photo of the 1955 Lincoln retractible hardtop Prototype

The auto company report said a retractable hardtop couldn't be built...

... Ben J. Smith proved them wrong.

Now he has filled these pages with his 1957 automobile design notes, drawings, and his narration of how he succeeded in creating the first successful production retractable hard top (Ford Skyliner) along with other inventions that broke boundaries and change auto history.

"Major car manufacturing companies of the world had spent decades trying to design a steel top convertible suitable for production. Chrysler secretly had designed the Thunderbolt with the roof retracting on channels but the windshield kept breaking. General Motors kept its research and development unexposed while Ford engineering spent months and $390,000 (1952 dollars) on a comprehensive report of "why it couldn't be done".

Click on the Design Story button above to read more about how the retractable hardtop came into being.
art print samples


Original art and fine art prints created by Ben J. Smith (retractable hardtop inventor) with his hand written auto industry stories and design drawing details from the 1953 are now available through

All of these limited edition artwork and prints are autographed and numbered by Ben J. Smith himself. Embellished original sets are available in which Ben has added hand written stories and sketches right on the pieces. This makes these items a delightful addition to any car enthusiast collection or auto museum. There is a full range of items from sets of signed prints for the everyday auto enthusiast to collector grade original artwork collages with hand written notes attached for the serious art collector.

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Select photos and illustrations on this site by John Ranger © 2011