Top 10 classic convertibles of all time
Want to look good and enjoy the sunshine? The UK’s current heatwave got us thinking about the best classic convertibles to take advantage of the weather
It’s hot, isn’t it? The UK is currently enjoying some of the best weather it has experienced in decades, with temperatures surpassing that of the Mediterranean. Basking in the sunshine is all fun and games, until you need to get back into a stifling-hot car – that is, unless you have a convertible. Alfresco motoring is an utter joy on a summer’s day, so here’s our top 10 greatest convertibles of all time.
Mk1 Mazda MX-5
It might be an obvious choice, but the Mazda MX-5 was, and still is, one of the best sports cars ever to hit the road. The Japanese company took inspiration from Lotus in keeping the car small and light, but the incredibly rewarding drive was all its own doing.
The Mk1 is still the pick of this car’s near-30-year history. Its agility, purity and connection to the driver are the things that define a good sports car. Pop-up lights are always cool, too.
Chevrolet Corvette C1
This American icon proved extremely popular as a concept car upon its debut. When it was launched in late 1953 the first 300 or so C1s were effectively built by hand, with better manufacturing techniques being developed as time went on. Unfortunately, these early examples featured some quite alarming defects – including leaks, rattles and even the doors opening at speed. This gave the Corvette a bad reputation going into 1954.
Over the years sales recovered, with refinements being engineered and new engines offered. C1 production ended in 1962, with the last series of updates making for the model’s most successful year so far.
Caterham 7 620R
Sporting classic looks that haven’t changed for decades, the Caterham 7 can be written off by some as old hat. However, this 620R model will do 0-60mph faster than a Ferrari F12tdf or McLaren 675LT.
Its screaming 2.0-litre supercharged engine makes this convertible incompatible with those who favour a toupée. It is the ultimate evolution of this enduring model.
The Thunderbird is another landmark of topless American motoring. This ‘personal luxury vehicle’ was originally offered as a two-seater, with the second-generation model spawning rear accommodation. It was a direct response to Chevrolet’s Corvette C1, and was rushed into production in order to compete. It was a complete success, with Thunderbirds far outselling the C1.
In 1955, power initially came from a 4.2-litre Y-block V8 previously found in models from sister brand Mercury, but a more powerful 5.1-litre unit subsequently replaced it. We’d stick with the original Mk1 (1955-’57), as its more modest design did without the flamboyant fins of later models as pictured here.
How about a British classic? The MGB is loved by hard-core enthusiasts for being among the last of the old-school British sports cars. It replaced the ageing MGA, and brought with it a sophisticated design that proved to be a hit when exported abroad.
We’d likely go for a pretty chrome-bumper car, as opposed to the later ‘rubber-nosed’ models that were forced to comply with new US safety regulations.
Porsche 356 Speedster
Back in its time, this car had a cult following which equalled that of today’s 911. The 356 was the first Porsche to be sold to the public and became an instant hit, but it was this Speedster that truly boosted the model’s popularity. Initially designed as a cheaper American car, it featured a low windscreen that could be removed for motor sport events plus a basic convertible top.
It might have been designed as a cheap model, but today Speedsters are worth considerable money. Dreaming of that flat-four humming while cruising along an Austrian mountain road in a 356, we can totally understand why.
Aston Martin DB4 Volante
Before James Bond got his hands on an Aston Martin, the DB4 was one of the most popular DB cars thus far. The convertible Volante variant looked even better than the coupé, with Carrozzeria Touring doing a sterling design job. Just 70 DB4 Volantes were created, with 32 being fitted with the more powerful Vantage engine.
Lamborghini Miura P400 Roadster
What? Lamborghini didn’t make a chop-top Miura, did it? Well, actually it did – and the car made its debut at the 1968 Brussels Motor Show. As well as removing the roof, Lambo and Bertone lowered the windscreen, gave the bodywork larger intakes and put that glorious V12 on display.
The model was well received, but ultimately Lamborghini declined to produce any more than the single prototype. It was eventually sold to the International Lead Zinc Research Organisation, who wanted to use the car to showcase its lightweight materials by replacing some of the original parts. The Miura changed hands several times, before Adam Gordon bought it and had it restored to its original 1968 specification.
Ferrari 250 GT SWB California Spider
It is one of the most collectable Ferraris of all time, and arguably one of the most beautiful. Just 56 of these short-wheelbase Californias were made, with each being based on the 250 GT Berlinetta SWB. Its clean, unbroken Scaglietti lines form a shape that is very close to proportional perfection.
Under that long bonnet is a 276bhp 3.0-litre V12 that sings like an Italian thoroughbred should. Today, these Californias change hands for up to £10 million. This example sold by RM Sotheby’s for $8.58 million in 2012
Photo courtesy shooterz.biz
Jaguar E-type Series 1
Even the great Enzo Ferrari himself remarked upon what a stunning design the Jaguar E-type is. This instantly recognisable classic launched in 1961 and was available as both a coupé and convertible.
Early Series 1 cars with flat floors and external latches for the bonnet are the most valuable today, but the car was developed throughout its 14-year production life. The E-type culminated in the opinion-splitting V12 Series 3.
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