Looking Back at Ford’s Skyliner Vehicles

Ford filed for the “Skyline” trademark with the US Patent and Trademark Office on July 12. For decades that name was synonymous with Nissan’s AWD turbocharged Godzilla. While this action only hints at best toward possible future cars, now only Ford can use the name for a car, SUV, or truck. In the late 1950s, Ford gave the name “Skyliner” to four of its passenger vehicles. 

Ford’s Glass Top Crestline Skyliner

For 1954 only, Ford gave its Crestline, a top-shelf vehicle, the Skyliner treatment. It was a coupe with a glass top and had a 3.9-liter overhead-valve V8, sending 130 horsepower to the rear wheels. It could also come with a 3.6-liter straight-six, making 115 horsepower. Either could mate to a manual or automatic transmission. It outsold the Mercury Monterey Sun Valley at 13,144 units, according to Hemmings

The overhead-valve V8 succeeded the flathead, which had valves built into the cylinder heads. This new design was bigger but provided a better flow and produced more power. 

Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner: Too Little Too Late?

Between the Crestline and Fairlane, Ford released the first-ever Crown Victoria, from 1955-1956. Poor sales figures ensured its limited run. The car came with a 162 horsepower 272 V8, and a glass top similar to the Crestline. Like the Crestline, it used coil spring independent front suspension, a live rear axle, and hydraulic drum brakes.

Ford Fairlane Skyliner: The First Ford Retractable Hardtop

1957 ford fairlane skyliner at docks
1957 Ford Fairlane | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Fairlane started life as a full-size car in 1955 but became mid-size when 1962 rolled around, and it fits right between the petite Falcon and Mammoth Galaxie. Ford built the Fairlane Skyliner from 1957-1959, and although it had a 352 V8 pumping out 300 horsepower, the main attraction to the Fairlane Skyliner was its retractable hardtop

Exclusive to vehicles from Ford and not Lincoln or Mercury, the Fairlane Skyliner had a hardtop that could retract into where the trunk would normally be. What’s more, it was fully automated. All the driver had to do was press a button, and the hardtop would retract itself into the trunk space and lock itself down. 

The Retractable Hardtop Swansong: Ford Galaxie Skyliner

1959 ford galaxie skyliner
1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner | Getty Images

The Galaxie Skyliner joined Ford’s lineup midway through 1959, replacing the Fairlane as a much heavier and more expensive car. Aside from badges, the Galaxie and Fairline of this vintage are identical. Ford ceased production of the Skyliner name in 1959, making it one of the rarest and most sought-after Fords. Skyliner was only used by Ford for three years, while its cloth-type convertibles were named Sunliner. The Crestline, Fairlane, and Galaxie all got Sunliner tops. The Galaxie Sunliner was the last to go in 1964.

Why Ford adopted the Skyline name yet again is unknown. However, resurrecting the name on a new hardtop convertible coupe would be well-received. Whether Ford does something with the name or not, Nissan may not be able to sell a Skyline in the US anytime soon. According to Ford Authority, Ford may need to negotiate with Nissan over some intellectual property rights, but that’s still to come.

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