Lebowski

1957-59 Ford retractables-fun to own or too many problems?

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I had a 1995 Mercedes Benz SL500.   Same deal, cool looking process going up or down.  After a while it puked a bunch of oil in the back and failed.  It could be raised or lowered manually but it was heavy.

 

The dealership mechanic wanted nothing to do with it and quoted $8000 to repair. I paid $3500 for the car. 

 

I worked at a Porsche dealer.  Those had numerous issues with their fancy schmancy auto mechanisms.  Our Porsche Master tech got those and hated them.  So it is over engineering gone amuck.  KISS!

 

I love Buick Reattas and those are mechanical only, raised and lowered easily by yourself.  

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44 minutes ago, Bill Stoneberg said:

 

David, Why did the chicken cross the road ?   To prove to the armadillos that it could be done.

 

Nice!!

armadillo.jpg

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11 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

I've had two retractables and both were trouble-free during the time I had them. However, I am adamant about not over-doing it with the top, which means we put it up and down once for the video to prove it worked but beyond that, I don't play with it. We've had three '60s Thunderbirds with problematic soft tops that needed servicing, plus the one that I recently sold and the guy broke it by using it 10 times in 24 hours. With those statistics, I suppose you could say the retractables are more reliable than the Thunderbirds, but that's not really an accurate cross-section. Obviously not all of them will break, but at the same time, when/if they do it's still an ordeal. The system is not all that different between the two and the things that go wrong seem to be common to both vehicles (the switches that control the movement of the top itself are the most problematic, followed by those that control the "flipper" panel). Like I said earlier--it's always a gamble. It might work perfectly for years or, like the Thunderbird I bought, it might work perfectly now and two hours later be expensively broken. Just no way to know because there are never any warnings with electronic devices. It's not like they develop a rod knock or start to slip the way engines and transmissions do.

 

Ultimately I can't say whether one is easier to service than the other nor that there's a consistent place for them to fail. All I know is that sooner or later, something probably will break and it's a major PITA to fix and parts are expensive (the broken switch on the car with the broken top in the field was about $450).

 

I will say I was pretty fond of this particularly car simply because it was an ultra-rare E-code car with dual 4-barrel carbs. Someone spent a FORTUNE restoring it so it was in very good order while it was with us.

 

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All that said, I do think your pink retractable is FANTASTIC. If you're going to have an iconic '50s car, you may as well have a remarkable model in a remarkable color.

The E codes are super rare and expensive and That looks like a good restoration. There’s a guy name Jerry that does really good ones. 

 

Well I got caught in the rain so had to pull over on the way and put the top up. Went super smooth, probably because the battery was charged from driving. 

 

Thanks for the compliment. This old gal is growing on me. 

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Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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I just talked to the seller. He's owned the car for 6 years and had the engine professionally rebuilt and several other things done to it mechanically. He says he's never had any issues with the top going up or down but he doesn't drive it much because he isn't a classic car guy. 

 

So now I think I may try to find someone in southern Wisconsin to go take a look at it for me. If anyone here has any interest in doing that please email me at dave314@bellsouth.net or send me a PM. Of course I would throw a few dollars your way to make it worth your while. He lives just west of Madison. Thanks..............Dave

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Your NEXT questions should be where was the car born and where did it spend its life?

Things can go south real fast in Wisconsin if the car wasn't properly stored or even worse, driven on salted roads....... :wacko:

 

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Will admit I can raise and lower my Reatta top faster than the SLK but do not have to get out of the seat. Hydraulics are similar to a 67 Grand Prix 'vert. Monitoring the electronics requires a $100 scan tool. I did map the required switch positions but can raise or lower both inside the garage.

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55 minutes ago, cahartley said:

Your NEXT questions should be where was the car born and where did it spend its life?

Things can go south real fast in Wisconsin if the car wasn't properly stored or even worse, driven on salted roads....... :wacko:

 

 

The car was built in Dearborn but he doesn't know where it spent its first 20+ years. It was originally blue and white and was painted all red sometime in the '80s. The owner died after a few years and his wife let it sit in their garage until 2013. The current owner bought it then and started fixing things on it. The frame and body look to be pretty solid from the pics I've seen....

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10 hours ago, B Jake Moran said:

I had a 1995 Mercedes Benz SL500.   Same deal, cool looking process going up or down.  After a while it puked a bunch of oil in the back and failed.  It could be raised or lowered manually but it was heavy.

 

The dealership mechanic wanted nothing to do with it and quoted $8000 to repair. I paid $3500 for the car. 

 

I worked at a Porsche dealer.  Those had numerous issues with their fancy schmancy auto mechanisms.  Our Porsche Master tech got those and hated them.  So it is over engineering gone amuck.  KISS!

 

I love Buick Reattas and those are mechanical only, raised and lowered easily by yourself.  

I drove an SLK. Their mechanisms are way more complex. Most mechanics will not touch them. 

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12 hours ago, JamesR said:

As I think I said it before, they are probably the most visually impressive cars of the 1950's. Even though I could never own one (not enough money or skill or patience) I do love them dearly. Why? Because they're emblematic of the optimism that characterized America in the 1950's: "Look what we Americans are now able to do...never mind how difficult it is or the amount of effort that's required to keep it working!" You have to love that attitude if you're an American. Here's my favorite car commercial of all time:

 

 

 

I hadn’t seen that one but I saw the other one they were in. I especially like that it has the Colonial White on the bottom like my dad’s. Most have the dark color on the bottom. 💕

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17 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

Here's the thing with owning a retractable: the only reason to own one is to display it at shows with the top half-mast, as shown above. Doing that tends to be hard on the hardware and it's a lot of extra duty cycles running it up and down at every show. If you don't put the top up, it merely looks like a slightly porky and awkward Sunliner convertible. Top up, it looks like a slightly porky and awkward hardtop. Either way it's still a convertible that weighs a few hundred pounds more than a standard Sunliner cloth top convertible, so it's not as energetic to drive. Yes, they're cool, but the entire reason they're cool is that top and if you're not demonstrating it at shows, the car is just kind of meh (meaning no offense to those who love them). However, demonstrating it all the time is a shortcut to having to fix it sooner rather than later. It's certainly serviceable and you don't have to be a genius to do it, but there's an investment in knowledge that you'll have to make and surely an investment in time at some point in the future to repair it. Do you enjoy that part of the ownership experience? Let that be your guide.

The only people who tell me they fail a lot are people who’ve never owned one. Owners dispute it and so do several articles I’ve read. Dad’s sat for years and worked. Then sat a couple more and Jack fixed it with a drill in a couple hours. Mine has some pieces I should replace and it wouldn’t hurt to redo the wiring, but it works just fine. (I know it will need attention soon). Car needs to be running and battery needs to be strong. It’s a 57 and still works. That’s pretty amazing. Dad’s wires look older and his struts are broken, so I know they are not redone. Again, amazing so it deserves some attention. Plus I know he couldn’t drive and it sat close to 10 years of the last 12. 

I am more worried that if I got in an accident I couldn’t find body parts. Make sure no rust around headlights and lower back quarter especially. 

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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11 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

All that said, I do think your pink retractable is FANTASTIC. If you're going to have an iconic '50s car, you may as well have a remarkable model in a remarkable color.

 

Concur.  There's something about mid to late 50s cars where normally dubious colors (pink, turquoise, etc.) just seal the deal.  

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6 hours ago, Lebowski said:

I just talked to the seller. He's owned the car for 6 years and had the engine professionally rebuilt and several other things done to it mechanically. He says he's never had any issues with the top going up or down but he doesn't drive it much because he isn't a classic car guy. 

 

So now I think I may try to find someone in southern Wisconsin to go take a look at it for me. If anyone here has any interest in doing that please email me at dave314@bellsouth.net or send me a PM. Of course I would throw a few dollars your way to make it worth your while. He lives just west of Madison. Thanks..............Dave

I guarantee you if you talk to someone from the Skyliner club they will tell you these early ones are way less trouble than the later ones mentioned on this thread. They are a different design and I’m also told easier to fix. Don’t let that scare you. Bring it to a show and watch everyone be amazed to see it. 👍

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7 minutes ago, KongaMan said:

 

Concur.  There's something about mid to late 50s cars where normally dubious colors (pink, turquoise, etc.) just seal the deal.  

For the record it’s coral dusk. 😆 I can’t imagine my dad admitting he drove a pink car. 

Thank you for the compliment. 👍

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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From Hemings, and the Ford has no hydraulics, by the way. This is one of several articles I read as I was reluctant to keep a car that was overly complicated. I found a guy in a Washington who works on them and one in Cali, and a resource person for a mechanic to call with questions, but Jack graciously fixed the issue I had. I have a copy of this roof manual and I recommend it. Also is there a group near you? Rawlings and other members probably knows who all works on these roofs.

Bottom line: Own a car and use it as intended. Drive it sparingly , use the top sparingly. That pretty much is all old cars. We try to preserve them, but most of us use them. Not using the roof is like having a trailer queen. Raise and lower in the garage when you can and if it gets stuck, it’s inside until you get it fixed. 🤷‍♀️

Let us know what you decide!

I’ll let you all know when I get stuck with my roof half up. It’s bound to happen. Just pray it doesn’t happen in a storm and hopefully I can push it down manually like I did before. 

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Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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On 6/4/2019 at 6:36 PM, JamesR said:

Neighbor had one and the top locked in the halfway position (according to him.) I'm not trying to advocate against or for a car I've never owned, just relating to you the experience of an old car guy whose opinion I respect. (He has a '36 Ford that he rebuilt from the ground up.) The more info you have, the better. They are among those most visually awesome cars of the 1950's. though.

Was his a Ford or a later hydraulic one? Fords are not hydraulic? I was able to easily, manually push it into the trunk twice before Jack fixed it. 

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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19 hours ago, victorialynn2 said:

The E codes are super rare and expensive and That looks like a good restoration. There’s a guy name Jerry that does really good ones. 

 

Well I got caught in the rain so had to pull over on the way and put the top up. Went super smooth, probably because the battery was charged from driving. 

 

Thanks for the compliment. This old gal is growing on me. 

B73868C4-88A4-4FF1-9896-4429D120AA26.jpeg

37F02C1D-C90F-4959-91BE-0282A088C619.jpeg

 

Looks like a light turnout last night. Last year the first meet was packed.

I saw you driving thru Dundee around eight. You must have left early.

I couldn't make it due to another obligation, Probably will next week though.

Supposed to be 80 next Wednesday.

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34 minutes ago, JACK M said:

 

Looks like a light turnout last night. Last year the first meet was packed.

I saw you driving thru Dundee around eight. You must have left early.

I couldn't make it due to another obligation, Probably will next week though.

Supposed to be 80 next Wednesday.

It was not full early but the front field mostly filled up in the end. No cars behind by the track. Still a good turnout, but like you said, lighter than expected probably due to rain. 

Yes I had left early. We got there about 2 or a bit after. This pic was when we first pulled in. 

Some of your friends asked about you. 

Edited by victorialynn2 (see edit history)

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On ‎6‎/‎6‎/‎2019 at 12:48 AM, victorialynn2 said:

I drove an SLK. Their mechanisms are way more complex. Most mechanics will not touch them. 

 

Nothing on the SLK that a good mechanic can't fix, but if you don't have the factory software and tools, you are guessing at what part might bad and even if you do guess right you might not be able to replace it. The soft tops on Saab and Volvo are almost identical, but I don't touch  Volvo's. I'm tooled up for GM and I will do Saab's, even a Cadillac retractable hard top if someone brings me one. I don't even know anyone who will touch a Mercedes.

 

The Ford may have a million miles of wire, but  they are child's play compared to these things. Most of what gives you trouble on the Ford can be found with a circuit tester and fixed with a can of contact cleaner.

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No need for anything fancy, there are service manual CDs on ebay for a few dollars and I like the Autel Diaglink scan tool with the Benz module for my SLKs. Are more limit switches than a 67 Grand Prix but hydraulics are similar and are quite a few in central Florida.

 

Agree a Ford would not scare me but do as much electrics as mechanical, from what I've seen keeping the screw jacks lubed is important. Also is not my rice bowl so can take as much time as needful.

 

What I like about my retractables is that when the top is up, it is quieter and the AC works better than a cloth top (and we have been running 90+ every day for the last few weeks with not much rain. Also can put the top up or down under the raised door in the front garage. Have a unfilled desire for an XLR but have to despose of one or two others first.

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

 

Agree a Ford would not scare me but do as much electrics as mechanical, from what I've seen keeping the screw jacks lubed is important

I agree the SLK with the top up is very quiet. I just love those. Maybe someday I will have one. (I had a boyfriend who collected them for a while). 

Dumb question: what are the screw jacks and how do I lube them?

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http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1957-1959-ford-fairlane-skyliner1.htm

 

This doesn't really have helpful pictures, just text explaining it some.

 

Though it may have looked simple from the outside, the retractable mechanism that evolved was fiendishly complex. Seven purpose-built electric motors, each with its own circuit breaker, were needed to operate the screw-type decklid and roof locks (two for the former and four on the latter), and the screw jacks that moved the decklid and roof.

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I texted the seller this morning and told him that I was going to pass on it. Thanks again for the replies.... :)

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On ‎6‎/‎7‎/‎2019 at 10:54 AM, victorialynn2 said:

 

Dumb question: what are the screw jacks and how do I lube them?

 

Those are the parts that I dealt with.

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2 hours ago, JACK M said:

 

Those are the parts that I dealt with.

I thought so. Thank you! 😘

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