|1959 Ford Retractable Hardtop|
By Vern Parker
Warren McCrary can't recall a time when he wasn't fascinated with the retractable hardtop cars that Ford manufactured in 1957, 1958 and 1959.
A total of 20,766 were built in 1957. That number dwindled to 14,713 in 1958, Only 12,915 were made during the 1959 model year before Ford pulled the plug on the unusual car.
During the 1970s, when McCrary was matriculating at Arizona State University, for inspiration in his studies, he had pinned to his bulletin board a picture clipped from a magazine of a red and white 1959 Ford retractable hardtop.
Upon graduation he moved, along with his picture, to California. Several moves later McCrary – and his Ford picture – were in Hamilton, Virginia. “I've wanted one of these cars for 30 years,” McCrary explains. However, he discovered that the cars he saw for sale were in need of a total restoration or outrageously expensive.
In mid-winter of 2011 he was attending a Saturday morning estate sale auction in Edinburg, Virginia, not expecting a car to be on the block. Imagine his surprise when among the household goods a red and white 1959 Ford retractable hardtop appeared. Only a single bid was made followed by one from McCrary which proved to be successful.
The 352-cubic-inch Police Interceptor V-8 appeared to still be capable of delivering 300 horsepower but to be on the safe side McCrary decided to have the 4,064-pound car towed to his home. Upon closer inspection the Ford was found to be in remarkably good condition.
McCrary changed the oil in his “new” car and gave it a minor tuneup. The four-barrel carburetor was in good working order but McCrary rebuilt the steering and front end, replacing the tie rods along with new 8.00x14-inch tires. “The sway bar bushings were shot,” he says.
The handsome car is equipped with power steering and power brakes but no air conditioner.
When the rear deck, which is hinged at the rear, is partially opened the small luggage bin is exposed. The bin's capacity is somewhat limited and not easily accessible but that is the price to be paid for style. However, McCrary learned that the bracket on which the spare tire is mounted is readily manageable. “It's surprisingly easy to get out the spare tire,” he observes.
On the way home from a recent antique car show rain started falling and McCrary expected to get wet, even with the top raised. Much to his astonishment there were no leaks and the interior remained dry. The windshield wipers are vacuum operated. “It's really quiet,” he says, “even with the top down.”
There is evidence that the car has been repainted but McCrary thinks the engine is all original. He burns premium grade gasoline.
When new the 1959 retractable Ford had a base price of $3,346 which was $507 more than a traditional soft top convertible.
Since acquiring his dream car McCrary has methodically tried to improve the originality of his Ford. “I use it for fun,” he says. “If it were perfect I'd be too scared to drive it.”
He has replaced the worn door handles and the trim surrounding the backup lights. One trim piece was dented but with care McCrary straightened it to the original proportions.
The red, white and blue trim at the center of each wheel cover remains in good condition as does the red, white and black upholstery. McCrary says the black carpet is somewhat faded but he is delaying replacing it until he is ready to install seat belts.
He is content now to attend “cruise nights” and participate in parades enjoying the rumble of the dual exhausts and the comfortable ride provided by the 118-inch wheelbase.
Whenever spectators at car events approach him he graciously invites them to sit in his car and appreciate it as much as he does. “I'm not going to freak out,” he says.
Next on his list of improvements is installing new window felts. Maintaining a 55-year-old car, he has discovered, is a never-ending project.