1957 was a massive year for Ford because for the first time in a decade it beat Chevrolet in sales. Before then, the Bowtie was always ahead, with customers forming queues for cars such as the Bel Air and Corvette, but by expanding into five divisions (Ford, Edsel, Mercury, Lincoln and Continental) and with the launch of the Fairlane 500 Skyliner that year, things began to change.
The full-size two-door wasn’t just oh-so-stylish, it was an engineering marvel too and played a pivotal role in Ford’s success. It was only in production for three years but in that time it managed to pull the crowds from GM dealerships into Ford’s — thanks to its convertible roof mechanism.
The ‘Hide-Away Hardtop’, as it became known, was designed by Gil Spear and was supposed to be the centrepiece of the Continental Mark II. But with costs spiralling out of control for the flagship, the pricey roof/tech was gifted to the Skyliner, which became the first mass-produced US car with a power-operated folding top. It was a complex system featuring 10 power relays, 10 limit switches, four lock motors, three drive motors and eight circuit breakers. These were all connected by 3.6 metres of wire but when you pushed the button to retract the roof, time stood still. People stopped and stared in amazement at the incredibly complicated action. It didn’t matter that it literally took up all the space in the boot — buyers slapped their money down and all 20,766 units found happy homes that year.
The 1958 model retained the tech and the standard 4.8-litre V8 making 205 horses mated to a three-speed manual or automatic gearbox, but two more motors were available; the 5.4-litre and 5.8-litre V8s with four-barrel carburettors producing 265 and 300 horses respectively. Performance wasn’t much to shout about, not when the cars weighed around 2,000kg. The following year, Ford put the lid on the Hide-Away Hardtop and ditched the Fairlane name.
They’re hard to find today but if you do, the good news is they can be had for around Dh200,000.