cover was an inherited feature from the carriage – but it was the first American car to have a fully automated retractable hardtop. The appeal of the car was immediate; even today, cars that can transform are the envy of the masses…
What makes it special?
The Skyliner was notable because, while cars with removable or convertible tops weren’t uncommon, a completely automated option was unheard of to the public. Most required the owner to apply some elbow grease to get things working. Ford crammed in six electric motors, four lift jacks, a series of relays, 185m of wiring, 10 solenoids and four locking mechanisms to get the roof stowed in the boot at the touch of the button. Rather impressive for a car that debuted in 1957. Even more impressive when you consider the fact that many cars still used manual mechanisms in the ’90s.
Can you get it today?
When Ford unleashed the Skyliner, it was the only car of its kind in the world. That uniqueness made it a bit impractical at a time when practicality was a key feature for the prospective car buyer. As a result, the car only sold about 45 000 units across its three-year lifespan. That low volume and world-first status make it a very valuable collectable car. A well-restored example can cost upwards of a million rand. Fortunately, convertibles are commonplace nowadays and grabbing one new can cost less than R200 000 – though we recommend the new MX-5 from Mazda, which goes for R366 000.
That said, even at that price, practicality still isn’t an option.