JUNE 2016–NEW FOR 1957: FORD’S FAMOUS RETRACTABLE IS STILL AMAZING IN 2016

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We were lucky last summer because we discovered two 1957 Ford retractable hardtops during our roads trips on the car show circuit.

 

 

The innovative drop top was unique to Ford when it came to metal roofs that disappeared into the trunk because no other American builder built a car with this feature.

 

 

‘The cars still draw an enormous amount of attention from curious onlookers and many owners will be encouraged to demonstrate the disappearing act when they take these unusual convertibles to car shows.’

 

 

The retractable roof on the ’57 Ford is a very complicated system that was designed during an automotive era before micro-circuitry and the roof’s complexities tested the very limits of automotive engineering during the late 50s.

 

 

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The roof system requires a massive amount of wiring and individual motors aligned with screw jacks to produce each element of the up and down action. It was probably simpler to produce the rocketry behind the first space launches in the 50s than figure out how to get the roof down on a ’57 Ford retractable.

 

 

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Richard Heitman was a young guy when the first Ford retractable hit the road in 1957 and he was taken with the impressive new Ford with its perfect rear fins and taillights. He was finally able to buy one back in 1980 and has been the proud owner of his stylish ’57 ever since that lucky day.

 

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Richard’s Ford still has its original 292 two-barrel engine and there are still enough horses under the hood for Richard to keep up with the pace of modern highway traffic on the road. Richard likes a steady 65-70 mph when he drives the car and these days the Ford drop-top is strictly a part-timer on the road because he limits its use to car shows.

 

 

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One of the questions answered by Richard was the amount of storage space left in the Ford when the large metal roof disappears into the trunk. The simple answer is not much because the roof takes up much of the trunk area when it retracts into the down position because of its sheer size and the amount of 50s-era technology required to move the roof.

 

 

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Richard pointed to a small bin in the trunk area which will safely store any items that fit into its confines. All other areas in the trunk are off limits for storage and anything outside of the small bin would likely cause the kind of damage similar to the disasters experienced by Wile E Coyote when he attempted to use Acme products on the Roadrunner.

 

 

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Richard mentioned one very surprising fact about the value of a 1957 Ford retractable convertible compared to a conventional 1957 rag top convertible: the rag tops are worth more according to him because they are much scarcer in 2016.

 

 

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Ford made many more conventional convertibles than retractables in ’57 but their greater numbers meant the rag tops were also more expendable in that passenger pigeon kind of way. The rag top Fords were sent to the wrecker in much greater numbers and few survived during the ensuing 59 years.

 

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Final note: Richard had Buddy Holly playing in the background when we discovered him and his Ford at the show.

 

The music and the car both fit him like a glove.
Jim Sutherland

 

 

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