Retractable Hardtops in the 1920's
The Hardtop retractable is not a new idea. As early as the 1920's the idea was being experimented with. Long before the power operated mechanical tops, Ben P. Ellerbeck built a successful manually operated system on a 1922 Hudson coupe, without sacrificing use of the rumble seat with the top down.
Retractable Hardtops in the 1930's
The Peugeot Eclipse
The Peugeot Eclipse was introduced at the auto show in May of 1934 as the first electric operated retractable convertible top.
The production was limited, and then halted for the war in Europe, but collaboration with the designer and the Pourtout body construction firm, resulted in the first production of a retractable convertible.
Retractable Hardtops in the 1940's
1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt
The Chrysler Thunderbolt experimental never went to production.
1948 Playboy Automobile
After the WWII, the Playboy was introduced as an inexpensive (less than $1,000.), economical, fun, run-about. The steel retractable top had to be lowered and stored manually. The company struggled to stay in business from 1947 to 1951, when the lack of finances forced them to close.
Less than 100 (97) Playboy Automobiles were built between 1947 and 1951.
Retractable Hardtops in the 1950's
1953 Ford Syrtis
Ford first played with the idea of a retractable in the early 50's. Not like the full size Chrysler Thunderbolt experimental, the 1953 Ford Syrtis was a three eigths scale model built to work with the
retractable top idea.
Lincoln Continental Mark II
While Ford engineers worked on Ford Syrtis, a team of four design experts from outside the company were brought in to work on the Continental Mark II project.
Ford spent 2 million dollars to get the retractable top designed for the new Lincoln Continental Mark II. The Lincoln Continental Mark II convertible concept was built by Derham Coachworks. The expense to fit this top on a limited edition car, influenced Ford to
make it available on the production line Ford.
1957 Ford Skyliner
The 1957 Skyliner, was the first retractable hardtop that was mass produced in the world. 20,766 Ford retractables were built for 1957.
1957 would also see lots of publication buzz about the new "Big E" (Edsel) division at Ford.
The February 1957 issue of Motor Life would present articles on both subjects.
I Love Lucy Sells Ford's
Ford was a sponsor of the I love Lucy show in 1957. This ad shows Lucy calling Ricky from the Ford dealership to tell him about the new Ford hardtop retractable convertible. Check out all the ads, brochures, and manuals in the 1957 Ford Showcase, in our Ford Timeline.
Retractable Hardtops in the 1990's and Beyond
1998 Peugeot Hardtop Retractable
Peugeot was among the first to revive the hardtop
retractable with updated technology and design.
2003 Chevrolet SSR Hardtop Roadster
Chevrolet entered into the retractable market with a retro pickup, convertible roadster, with a retractable hardtop that folds up and stores behind the seat. The retractable convertible truck badged SSR (Super Sport Roadster) was scheduled to build 100,000 units, with sequential vin numbers, like the Corvette.
Chevrolet commercial with SSR
This "American Revolution" commercial, shows 10 new cars coming from Chevrolet. All the vehicles load onto a moving transport, with the SSR spinning to back onto the load. Check out all the photos, ads, brochures, and manuals and more in the Chevrolet Timeline, and other manufacturer timelines.