Cars and Coffee in Irvine, California is the greatest reoccurring car show on the face of the planet. It takes place every Saturday morning, and the vehicles that show up continue to astound visitors every single week. Friend of Hooniverse Leo also arrives every Saturday to capture images of the awesome, which he then shares on the site CNCPics.com.
One vehicle in particular caught Leo’s attention and lens-work at a recent CnC, and he thought it would be a perfect fit for you folks here in the Hooniverse.
He was right…
Keep reading to find out why.
This past weekend as per custom I attended Cars & Coffee, which is consistently one of the greatest automotive get togethers in the world. I made the rounds as usual and snapped a couple of hundred pics. Towards the end I did what I usually do and picked out amongst the stragglers which had stayed behind longer than most of the other show attendees. One such straggler was a 1958 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner in a oh so period correct two-tone powder blue on white.
Its owner was proudly standing by it having a conversation with another man about its merits. I snapped away a couple of pics from a bunch of different angles when something on the famous top mechanism caught my eye. It was a signature placed in a very unusual spot. The signature had been placed right on one of the supports of the top mechanism and was hard to decipher.
This wasn’t a famous performance type car or anything like that so it couldn’t be that of a famous builder a la Carrol Shelby. This had to be someone that involved in the creation of this car and was very proud of the fact. I asked the owner about it and he told me that he had no clue, he had owned the car several years and no one had been able to tell him.
I thought about it and remembered a post I had read on The Car Lounge, made by Barry Wolk. In said post he discussed the origins of his Continental Mark II convertible. It turns out that the company which built his car had helped Ford develop the top for the Skyliner convertible. It dawned on me that the signature on the Skyliner’s top must be that of one of the engineers involved on the project. As soon as I had the chance I messaged Barry and asked him to positively I.D. the signature.
At first Barry had trouble positively I.D’ing the signature, but soon his memory cleared up and it dawned on him. This must be the signature of a Benjamin J. Smith who did much of the design work for the Continental convertible. You see, Ford was originally going to produce a hard-top convertible version of the Continental Mark II but due to lackluster sales the project was scrapped. Ford didn’t let it go to waste though. All that development work led them to create the first mass produced hard top convertible in 1957, and it has been a crowd pleaser ever since.
Thanks Leo for doing the digging, and thanks Barry for providing the answer!
Bonus video of the top in action:
[Skyliner Images: CNCPics.com / Final Image courtesy of Barry Wolk]