View Full Version : 1959 Skyliner Restoration

07-08-2011, 06:21 PM
A good, long time friend of mine, now in Oklahoma, but when I first came to know him, was in Alaska, used to own a 1959 Ford Skyliner Retractable. He has since sold it, and it has changed hands several times since then. It is still alive and is presently valued at about $55,000 after the full restoration my friend, Al Fromm did on it. Al just sent me a good number of pictures of it pre-restoration, during restoration and after restoration was completed. It is April Green in color and was a driven concourse show car when the restoration was complete. The restoration was done by Hutchens Auto Restoration & Detailing of Rolla, MO. They specialize in restoring rectractables' and other Full Sized Fords of that era. Al tells me that Lyle has a lot of Skyliner parts and even makes many of the parts that are no longer available. If you are looking for Full Size Ford parts, give him a try. He also makes the "Sunray" wheel centers. Al can also help you find parts.

Al bought this car out of Arkansas in 1994 by telephone from Alaska. When he got back to the states, he started the restoration over the winter of 1995-1996. Al was a member of the International Ford Rectractable CLub (IFRC) and took his '59 to Branson to show it. His car was selected as the 1998 1st Place winner of the 1959 Restored Driven Class! Some time after that, he sold it. I have forgotten how many points it was judged at, but I remember it was almost a perfect score.

I have some very good information on Ben Smith, who, I am told, is the man who engineered the design of the retractable hard top. I will post more about him later. Here are some pix Al sent me of his '59 Skyliner. There will be others to post later on. The first pic is what it looked like in 1994 when he bought it. The rest are a few pix of the restoration process. The final pic is what it looked like when they were done, restored back to full factory specs.

07-08-2011, 10:49 PM
Here are some more pix of the '59 Skyliner Al used to own. This Retractable was restored to exact factory specs. It sure is a pretty car. I notice that it has the single power booster and mc under the hood, like some of the 1960 Tbirds did. It also has A/C. If I remember correctly, my father-in-laws Skyliner was Dresden Blue and Colonial White. There were several blue and white combinations. The paint colors on these pix might not be exact. I am scanning from old pix that Al sent me. Here are the pix and I have a few more to scan in yet, after these.

07-08-2011, 11:12 PM
Here are a few more pix. That is Lyle Hutchens under the Skyliner either tying her down for transport, or releasing her after transport. You will see the Hutchens truck used to transport classic cars to and from repair or restoration. Next I will post some information regarding Ben Smith, the engineer responsible for developing the retractable hard top. He is called the Father of the Retractable.

07-09-2011, 02:54 AM
These are absolutely beautiful cars.

I want to point out some major confusion Ford created with the badges. Now, you know these are Skyliners because the badge on the top says so.

The quarter panel script says, "Galaxie".
The trunk lid says, "Fairlane 500".

I have seen ads for a, Galaxie Skyliner Fairlane 500 car (when that is just impossible).

Officially, a 1959 body style 51A is:
Galaxie Hide-Away Hardtop.

In 1958, before the name 'Galaxie' existed, Ford body style 51A was:
Fairlane "500" Hide-Away Hardtop.

No mention at all about 'Skyliner'. So, without official Ford catalogs, everyone just called them, '57-'59 Ford Retractables' (which doesn't appear anywhere).

07-09-2011, 12:36 PM
Hi Dave! Thanks for the explanation! It gets confusing! As you say, they are beautiful cars. I have a CD full of pix of many, many more Retractables that I might put on a web page.

07-10-2011, 12:25 AM
Al has been reading these comments and gave me some additional information. Here is what he had to say.

"Ben Smith was the Head of the MP#5 Project (Contiental prototype)
and the Ford retractable hardtop 57-59 design team at 31 years of age.

The photos of Lyle in the trailer was from Rolla, MO-to-Okla. return of car after some repairs/ minor fixes.

I scored 927/1000 points at Branson. National Showcase 129 and there are to date only 300 that ever made it to the exclusive Showcase club. They started this award in the early 80's

The first 57 retractables were called 'Hide Away Hardtops" They are known as non-script cars that carried no "Skyliner" on the roof pillar

The 57's, 58's, and early 59's were Fairlane 500 both on the rear and
the upper rear fenders. That remained same on the rear because the
tooling would be too expensive in mid model-year production and the first zero covered the trunk lock on all other models that had a trunk or tailgate. The Galaxie script was attached to the rear sides and a gold anodized stick-on emblem on the glove box door.

The factory air was "Selectaire" and it was a $400 option. Very high dolllar in 1959 !! The dealer installed A/C was "Polaraire" and it was physically much larger.

All Retractables were Body 51A (all years) 51A is defined as" Hide Away Hardtop"."

Thanks for the additional comments, Al! Al is an officially IFRC qualified "Skyliner" judge.

07-11-2011, 04:23 PM
Very nice Skyliner!!! Thanks for sharing his pics.:)

I've never seen a full-size 1958-59 Ford Fairlane- or Fairlane Galaxie 500 for that matter ;), with that underhood power brake booster set-up before. And I've been through a great many junk yards down here...

-Jon in TX.

07-11-2011, 04:42 PM
Jon, full-size Fords have boosters mounted much higher on the firewall than Squarebirds. Even the M/C hole centers are different (giving them a different part number).

The booster looks the same but remember, this is a drum setup which requires far less boost than disk brakes.

07-13-2011, 02:24 PM
My father's 1959 Ford Fairlane Galaxie 500 352cid car has the same underdash power brake booster as my 1960 430cid A/C T-bird & the 1958-59 Birds.

My father's older brother bought the 1959 sedan brand new & the car has been kept in our family. I'm the 2nd owner of my 1960 Bird, so I know all our set-ups are FORD factory assembled.

Just stating that I've never seen a full sized Ford car with that underhood power brake booster as the late 1960 Birds have.... ;)

07-13-2011, 05:34 PM
Hi Jon, My buddy Al told me that when he bought the car it had the under the hood system on it. The guy he bought it from said it had the GOOD BOOSTER on it, meaning the under the hood booster. Al checked with Lyle Hutchens. His Dad has been fixing and restoring full sized Fords since the 50's, and Lyle for many years also. Lyle said that in the latter part of the 1959 full sized Ford production run, they started putting on the under the hood booster instead of the KH under the dash version. The Bendix style became the standard for the rest of the 1959 production run. He also said that the Edsels were in production with the Bendix style under the hood booster from the gitgo. His '59 Skyliner came off the production line in KC, MO on July 21, 1959. So there ya go!

07-14-2011, 04:16 PM
Very interesting indeed..... :cool:

07-14-2011, 04:42 PM
Yea - thanks for posting Ray - nice car. Love that shot from the top of the building looking down on all the cars.

registry 5347

07-24-2011, 04:22 PM
Just as John Rotella of Tbird Registry http://www.tbirdregistry.com (http://www.tbirdregistry.com/) has done, the International Ford Retractable Club (IFRC) maintains a database of surviving Retractable Fords. This database is dedicated to the same principle that the Tbird Registry is. To recover as much original production information as possible regarding these cars, whether junked, scrapped, parted out, or being restored or in use. Like the Tbird Registry, they use the data plate information to document each car. As this says, if we do not obtain data plate information before a car is junked, scrapped, or crushed, we may never be able to document that car. I learned something that I did not know about from this form. Others might have known this though. According to this, much of the productions records (and I assume records of ALL Fords produced up to then) were lost in a fire at Ford's Rotunda on Nov. 9, 1962. Previously to seeing that, I had thought they had just been disposed of for whatever reason. Here is the breakdown of Skyliner production by year, by engine, by plant. Thanks to Al Fromm for providing this information.