Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner 1957

 
 

 
 

by

 
 

SUN STAR

scale 1:18

Model number: 1336

 
     
 

Review of the model:

Fairlane 500 Skyliner, is a cool name of a Icon from the American motor history in the late fifties. In this case not only the name is cool, as some items often only are cool in name, but just “old wine on new bottles”

Here we have a car that fully lives up to its name. The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner is a milestone in the evolution of the never ending competition, in gaining the lead in the race, to please the costumers.

Therefore it is a must for the serious collector of classic model cars, that this car is now available in scale 1:18. Again the Chinese model car maker of Sun Star had taken the lead. Let me say this now – Wow what a model car!

This model is from the US Collectibles series – A mid price, mid detailing model. But we have a model car here that has a fully working retractable metal roof, with all the right hinges and folding panels. Whatever the mood you’re in, you can take the top down or up.

And all those features, to a retail price of fewer than 80 Euros. When is comes to some of Sun Stars Hallmarks, this model will not disappoint you.  If we start with the beautiful paint; Sun Star will not let you down. They have high quality paintwork on all their models, and this is also true in this model. The two-tone colors itself here are Coral sand / Colonial white. Ad the beautiful chrome / gold side panels. And it all came up with a good looking model car!

The only small issues I found, was small grain from the molding under the fenders and mid body. It was easy to fix by a small file.

When we have a model of a convertible, it’s always a must to have a well made interior. In this model we see a fine color matching carpet and the colors in this interior are gorgeous as a cupcake. But  the front seats could have been made a bit better and the driver is missing his pedals. The instrument panel is well made and the instruments are made of a sticker – It looks good to the eye and even the electric clock is present.

This model of the moveable Skyliner mechanism is a daring project in scale 1:18 but it all works well and fit rather nice. Only a small gab between the front roof panel and the top of the windshield is seen.

If we go around the car and see all the details, we will find no flaws and missing parts. Sun Star has made a good model of this Ford Skyliner 1957. I really like the fine hubcaps on the wheels; you can spot the engraved “Ford” in them. On the rear fenders a big emblem in etched-metal is showing the “Fairlane 500” a very nice detail.

When we see this lady from behind the well made “Fairlane emblem” in chrome is a dominant feature and so are the rear lights and license plate. Up front on this model are the big grill and bumper shining like the real car. Sun Star always has high quality chrome on their models and this is also shown on this Skyliner! The headlights have fine lenses. There are small effect of “pupils” but if we look at pictures of the real car: The effect is seen here too – So no cons from me here.

This model car already comes in a variety of colors. So go shopping and find you a Skyliner near you!  And if we behave as good boys and girls, maybe Sun Star will made a 1958 Skyliner model in the near future too...... Until that happened, take a ride in the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner, a cool model car!

 

I will give this model 4 out of 6 stars  ******

Below here are pictures of the model, historical description, old brochures, technical data and movie clips for the real car. So please enjoy!

 

 

   

  The" new" 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner  
  A two car in one  
  A well made model car from Sun Star  
I just love this color combination a true 1950 color scheme
A vast deck lid as big as a Aircraft carrier
Sun Star paintwork here is 1. class
Cozy interior in matching colors
Brilliant chrome works
At first glance it looks just like an ordinary hardtop
Honey push the bottom!
A real transformer from 1957
You can only do this when the car is in neutral
Look in the trunk - we see carpet and fine paintwork on the underside of the deck lid
Very well done Sun Star!
Now the car convert to a .....
Lets enjoy the sun
A true Skyliner model
Its hard not to fall in love in this car
Note the fine hubcaps and emblems
The parts fit well on this model
Side panel trim in chrome and gold give the car a sleeker appearance
Note the delicate air intake in front of the windscreen
Nice steering wheel and instrument panel
V8 Thunderbird engine
A nice clean car
 
     

 

 

History:

Back in the days when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, the 1957-1959 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner retractable hardtops was a sensation of the first order, so much so that "Ike" even ordered an early black example for himself. One wonders how often he and Mamie sneaked down to the garage just to watch the big steel roof and rear-deck panels, operated by a bevy of servo motors, relays, screw jacks, assorted cables, springs, and pivoting arms, do their stuff.

It's one of the most mesmerizing scenes to be found at any car show--the rising and lowering of a Ford retractable hardtop in motion. According to Ben Smith, the retractable's creator, "The choreography of deck lid, top and shelf panel all moving at the same time was a dance of beauty."

The all-steel hardtop's movement seems like magic, but thanks to the help of some carefully engineered componentry that included three drive motors, 610 feet of wiring, 10 solenoids and many other relays, circuit breakers and locking motors, it works like a charm. For its time, the folding hardtop was an astonishing feat, and still remains so today, some 58 years after it was first introduced.

In all, Ford produced 48,394 retractable hardtops. Its proper name is the Skyliner, which is often confused with the similar-sounding Sunliner name of the regular convertible model. The Skyliner was offered for just three years, and in 1957, its premier year, a total of 20,766 were produced, followed by 14,713 examples in the 1958 model year. When sales dwindled to just 12,915 Skyliners for 1959, Ford ceased its production as it was too expensive to manufacture such a complex and labor-intensive retractable hardtop in such limited numbers.

For those three years back in the 1950s, Ford's retractable hardtop was the biggest sensation on the road, and no doubt contributed to Ford being America's best-selling brand for 1957. When first introduced in 1956 for the 1957 model year, the retractable models stunned the public, making them a hit everywhere they went, especially when the hardtop was in motion.

 

Retracting Rooftop - Ford Skyliner from Hemmings Classic Car

by Terry Shea

Recording the history of the Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop from Ben Smith, the man who made it work

 Automobiles with folding hardtops bridge the gap between the security of a hard, metal roof and the sportiness of a convertible. The technology to make such a folding top work reliably over and over again was pioneered not in Stuttgart or Tokyo in the 1990s, but in Detroit in the 1950s.

Likely inspired by Chrysler's 1941 Thunderbolt concept, with its electrically actuated hardtop that stowed itself in the trunk, Ford brass began looking into the concept at the same time they were putting plans in place to bring back the Continental in 1956 as a standalone, super-luxury car line. The Ford design staff, in addition to many other projects, had been toying with such a design. When two senior Ford managers saw a scale model in the design studio in 1951, they gave the green light to a $2.5 million engineering study.

Six months and a couple hundred grand in, Ford Engineering staff threw up their hands and presented an inch-thick report summarizing why it couldn't be done. At the same time, Ford Motor Company had already set the wheels in motion to resurrect the Continental nameplate for 1956, in the guise of the handmade Continental II. William Clay Ford Sr., Henry's grandson, had been put in charge of the Continental project, which operated then as the Advanced Products Division.

Bill Ford had seen the design study and managed to co-opt the remaining funds from the original $2.5 million in order to incorporate what was then known as the "steel top" convertible into Continental II. The Advanced Products team needed someone to lead the retracting top project, particularly given the pessimistic report from Ford Engineering. John Hollowell, an experienced engineer put in charge of the project, turned to an old friend, Ben Smith, a former Ford colleague then working at General Motors.

Smith had come up through the ranks at Ford, but by 1953 was proving himself at GM's Fisher Body works, making a name developing convertible-top mechanisms, his signature adorning a handful of patents. We recently talked with Ben, now 92 and residing in the Phoenix area.

Reluctant to go back to Ford, Ben found a willing partner in Hollowell, who raised the offer and assured Ben he would be relatively hands-off in letting him engineer the retractable hardtop. Out of about 150 people total, Ben had some 75 working under him, including engineers, draftsmen and other professionals. To maintain secrecy, Advance Products had its own stylists and engineers operating in an old Ford trade-school building away from Ford's Dearborn, Michigan, headquarters. Later, as the various Continental II prototypes were being built, the group moved into an old Lincoln plant in Detroit.

At the start of July 1953, Ben arrived at Advanced Products, having spent the two weeks previous working out some rough guidelines. "I had my own ideas about how long it was going to take," says Ben, "and how many men I was supposed to have and how many draftsmen I would need to do the job. Much to my surprise, nobody had done anything at all in regards to timing, design work, what the cost was, to personnel build up--nothing at all. I still said, 'I'll have a prototype car for you in 18 months.'"

Ben surmised almost right away that the challenge of dealing with Ford's corporate ways would be difficult. "Engineering staff were not too gracious about the whole thing," notes Ben, "because this was the first time that they had been left out. They had the responsibility of designing all of the cars of the company. But this young, fledgling group of the Advanced Products Division had their own engineering staff, their own styling department and so forth. I had very, very little help from the Engineering staff."

With the basic concept of the roof lowering into the trunk well in place, one of the first questions was determining whether to use a hydraulic or an electric solution. At first, a high-pressure hydraulic system appeared to be the way to go, due to the lack of available small electric motors. "I knew the hydraulic system would be in the roof," says Ben. "I can just see someone sitting there in a mink stole up in the front seat getting sprayed on by this hot hydraulic oil. So, I did not want hydraulic.

"The smallest motor that we had was about a four-and-a-half-inch diameter motor that was made by Bosch. I went to Bosch and said, 'I need an inch-and-an-eighth-diameter electric motor.' And they said they couldn't do it." Ben went to Bosch's on-site representative at Ford and requested a meeting with his bosses. At the meeting, he threatened to make every system in the car hydraulic and then Bosch would have nothing.

"The next morning," Ben recalls, "my wife got a knock on the door and a delivery guy delivered her a one-ounce bottle of Joy perfume. Now, I didn't know what Joy perfume was. But at that time, it was the perfume of elite people, and a one-ounce bottle cost $500. The Bosch guy came in and said, 'You'll have your motor in 10 days.'"

With the motor situation solved, the team then set about working on the automatic mechanism while simultaneously modifying the Continental II chassis, which at that point was a hacked-up 1953 Capri sized right to fit the Continental's planned dimensions. As the fifth prototype in the project, the steel-top convertible Continental earned the moniker "MP5," and it was unlike any other prototype in the group.

The trunk needed to be hinged at the rear to accept the lowered top. The top's dimensions, too, had to be sized right to fit into the trunk and its leading edge articulated to fold up. Long before any computers of any sort made it on board a car, a control system had to be built to coordinate the unlocking of the top, the folding of its leading edge, the opening of the trunk, the controlled lowering of the roof, the locking back down of the trunk and then doing it all in reverse.

The system used hundreds of feet of wire connecting various limit switches, the small motors and a screw-lock mechanism for which Ben and his boss, Hollowell, received a patent. In fact, Ben's name appears on several patents associated with the creation of the retractable hardtop.

So, how did the Lincoln Continental II steel top become a Ford Skyliner instead?

As promised, Ben guided the project to fruition in 18 months, presenting, along with Hollowell, a working prototype to Ford's board of directors early in 1955. The Continental was widely viewed as a vanity project for Bill Ford and the retractable little more than an expensive cherry on top. But when Ben pushed the button and the roof disappeared into the trunk, and then pushed it again and the roof returned and locked back into place automatically, the board actually applauded and rushed to get a closer look--an unheard of demonstration of enthusiasm in such circles.

Despite a board member's insistence to add that steel top to the Continental mix, Ben informed the board, "No, you can't do that."

"What do you mean, you can't do that? We're the board of directors, young man. You've got a lot of moxie, young man!"

"No, I don't have a lot of moxie, but if you really think about it, you are trying to build the best car in the world for $10,000. If it should fail, the whole program fails. You want me to do that?'"

Ben continues: "At that meeting, they decided the program should go ahead, and they allocated moneys for the study of the retractable on the 1957 Fairlane. I had a complete program mapped out for them, so that it could be done about three months after the Fairlane's introduction." The project then went back to Ford Engineering, which immediately rejected his advice for improvements seemingly outright.

But within six weeks, the production group came back to Ford Division management with another report saying that they could not get it done by 1957 and that Ben's planned resources were inadequate and his timeline too tight. Perhaps for 1958, they concluded, but only with a lot more money and manpower.

Fearing that his 18 months of work were about to go "down the drain," Ben proposed the radical idea that the Continental group could work as a contractor, in-house, to Ford Engineering. The idea went all the way up the food chain to Robert McNamara, then general manager and vice president of the Ford Division. Despite being more of a numbers and data guy than any sort of car guy, McNamara found himself extremely keen on the idea of the retractable hardtop and green lighted the unusual working arrangement.

Still, Ford allocated double the estimated resources and extended Ben's original timeline. It also put Ben on a short leash, only releasing funds on a monthly basis until it was clear that progress was being made toward job one. The bad blood continued between the regular Engineering staff and Ben and his group. "They had just written that it couldn't be done," he remembers. "If they had any good ideas, they wouldn't give them to me. Of course, if I were to be successful, they would have been wrong. I just wanted them to stay out of the picture. It was made crystal clear that the onus of making this successful was put on the Continental Division." Fortunately for Ben and Continental, the Skyliner proved successful, but there were still battles to be fought.

Though the all-new 1957 Fairlane 500 was wider, lower and longer than before, the stow able roof had to be made even lower and the car itself even longer, in order to fit it under the deck lid. Riding on a 118-inch wheelbase, the Skyliner had more upright rear seats than other models, but still managed to have the same rear-seat legroom as the regular Sunliner convertible. Ben fought with a designer who insisted on the roof being 1/8-inch taller. With not a fraction to spare in order to get the top to fit correctly, Ben informed the clay modeler to not add the extra eighth-inch, but just tell the designer it had been done. The designers, too, took umbrage at the additional trim added to the bottom of the C-pillar, a necessity to cover up mounting hardware not needed on hardtops or sedans.

Overall, changes to the chassis were extensive: The rear quarter panels were extended 3 inches back; the trunk was reworked to hinge from the back; the gas tank was moved to behind the rear seat; the top was 3.5 inches shorter than a standard hardtop and the perimeter frame rails were moved closer together at the rear to support the added weight. Though the stylists were not happy with the changes, in this case, form had no choice but to follow function. In all, the 1957 Skyliner's 3,900-pound curb weight was some 400 pounds more than the Sunliner convertible weighed.

Ben and his team engineered the sequential operation of the roof that he had envisioned, as well as the parcel shelf being part of the moving top--two ideas initially rejected by Engineering. Making the entire operation function correctly involved three drive motors, four lock motors, 10 power relays, 10 limit switches, eight circuit breakers, a neutral switch (the top could only be raised or lowered with the car in neutral), an activation switch, a cycle indicator switch and 610 feet or so of electrical wiring.

When the completed Skyliner arrived just four months after the 1957 Fairlane launch and not six months as they were given, Ben and his team still had some 40 percent of their budget left on the table, an almost unheard of situation for a relatively complex engineering solution.

At the New York Auto Show, late in 1956, Ford's Skyliner proved a sensation. Though the technology was all new, buyers flocked to it when it went on sale in April of 1957. Despite being available just half the year, the 1957 Skyliner was the fourth best-selling droptop that year, with Ford and its dealers selling some 20,766 Skyliners. Starting at a base price of $2,942, some $550 more than the conventional Sunliner convertible (which topped the convertible charts at 77,728 units in 1957), the Skyliner, with a 292-cu.in. V-8 as standard, did well despite being priced just barely less than the $3,088 Thunderbird.

Sales dropped to 14,713 Skyliners in 1958, though the optional V-8 choices offered more displacement and more power. In 1959, the Skyliner carried two names, initially being offered as the Fairlane 500 and then later the Galaxie 500, though the two models are identical other than their badges. With just 12,915 cars sold, Ford was not keen on keeping the low-volume model in the lineup any longer. Just the same, the redesigned 1960 Galaxie 500 hardtop's sloping roof would not have lent itself to the same type of mechanism without significant redesign, perhaps something along the lines of the "clamshell" type, multi-piece roofs used on modern retractables.

Despite what you may have heard, the Skyliner's electrical retractable mechanism has proven reliable and hardy over the years. Ben Smith relays a final story: "When I left the project, I had, in my office, three bolts of the 1957 cloth that they were going to be making for the seats. I also had a complete set of the mechanism of everything on the roof. I felt bad, because it wasn't my property, but I did take home a complete set of all of the mechanism because I ordered a car. I wanted to have the spare parts for it. I left the three bolts of cloth. Today, the three bolts of cloth are worth thousands of dollars while the mechanism is worth pennies. There was not a single recall on the three years for the roof mechanism. That is a miracle in itself."

This article originally appeared in the March, 2015 issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

 

Technical specification:

Production totaled 20,766 units in 1957. An electric clock was standard. Fuel consumption was around 14 mpg‑US (17 L/100 km; 17 mpg‑imp) overall.

The fuel tank was placed vertically in back of the rear seat, which inadvertently added safety in rear collisions.

The wheelbase of the Skyliner was 118 in (3,000 mm) and the overall length was 210.8 in (5,350 mm).

Engine:

Size Horsepower Model Years
272 cu in (4.5 l) 190 hp (140 kW) 1957
292 cu in (4.8 l) 200 hp (150 kW)
205 hp (153 kW)
212 hp (158 kW)
1957, 1958 & 1959
312 cu in (5.1 l)

312 cu in (5.1 l)

supercharger

245 hp (183 kW)

300 hp (225kW)

1957

 

 


 
 

Old brochures of the Ford 1957

 
 

     

     

     

     

     
     

     
     
     
     

     
     

 

 

 

     
     
     
     

     

 

 

 
     

     
     
     

     

     

     

     

     

 

 

 

     

     
     
     
     

     

     

 

 

 

     
 
     
 

Video of the real car from Youtube

 
     
  1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner Commercial  
     
     
  Ford Ad from 1957 (The new retractable hardtop from Ford)  
     
     
  Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner 1957  
     
 

 

If you have any question or comment your are free to contact me at: aeronautic@stofanet.dk

 

 

Dealers are welcome to get their models reviewed too.

 

 

 

 

 

Aeronautic Oct. 2017

 
 
 
     
     
     

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