Courtesy of Mile Hi Skyliners Car Club that loaned this car to the Forney Museum and courtesy of the Forney Museum of
Transportation that displayed it in 2012. [www.forneymuseum.org, at 4303 Brighton Blvd., Denver, Colorado,
Photos are by David Barth and may be used if credit given to David Barth.
Edited by David Barth 6 August 2012. Note that many of the comments below are heresay and opinions that may not be
The Ford Skyliner was produced for three years, in 1957, 1958, and 1959. This car was found in an irrigation ditch
in the 1980s and was retrieved and restored as a cutaway model to display the mechanism by the Mile Hi Skyliners
The cutaway shows the complexity of the roof operating system that transitioned the car from a hard-top to a
Advantages of the design:
A hard-top is considered to be safer than a soft-top in roll-over situations.
A hard-top is more secure from vandals and thieves because it cannot be sliced open like a soft-top.
The rear window of a soft-top is usually plastic which tends to yellow and crack over time, while the
Skyliner, and future hard-top convertibles, used a standard, glass back window.
Skyliner design details:
Electric motors: 7
Wire: 610 feet
Switches (e.g. limit switches): 13
Circuit breakers: 9
One report said that the reasons Ford discontinued production of the Skyliner were:
The complexity and high parts-count of non-standard parts made it difficult to produce on Ford assembly
Post-purchase maintenance by dealerships was difficult and costly because it was so different from other
automobile systems, requiring specialized training and parts.
The design, using electric motors turning jack screws, was not robust enough.
Demand for the car was low, reducing the cost/benefit to Ford and its dealers.
The system required periodic lubrication of the jack-screws to prevent binding that could overload
the motors. [Note that the electro-hydraulic implementation used by Mercedes-Benz, discussed below, had no
periodic maintenance requirements for the mechanism that operated the top.]
Although this may not have been the very first hard-top convertible, it was the first mass-produced car of its type, and
it spawned the design that was used, in nearly identical fashion, in future automobiles. Many companies, including
Mercedes-Benz, with the SLK series; Chrysler, in its Crossfire (while owned by Mercedes-Benz); Porsche; Lexus (Toyota);
BMW; and others built hard-top convertibles that used the same concept that Ford pioneered with the backwards-opening
trunk lid and hinged, folding top.
Most of these cars were of the two-seat variety, although there were some small, four-seat models that had retractible
hard-tops, including one by Mercedes-Benz.
At least one manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz for example, uses a different philosophy to power the roof up and down. In the
SLK there are seven electro-hydraulic power packs. (Note the same number of power units that the Skyliner
used). Instead of motors running jack-screws, Mercedes has motors running hydraulic pumps, and this design
appears to be much more durable and easier to implement. Instead of having to adjust the critical position of jack-screws
and motors to prevent binding and to direct the force in the correct direction, electro-hydraulic power packs are
attached to the car where ever mounting locations are available, and hoses run from them to self-lubricating