Story of the Week

Posted: 04.30.2012
Sun Valleys and Crown Victorias
By: Robert Tate

During the fall of ’53, the upcoming 1954 Ford and Mercury models were a big hit among the buying public. Unfortunately, Ford showrooms did not carry the vehicles for purchase until January 6, 1954. The Mercury line introduced their newest model, the Monterey Sun Valley, which was the first transparent top vehicle produced on a regular production line in 1954.

1954 Ford

1954 Mercury

The Mercury Sun Valley represented the automotive industry's first major body innovation since the hardtop styling trend began in the early fifties. It was a design between a hardtop and a convertible which provided the benefits of the hard top, yet, had the additional benefits of the amazing solar panel top. The Sun Valley model also bridged the basic objections some people had to a convertible design model.

The Mercury Sun Valley also offered strikingly beautiful interior designs. Upholsters included durable leather with attractive long lasting vinyls with modern basket-weave cloth and featured the exclusive Sun Valley pleated seat back design. The exteriors were finished in brilliant two-tone combinations. The Sun Valley models were sometimes referred to as a “solarium on wheels” because the softly tinted transparent solar panel filtered out about 60% of the sun's ultraviolet rays allowing occupants to enjoy the benefits of the sun without sun & wind burn discomfort. During the winter months, the solar panel provided a greenhouse effect and made maximum use of available sunlight for warmer interiors.

The Mercury Sun Valley model production time was relatively short for the buying public had concerns about the temperature of the interior becoming extremely hot throughout the summer months.

The 1954 Ford Crestline Skyliner was basically a hardtop Ford Victoria except the front portion of the roof panel had tinted Plexiglas skylight and distinctive interior soft trim which was made up of various vinyl combinations. The transparent top covered the entire seat compartment with the plastic top mounted on with weather tight rubber seal and framed with a bright metal molding. The 1954 Ford Crestline Skyliner models sold for $2,245.

During 1955, Ford offered their Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner model which had a transparent top and sold for $2,375. Unfortunately, these models were not very popular among consumers and by the end of ’56 production ended. Nowadays, the Mercury Sun Valley, Ford Crestline and Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner models are very rare, mainly due to the fact that most of the interiors of these vehicles were destroyed by direct sunlight. Today, a mint condition model could sell for over $39,500.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs courtesy of Bob Tate’s Personal Collection. Please do not use any photographs without the permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at

If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at

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