Classic Tuesdays – 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
The Fairlane name was borrowed from the Dearborn, Michigan, estate of Henry Ford himself, and the first Ford Fairlane made its debut in 1955. The mid-sized Ford Fairlane enjoyed success from the first year on. In fact, the combined sales of the Fairlane and the Thunderbird in the mid-50s pushed sales to levels not seen at the Ford Motor Company since 1923. In 1957, the Fairlane was redesigned to create a lower profile. It was a good-sized vehicle that featured a 118-inch wheelbase and an overall length of 210.8 inches.
The Fairlane 500 was the most upscale of the Fairlanes built at the time. Every one included an electric clock, a novelty at the time. It was powered by one of three engines. The base 272-cu-in V8 was rated at 190 hp, while the 292-cu-in engine produced 200 hp. The largest stock engine found in the 1957 Skyliner was a 312-cu-in V8, rated at 245 hp. A supercharged version could generate 300 hp, and it was good for a zero to 60 time of 7.6 seconds when equipped with a three-speed manual.
The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner – Unique Retractable Hardtop
The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner featured a retractable hardtop that could disappear under the rear deck lid. The creativity of the engineering required to accomplish this feat was impressive. The overall mechanism for making the rooftop retract included four lift jacks driven by three motors, 10 solenoids, four roof-locking devices and four door-lock motors. Over 200 yards of wiring was required to operate all of the components. Despite the complexity of the design, it acquired a decent reputation for reliability.
First in the World
The engineering that went into the retractable hardtop set Ford apart from every other manufacturer in the world. When it first appeared on the market, the Skyliner was the only bonafide hardtop convertible on the planet. Not surprisingly, the Skyliner and its self-storing top garnered substantial interest in showrooms across America. Enthusiasts and curious car buyers appeared in droves to marvel at the Skyliner concept in action.
Although trunk space was certainly compromised to accommodate the retractable top, excited buyers were more than willing to adjust to this reality. Ironically, the innovative design required engineers to move the gas tank to an unusual position under the rear seat, and this actually enhanced safety in rear-end collisions. The fuel stored in the tank was consumed at an average of about 1 gallon for every 14 miles driven.
Highly Desirable Collectible Car Today
A total of 20,766 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliners were sold for the 1957 model year, but surprisingly, few have survived to the present. The radical design innovation, along with the scarcity of the car, translates into a high level of desirability among collectors today. In 2013, a top-quality restoration went for $73,830 at a Mecum auction in Indianapolis.