One of humankind’s most fervently pursued dreams — next to fat-free fat and the four-day work week — is a car that offers the liberating feel of top-down motoring without the hair-mussing inconvenience of a true convertible. Ford’s transparent-roof Skyliners of the mid-Fifties were a noble, albeit flawed, attempt at this elusive ideal.
The Skyliner was introduced as part of the 1954 update of Ford’s two-year-old car line, which that year also gained ball-joint front suspension and the all-new “Y-block” 239-cid ohv V-8. Part of the top-shelf Crestline series, the Skyliner was basically a Victoria hardtop with a ¼-inch-thick, green transparent acrylic roof section running almost the full width of the car over the front seats.
Although desert testing showed the Skyliner interior to be only five degrees hotter than its steel-roofed sister, many buyers complained that the cabin seemed ovenlike at times. To help alleviate the problem, Ford offered a snap-in vinyl sunshade.
Skyliner sales for ’54 were somewhat disappointing at 13,344, compared to 95,464 standard Victorias. Perhaps nagging sun glare and heat turned buyers off. But a more likely culprit was its $2164 sticker price — exactly the same as a Ford Sunliner convertible.
For ‘55, Ford’s car line was restyled, the V-8 grew to 272 and 292 cid, and the Crestline name was dropped. The Fairlane made its debut as the top series, and included the new Crown Victoria model. It was distinguished by forward-raked bright-metal trim that rose from the sides of the car over fixed B-pillars, then continued unbroken across the roof.
The Crown Victoria was offered in steel-roof and Skyliner versions. But, as was the case in 1954, the latter was not very popular; 1999 shoppers opted for the see-through Crown Vic for ‘55, while another 33,165 selected the steel-roof version.
Ford upped the V-8’s displacement again for ’56, adding an optional 312-cid unit. The Skyliner continued, but at $2407 its price had crept slightly above that of even the Sunliner convertible. Meanwhile, overall Crown Vic sales were down considerably; a total of 9812 were built for ‘56, only 603 of them Skyliners. This was the final year for both.
The ‘56’s rarity means Sandra Simpkin’s Skyliner, shown here, would be quite desirable in any condition. But the Buena Park, California, resident’s car is made even more special by its full body-off restoration and extensive options, which include 312-cid V-8 and automatic transmission, plus power steering, power brakes, power windows, and power seat.
But when the California sun beats down through the tinted roof, its owner will probably tell you that air-conditioning is the option she most appreciates.