August 1, 2001

Ford Skyliners of the late '50s demonstrated how manufacturers could combine ingenuity with style. Even before the age of removable T-tops, these hardtop-convertibles gave their owners the best of both worlds. With a hardtop that automatically folded into the trunk, the car could be a convertible in mere minutes. It would be quieter than a cloth-top convertible and warmer in the winter months. Besides, a steel top never got torn.

The Galaxie series was new for '59, and replaced the Fairlane 500 as the top series at Ford. The Galaxie shared many styling cues with the Thunderbird, which included squared styling, bold front end, round taillights, and the formal C-pillar. The Galaxie helped Ford evolve into a sporty car, and was one of the most handsome cars ever to come out of Dearborn. In fact, the '59 Ford Galaxie won the Gold Medal for Exceptional Styling at the Brussels World Fair.

When Frank MacKenzie of Surrey, British Columbia, first saw the Skyliner in 1990, he knew this was the car for him. This particular car spent much of its life in storage and remained in the dry valley of Yakima, Washington. It was intact and in good condition, with only faded paint and interior showing age. Mechanically, it was sound and had only 73,000 original miles. As an added bonus, the car was never in an accident, making it an ideal candidate for restoration.

Frank finally convinced the original owner to part with the car in 1993. "I wanted a keeper and would restore this car to its original specifications. The owner was sentimentally attached and had driven the car (when it was new) to Mexico to find a wife. Apparently, he succeeded; and along the way, had impressed many young ladies. When I promised him that I would not modify the car, he reluctantly sold it to me."

Knowing the rare treasure he found, Frank spared no effort in bringing the Skyliner back to pristine condition. After three years of planning, the frame-off restoration began in 1996. The frame, driveline, inner fenders, and suspension components were powdercoated. Frank especially recommends powdercoating for rear springs, citing a smooth ride.

Remarkably, the car had never been repainted. The body received walnut-shell blasting and was stripped to bare metal. Although it was basically rust-free, the body was acid-dipped when bare metal was found inside the inner doors and under the top. Now, all body surfaces have four-layer primer and paint. And to top it off, Sikkens paint and primer at $500 per gallon were employed, matching the original Wedgewood Blue and Colonial White finish.

The car's 352 engine and Cruise-O-Matic transmission was rebuilt by Tom Denchel Ford in Yakima. The only changes incorporated were hardened valves and seats for unleaded fuel. A stainless steel exhaust system was installed for long-life operation.

Among the mechanical components replaced were the scarce electric motors that operated the fold-away top. Fortunately, Frank was able to get these at a swap meet. Their replacement ensured dependable operation, not to mention his peace of mind! Other hard-to-obtain items included air-conditioning parts and Ford emblems.

On the inside, the seats, carpet, and paneling were redone to the original color and pattern using SMS fabrics. The car is loaded with options, which include Cruise-O-Matic transmission, Master-Guide power steering, Swift-Sure power brakes, power windows, AM radio, and the very rare Select-Aire factory air conditioning.

On the outside, there are chrome fender skirts that blend well with the aluminum rear-fender shields. The red, white, and blue tri-color wheel covers were an option in '59. The original-type bias-belted 8.00-15 BFGoodrich Silvertown tires were chosen over radials, finishing the restoration in the spring of 1998.

Frank MacKenzie has driven his '59 Ford Retractable 5,000 miles since its restoration. The car is a crowd favorite and turns heads wherever it goes. At the '99 International Retractable meet in Reno, Nevada, the Skyliner won a silver medal, lacking only four points for gold-quite an accomplishment for a car that was driven nearly 1,000 miles from home!