What is the modern day purpose or appeal of the convertible?
While the lustre of the convertible may have its roots firmly planted in automotive history, I find it increasingly difficult to find reasonable justification for them. They are, like so many ideas of modern society, good on paper, but pretty horrendous in practice; deconstructed coffee, communism, Elon Musk.
When you trace back the lineage of the automobile you understand how they all began as open tops. Low speeds, general evolution carriages and you can begin to understand that the automobile evolved from all open top to finding comfort, safety and general good sense in enclosing the space around the passengers. The convertible reached its zenith in the 50s and 60s but with the advent of more safety through the 70s, began its much needed decline.
So you see, its really about safety. But it’s also about realising the dream of that wind breezing through your hair is appealing for about 5 minutes. Then the blazing sun begins to burn your scalp, dirt, debris and fumes begin to wear at your skin and the noise of humanity and sensible people with enclosed cars wear down any romantic notions of being one with the open air.
Short Term Appeal
Don’t believe me? Try it. Seriously. If you have dreams of owning a sweet SL Class Mercedes, a new Mustang drop top or (God forbid) a VW Golf cabriolet (is there a wankier automotive term than cabriolet? I think not), go to your local dealer on a hot day and go for a test drive. If you are a sane human being you will realise that the appeal wears off real quick.
On a recent trip I had rented a Camaro that happened to be a convertible. The Camaro wasn’t the original plan, seeing as at the time, space was needed for plenty of luggage. So when the Camaro became an option, I didn’t think too much about it being a convertible.
I had the car for two weeks, the car is fantastic and someday I will own a Camaro. But it will definitely be the coupe and not the convertible. For the two weeks I had the car, the top came down for 20 minutes. Under the blistering hot Sonoma sun, my wife and I lasted less than half an hour before we pulled back into the drive way and put the top back up.
The convertibles I’ve had the misfortune to drive recently include a few VW Golf convertibles (if hate and self loathing were a vehicle, it would be the VW Golf convertible) and a BMW 120i. The Camaro yes, but the Camaro itself is such a great car that a convertible version of it just means there is just some added inconvenience. Now a Golf or BMW 120 convertible under the Australian sun is no win situation. Top down, awful. Top up, awful.
Who are these people who buy these cars? I’m not sure, but they are not my friends. Some car manufacturers seem to make a complete mockery of the process too. I’m looking at Range Rover in particular, with the monstrosity that is their Evoque convertible (I will let Doug Demuro explain in his video). Anyone who had paid good money for it has undoubtedly spent too much time with their noggin’ in the sun.
So am I just a sun hater? Well yes, it’s bad for you, plus I don’t like dirt or the possibility that someone or something (monkeys) could hurl objects at me while I’m driving.
If you really like the sun the wind, roll the window down or invest in a sun roof. It’s all you need. Perhaps this comes from growing up in metropolitan cities, driving amongst a busy population of smog and traffic jams. But even with my time in the California sun I can safely say that when it comes to driving, it’s best you keep your top on.