Cruisin’ in a dream car

Back in 1958, the brand new Ford Skyliner in the Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, neighbourhood was a kid magnet. Ten-year-old Dave Fraser always came running, just to watch the roof part from the windshield, tilt skyward and fold neatly into its trunk. More than 40 years later, the boy in Fraser still delights in the vehicle’s unique design.

Dream car
In 1993, he rediscovered the car of his dreams at an auto show in Toronto. The retractable Ford had been brought from California and, luckily for Fraser, was in completely original condition. That meant rust but no misguided attempts at restoration, and it had never been in an accident. Best of all, the top worked perfectly.

“Everything was taken apart and redone,” he says, “every last nut and bolt.” Restoration is a process Fraser has been refining since his teens, when he acquired his first car, a 1940 Chevrolet.

“It was an easy way to start,” he says.

A big commitment
As he was to learn over the years, restoring cars, rather than simply modifying them, requires a lot more time, attention to detail and usually, lots of cold, hard cash. “It can get into a l of money,” he acknowledges.

“It’s very labour intensive.” Fraser enjoys doing the work himself, which saves him money. “It always ends up being a bigger job than it started out to be,” he confesses.

It was worth the seven years it took him to get the retractable Ford ready for the car show scene. Last summer, their first show season, Fraser and his wife Cheryl, put 5,000 miles on the ’58 Skyliner. The car (azure blue on the bottom and top, white in the middle) won 943 points (out of 1,000) at Vincennes, Indiana, where the International Ford Retractable Club held its annual convention.

Proud owner
Cheryl really shines – or polishes, as the case may be – at “cruise” nights, when proud owners bring their cars for a look-see and a chance to talk cars. “She’s my number one cleanup crew,” Fraser says. “She goes around cleaning the bugs off the chrome because by the time I park, there’s usually somebody at the door who wants to talk.”

The ’58 Skyliner, parked with its roof halfway down, still captivates car lovers. “A lot of people have never seen one,” says Fraser. (They were only made for three years – 1957 to 1959.) “But there’s always somebody that’s had one like it and of course, they all wish they’d never sold ’em…”