The Convertible and Popular Convertibles

Lincoln Continental 4 Door Convertible

Lincoln Continental 4 Door Convertible

A convertible (sometimes called cabriolet in British English) is a car body style with a folding or retracting roof (aka ‘soft top’ or ‘top’ in USA, ‘hood’ in UK). The collapsible roof section is typically made from flexible canvas or vinyl, although plastic, aluminium and steel have occasionally been used in elaborate folding designs. When the top is made of a rigid material such as steel it is often referred to as a retractable hardtop instead of a convertible; in Europe this body style is frequently called coupé cabriolet or coupé convertible.

Unlike a roadster, which may also have a soft folding top, a convertible has roll-up glass windows in the sides, and so the entire vehicle is “convertible” to an enclosed coupé.

Convertibles are usually 2 door models, only a few 4 door models exist e.g. the 1960s Lincoln Continental.

Convertible History

Lincoln Continental, 4 door convertibleIn the vintage car era, the convertible was the default body style. It was not until 1910 that Cadillac introduced the first closed-body car. A combination of weak engines and public expectation that a car was analogous to a wagon meant that steel roofs were not in demand until then. Later, convertibles were made less often, possibly due in part to an unfulfilled threat made in the mid-1970s by the United States government to increase rollover safety requirements that may have made auto manufacturers hesitant to manufacture cars that would be unsellable under those new restrictions. By the 1970s they had almost disappeared and in 1976 the Cadillac Eldorado was advertised as “The last convertible in America”. During this period of very low convertible production, T-tops became a popular alternative to convertibles, especially in muscle cars.

2006 Saturn Sky ConvertibleIt was not until the 1980s and cars like the Chrysler LeBaron and Saab 900 convertibles that the body style made a comeback. Also in the 1980s, hot hatches such as the Ford Escort XR3i and Volkswagen Golf GTI were selling a high amount of cabriolets, and in the 1990s, the Mazda MX-5 again cemented the convertible as the sports car body style of choice. Today, there are scores of convertible cars offered by nearly every manufacturer.

Notable Convertibles

  • Alfa Romeo Spider
  • Aston Martin DB9 Volante
  • Audi TT
  • Audi A4 Convertible
  • Bentley Continental GTC
  • BMW Z3
  • BMW Z4
  • BMW 6-Series Convertible
  • Cadillac Sixty Special
  • Cadillac Eldorado
  • Cadillac XLR
  • Chevrolet Corvette
  • Chrysler LeBaron
  • Chrysler Sebring Convertible
  • Dodge 400
  • Honda S2000
  • Ford Mustang GT
  • Lincoln Continental
  • Lotus Elise
  • Lotus Elan
  • Mazda Miata
  • Mercedes-Benz G-Class Convertible
  • Mercedes-Benz SL
  • Mercedes-Benz SLK
  • MG TF
  • MGB
  • MINI
  • Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder
  • Nash Metropolitan
  • Nissan 350Z Roadster
  • Pontiac Solstice
  • Porsche Boxster
  • Saab 900
  • Saturn Sky
  • Vauxhall VX220
  • Volvo C70
  • Volkswagen Cabriolet