Clever Peugeot Engineering in 1936.

Many Citroën enthusiasts feel that the company has led in engineering and innovation over the years in comparison to Peugeot.  Overall that is arguably true, however one Peugeot model, the 402 Éclipse Décapotable from 1935, was the first car of the world to be a cabriolet (convertible) with fully a retractable metal roof, proving that while Citroën was absorbed in manufacturing and introducing the Traction Avant, at least Peugeot was making some innovative engineering effort. 

  Peugeot 402 Éclipse Décapotable.

The 402 Éclipse was designed and patented by Georges Paulin.  The French coachbuilder, Marcel Pourtout, custom-built other examples of Paulin’s designs on a larger Peugeot chassis as well.  The first Eclipse 402s offered a power-retractable top, but in 1936 was replaced by a manually operated version on a stretched chassis, built in limited numbers until World War II.

Although now a feature found on BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes, VW, Volvo and other convertible models, people recognize the the fully retractable roof as a feature that Ford introduced on the 1957 Fairlane ‘Skyliner’.   The retractable roof mechanism – a roof composed of more than one segment, also known as “Hide-Away Hardtop” – was unique to Ford branded products, and was not offered on Continental, Lincoln, Mercury, or Edsel branded vehicles during this time period.

      Ford Fairlane ‘Skyliner’.

Of course, the benefits of improved climate control and security are traded off against increased mechanical complexity, cost, weight and reduced luggage capacity.

The Ford Skyliner Retractable was only the second car in history to be series produced with a retractable hardtop.  Peugeot was first in 1935 with much the same thing as you can see in this video:



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