65 Ford Mustang GT Retractable Hardtop

A couple of good gas assisted mould products images I located:

65 Ford Mustang GT Retractable Hardtop
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Image by DVS1mn
Willmar Car Club 2014 Kandi Mall Show



This report initially appeared in the October, 2005 situation of Hemmings Classic Vehicle.

There exist no new ideas.
What ever variation of synapse connections you’ve managed to kind in a technique new to you has almost surely taken spot in the minds of guys years, generations, or centuries before. No offense, that is just what takes place when billions of folks inhabit a single planet over a number of millennia. Watch a television show or listen to a song on the radio and you will swear you have noticed that plot or heard that lyric before.
Yet another prime instance–convertible hardtops.
The Lexus SC430 gives each the safety and comfort of a hardtop more than your head and the thrill of open-top motoring, as it has since 2000. But the Mercedes-Benz SLK offered the identical option back in 1996. The Mitsubishi 3000GT introduced the bodystyle two years prior.
Automakers on this side of the pond have only brought retractables back to showrooms lately, with the appearance of the Pontiac G6 for the 2006 model year, the Cadillac XLR in 2003 and the Chevrolet SSR about the exact same time.
Pie-in-the-sky dream vehicles have utilised the function as a gimmick for years. Benjamin B. Ellerbeck, of Salt Lake City, Utah, patented a retractable metal roof in 1922, then fitted it to a 1919 Hudson, but he couldn’t discover a manufacturer to bring his dream to life. Coachbuilders and infinitesimal-run versions of production automobiles have employed it as far back as 1933, on the Hotchkiss Eclipse by Pourtout.
Right about in the middle of it all came Ben J. Smith and his want to see a retractable hardtop fitted to a Ford Mustang.
Smith, 82, can be likened to a latter-day Ellerbeck, if only in their tenacity in pursuing this widespread concept. Ellerbeck, right after constructing his Hudson, pursued a one particular-man publicity campaign for the concept in the automotive journals of the day. He tried unsuccessfully to attract Packard as a builder and claimed he took numerous orders, but Ellerbeck’s idea seemed not to earn him significantly fame nor funds as he continued his publicity march through the 1930s.
Smith, even so, stood a far better possibility for accomplishment. A Detroit native, he went to Ford exactly where he started as a wood pattern maker in 1940. He mentioned he remained on deferment till an acquaintance reported him to the draft board, so rather than face Uncle Sam’s wrath, he enlisted in the Navy in 1944 for 17 months. Smith returned to Ford for its Light Ford program then, in 1949, moved to Nash and later took a job with Basic Motors’ Fisher Body Division, engineering hardtops and convertibles.
In about the very same time span, Ford Advanced Studio designer Gil Spear penned the retractable hardtop notion. Regardless of whether he knew of Ellerbeck’s efforts has never ever been mentioned, but his idea resembled Ellerbeck’s–a hardtop that basically slid down over the trunk lid. Practically nothing to stow away, no complicated mechanisms. (Dick Teague, the legendary AMC stylist, penned a little retractable in 1946 for Kaiser-Frazer that also utilized the exact same simple principle, though the idea never progressed beyond paper.)
Spear’s 1st drawing emerged in October 1948, according to Jim and Cheryl Farrell’s book, Ford Style Department Concepts and Showcars, 1932-1961. But the concept did not re-emerge till it appeared on Ford’s 1953 Syrtis show car. By then, Spear had refined the notion to drop the hardtop under the trunk lid. The Syrtis ultimately met the organization end of a sledgehammer numerous occasions, but Spear had convinced William Clay Ford, Ford’s general manager of Particular Products Operations, that the Continental Mark II project–which got the go-ahead in 1953–had to contain a retractable hardtop.
Harley Copp, the chief engineer for the Mark II project, brought his brother-in-law, John Hollowell, into the project. Hollowell, who worked with Ben Smith on the Light Ford project, in turn hired Smith away from GM. With a budget of .19 million and 18 months, Hollowell and Smith completed MP#5, a Mark II mule fitted with a fully operational powered convertible hardtop. The vehicle generated great applause, but the project’s leaders sacked the concept when they realized that Ford could only create the Mark II in one particular bodystyle.
To recoup the investment, Ford had Smith integrate the concept into the 1957 Ford, hoping the added million invested in modifying the Fairlane body and in tooling would amortize over an anticipated bigger run. The Ford retractable hardtop, introduced in mid-1957, and called the Skyliner in 1958-59, utilised basically the same system developed for the Mark II. Smith had to extend the Fairlane’s rear sheetmetal by three inches, shorten the hardtop 3.75 inches and relocate the gas tank, but he finished the style operate correct at the December 1956 deadline.
Ford sold nearly 48,400 Skyliners over the car’s three-year run–great sufficient to give Ford bragging rights as the first to mass-make such a design and style. But the sales didn’t justify the investment, so GM and Chrysler decided not to compete.
Smith, even though, never ever forgot the thought. Possibly since he drove MP#5 on the streets of Detroit for two years, till he came back from holiday to locate it scrapped. Possibly because he later study about the Peugeot Eclipses of the 1930s. What ever inspiration he took, it lay dormant in his mind for the much better component of a decade.
From 1959 to 1964, Smith served as chief engineer for Ford of Argentina. In 1964, he became executive engineer for Ford’s Commonwealth zones, and a year later William Clay Ford tapped him to head up sophisticated package engineering in Detroit.
By this time, the Mustang had become Ford’s darling. Demand continually outstripped production, and its first-year sales broke the record set just a handful of years earlier by the Falcon. Ford product planners genuinely had just the two models to supply to commence with, so they scrambled for a lot more.
&quotWe had worked up such a head of steam on the very first Mustang that we have been currently searching for variations on the theme,&quot Gene Bordinat, Ford’s styling chief at the time, said in Gary Witzenburg’s Mustang: The Complete History of America’s Pioneer Ponycar.
For that reason, Bordinat’s Mustang styling group whipped up the fastback bodystyle and Lee Iacocca authorized it the minute he saw it. Though designers played around with prototype removable hardtops and rejected the notion ahead of the Mustang’s April 1964 introduction, a dealer-installed folding sunroof created the choices list and some dealers at the time supplied aftermarket removable hardtops for the convertibles.
So what much better time to pitch a convertible hardtop for the Mustang?
Rather than reprise the Mark II/Skyliner style, Smith had a easier idea. Rather of adding the 13 switches, 10 solenoids, nine circuit breakers, five motors and 610 feet of wire that powered the Skyliner’s retractable prime, Smith wanted the Mustang’s best completely manual. And as an alternative of dropping the roof as 1 piece into the trunk–anything the 1957 Fairlane’s styling permitted–Smith designed a clamshell-style roof that worked much better with the Mustang’s extended-hood, brief-deck styling.
To the very best of our research, clamshell design and style appeared just twice prior–on the 1948 Playboy and on a car made by J.R.V. Dolphin of Buckingham, England, the identical year. We’ve located little additional information about Dolphin’s design and style, other than that it was installed on an Allard chassis, and the Playboy, of which 97 total were created, utilized the leading section as a rigid boot directly behind the seat. Smith’s design, however, placed the whole top under the trunklid, leaving the rear seat open for passengers.
Smith in fact started functioning on his notion in mid-1965. He had a discretionary spending budget of about ,000 and mentioned he spent amongst ,000 and ,000 developing a retractable hardtop for the Mustang with the support of his assistant, Roy Butler, who followed Smith to Ford from GM, and of Ford designer Dick Papps. Ahead of lengthy, he decided to strategy upper management with the project.
&quotWe finally got authority (from Ford) for 5,000, but it could have been a quarter-million dollars, I simply never bear in mind,&quot Smith said. &quotSo I let a construct contract out to John Hollowell. He left Ford and started his personal engineering firm (in 1962), so he did some manufacturing himself.
&quotI ordered a 1965 coupe specific off the production line–it had all the bells and whistles and the largest engine you could get at the time. I place double torque boxes in the front and added on to the rocker panel to strengthen the chassis for when we cut the roof off. Something I made for that was an add-on weld. I could put the front appropriate wheel on a curb and the back left wheel on a block and open the doors with out losing any structural integrity.
&quotI enhanced the length of the auto about two and a half inches, just in the rear overhang, so I could match the roof in the trunk,&quot Smith said. &quotThe wheelbase stayed the very same I just extended the sheetmetal back. Nicely, that required new taillamps and a new rear bumper. And the decklid, I had to turn it about, so it could open from the front. Yes, the decklid styling came from my Lincoln styling days, but we also required the space in there to stow the leading when it was down.&quot
In addition, the gas tank and filler moved behind the rear seat, just as it had on MP#five. Smith even envisioned 4 additional tops for the project: one particular of brushed aluminum, a single of stainless steel, one vinyl-covered fiberglass prime and one particular stamped-steel leading. He mentioned Hollowell could only fabricate the latter two, but even these remained on the sidelines, not a part of the car’s overall presentation.
&quotThe complete project was a quickie,&quot Smith said. &quotFrom idea, we had the automobile constructed in seven months. It was completed in the spring of 1966. We didn’t have to get any staff engineering approval, so that reduce through all the red tape.&quot
Smith said he does not don’t forget whether Iacocca saw the automobile, but he did present it to Henry Ford II and Don Petersen, then head of solution planning. &quotWe never showed the automobile in public, but I keep in mind we did take it to Cincinnati to do some market place study subsequent to then-existing convertibles,&quot Smith stated. &quotIt had raving evaluations. Folks mentioned they’d rather have it than a convertible, and nobody stated anything about it not being mechanized.
&quotSo it was all ready to go, but Petersen, he wanted it mechanized, and he knew we could do it, so he went out and took an additional study. He asked, ‘Do you want it manual or mechanized?’ Anything like 92 % of the people stated mechanized. Nicely, that was cheating –you know what the answer to that question’s going to be. I don’t even know if that solution arranging showing even took location.&quot
Nonetheless, Ford assigned Smith with the process of mechanizing the retractable Mustang.
&quotI produced the prime counterbalanced, so it wasn’t essential to power it,&quot Smith mentioned. &quotIt was so straightforward to do it. The maximum lifting weight was around ten pounds. I had my five-foot-two secretary come out to operate it, and she had no dilemma placing it up and down.&quot
Smith and Butler took another 4 months to design a energy-operated best, but at the end, told upper management Ford could not reasonably add the energy mechanisms to the retractable hardtop.
Smith said he sent off some strongly worded letters to Petersen and his solution preparing men and women, to Bob McNamara and to many other individuals in Ford management, telling them the company was headed in the incorrect path by axing his project. That 1 prototype remained, even though, so Smith drove it about Dearborn for several months as a individual car.
&quotI keep in mind the back seats folded down, so I could use the deck compartment for hauling luggage,&quot Smith stated. &quotI after loaded a great quantity of lumber back there too.&quot
But as with the Mark II mule, Smith returned from a vacation in late fall of 1966 to find the Mustang gone. Smith said he never saw the scrap order for the retractable Mustang.
&quotWhen I saw that it was gone, I went into styling, exactly where they let me see the paperwork for scrapping vehicles,&quot Smith said. &quotThey told me, ‘Ben, you don’t want to stick to that 1.’ So I’m sure it went to some higher-up.&quot
Rumors also persist about that original retractable. Smith mentioned he heard when that someone had spotted a retractable Mustang in Oklahoma City, but he never ever could verify that. One more rumor places the car in the basement of Ford planet headquarters.
Shortly following, Smith went to Ford of Brazil as product director. Then in February of 1968, he decided to take a leave of absence–basically an early retirement–from Ford, on the condition that he would not perform for GM or Chrysler.
But he never forgot that retractable Mustang. Nor did his little ones. Smith’s son, David, mentioned he still has a framed photograph of himself as a boy standing next to that prototype. Sometime in the late 1980s, Smith wrote an report about the Mustang for the Skyliner club’s book on retractables, which spurred some interest in the car.
&quotFor years, my youngsters asked why I didn’t do yet another 1,&quot Smith stated. &quotSo I started to do it as a lark.&quot
In September or October of 1993, even though living in Arizona, Ben Smith purchased a utilised 1966 Mustang coupe. At about the same time, David Smith, living in Connecticut, bought a similar 1965 coupe. Ben traced the outline of the Mustang on his garage wall and sketched his concepts for yet another retractable hardtop, following the original design and style, but maintaining the car’s general length, gas tank, filler location, taillamps, passenger interior and rear bumper intact.
He took cardboard templates down to a regional fiberglass shop and, by December 1993, had the initial sets of molds completed and ready for installation by Magnolia Auto Physique in Santee, California. He reprised his torque boxes and chassis strengtheners from the original prototype.
&quotI didn’t use any drawings,&quot Ben said. &quotWe just made a leading, reduce it in two, then did all the modeling of the roof panels and trunklid.&quot
David, who runs a body shop, stated Ben flew the molds to him in January of 1994, enabling him to finish the perform on his 1965 in his own shop.
&quotWe wanted to use the tops Dad produced for the original,&quot David stated. &quotSo we known as up the manufacturer that built these tops, pondering they kept them stashed in the rafters, but they had been gone.
&quotBy April ten, we had made the hardtop, produced it, and put it on two cars. The 1966, we referred to as Prototype A single, it was red with a buckskin interior and a beige prime. We showed that one particular at Knott’s Berry Farm in California the weekend of the 13th. The 1965 was Prototype Two, it was powder blue with a blue prime. We showed it at the national Mustang show in Charlotte, North Carolina, the same weekend.&quot
At the Charlotte show, David met Ron Bramlett, the owner of Mustangs Plus in Stockton, California. That meeting led not only to Mustangs Plus’s chassis strengthening kit, making use of all the pieces developed by Ben and manufactured by David, but also to Mustangs Plus retailing a retractable Mustang kit. Mustangs Plus built one particular of the earliest of the kits and continues to use that vehicle in their promotions nowadays.
A third prototype followed–this a single in gunmetal gray–built for Ben’s other son, Ben A. Smith. Around the very same time, Ben decided to type a limited partnership, Retractables Unlimited, to produce and assist with the installation of retractable hardtop kits. Ben mentioned the effort lasted about two years, with total production of between 35 and 50 kits, all signed and numbered. David constructed about eight to ten of the kits in his shop, Coastal Collision of New London, Connecticut, and sold them as complete cars. His father never ever sold any complete vehicles, and Ben A. Smith sold two complete vehicles, such as Prototype Three.
Whatever the number, Ben said he never ever produced any money on the venture basically simply because he did not have the time to devote to advertising. He bought out his investors, dissolved the partnership and shipped his complete inventory to David.
Like a lot of folks who 1st encounter the Mustangs, Rae Johnston, of Goshen, Indiana, had never ever heard of the retractable hardtop. But even though in Phoenix about seven years ago on a organization trip, he met Ben Smith and got to see and buy No. eight, our driveReport auto, painted maroon with a white leading, just like his 19641Ú2 convertible.
&quotI liked the uniqueness of it,&quot Johnston stated. &quotSure, it’s not automatic, but it really is still one particular-tenth of the operate of a normal convertible. It has torsion bars, so as soon as you pick it up, it goes back and forth without having any effort.
&quotThis 1 came with factory air conditioning and the two-barrel, single-exhaust 289, so my wife likes it, although I generally like automobiles with a little far more zip. But simply because of the frame rails (chassis strengthening kit), the retractable handles far better than a standard Mustang.&quot
Ben Smith said he likes seeing the number of modern day automobiles adopting the retractable hardtop concept–it’s a sort of vindication for him. In truth, he claims he sketched a clamshell-kind convertible hardtop for the chief engineer of Mercedes more than dinner four years before the introduction of the SLK. Nevertheless, he wonders how numerous modern interpretations will in fact last.
On hearing news that an aftermarket business is contemplating creating a retractable hardtop for the new, retro-styled Mustang, Smith stated he believes it really is doable.
&quotI know this is a push-button age, but I will disagree with any complexity,&quot he mentioned. &quotIt could be really easy, like mine was, and I think anything extremely simple would turn into a classic.&quot


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