Ford offered two convertibles for 1957: the usual cloth-roof Sunliner and the first "hardtop convertible" that really did convert -- the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner. What's more, all '57 Fords were all new -- dramatically longer, lower, and wider, with "dream car" styling that looked like something from another brand. With all this, Ford exceeded its 1955 sales record while outproducing rival Chevrolet for the first time in decades.

1957 ford fairlane 500 skyliner
The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner had the first-ever retractable hardtop roof.
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That new "retractable hardtop" was called Skyliner, a name borrowed from Ford's 1954-56 plexi-roof hardtop. Offered like the Sunliner in a new top-line Fairline 500 series, it was the sort of technical wonder Americans expected as the "space age" beckoned. At the touch of a button, a bevy of motors, relays, and wires raised a rear-hinged panel on an elongated deck, slid the top into a deep well, then closed the deck over it. Though quite complex and far from foolproof, this system was more reliable than was once reported, and the top's stately passage up or down was a surefire crowd-pleaser.

1957 ford fairlane 500 skyliner
The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner was a pricey but popular model for Ford.

Luggage space was limited to a small box in the "trunk," and the added hardware made the Skyliner pricey for a Ford at $2942- -- $437 more than the Sunliner. Even so, the '57 Skyliner sold reasonably well at 20,766, though that was well down on the conventional convertible's 77,726.

1957 ford fairlane 500 skyliner
The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner had limited trunk space, thanks to
the retractable roof.

Sales then tapered off, so the Skyliner was dropped after 1959 as a costly indulgence by money-conscious Ford execs. Today, though, a "retrac" still pulls crowds like nothing else.

For more classic convertibles of the 1950s, see:

1950 Oldsmobile 88

1955 Cadillac Series 62

1957 Lincoln Premiere

1951 Chrysler New Yorker

1955 Chevrolet Bel Air

1957 Oldsmobile Super 88

1951 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

1955 Mercury Montclair

1958 Continental Mark III

1951 Rambler Custom Landau

1956 Ford Thunderbird

1958 Edsel Citation

1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta

1956 Lincoln Premiere

1959 Cadillac Series 62

1954 Hudson Hornet Brougham

1956 Packard Caribbean

1959 Dodge Custom Royal

1954 Packard Caribbean

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1959 Ford Thunderbird

1955 Buick Century

1957 Chrysler New Yorker

1959 Pontiac Bonneville

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