Get your tops off!

| 25 May 2011

Apologies to Twitter followers who have already heard me rant on this subject, but after driving into the office, overheating in my tin-top, I am fuming. I am fully aware that my ire is entirely brought on by jealousy, but its focus is nonetheless valid, and it is this: convertibles.

Actually, that’s not fair: it isn’t all convertibles, but specifically drop-tops build within the past eight years (and therefore including a plethora of folding hard-top jobs).

Why is it that EVERY modern cabrio you see, from chopped Golfs and Peugeots to Boxsters, Beemers and the like, drives around with its top up, windows hermetically sealed and occupants basking in air-conditioned cool? How is that better than lifting the lid? For crying out loud, why did you pay all of that extra cash for a heavier, less structurally rigid car if you aren’t going to enjoy its one great plus point: wind in the hair and sun on the face? It’s certainly not for the style – even the neatest canvas top looks gawky up, and folding tin-tops tend to make cars look like they have a receding hairline.

As a former Fiat 124 Spider owner whose financial and family circumstances mean that another open two-seater is just not viable at the moment, I dream of the days when I can have a top-down commute. Maybe a top-down trip to the shops, or even a top-down transcontinental blast.

You get the picture: I like driving with the roof down. In fact, the Fiat’s roof didn’t really go up for most of the year it went into the garage each night with it stowed and came out the following morning like that, and unless the rain was really sheeting down it rarely came into the cabin if you kept the windows up.

I did wonder whether I – and Walsh with his Alfa Spider, for that matter – was spoiled by the brilliant one-handed roof operation of these Italian beauties. But of course that’s rubbish, because EVERY classic drop-top that ventures out on the commute is resolutely open, and on my daily run in recent days that has included a TR6, Beetle cabrio, MGB – even a Lotus Elan, whose Meccano-set hood makes Ikea’s toughest flat-pack project seem a doddle. And the other thing to bear in mind is that just about all modern cabrios have fully electrified soft-tops, that fold in a matter of seconds at the touch of a buttone – which just adds to my confusion.

My sulky conclusion is that modern buyers go for a convertible purely as a status symbol, and don’t really like the classic open-top feel at all – too many bugs in the teeth and it upsets your carefully styled coiffure. But I think retweeter @wimteriet might have hit the nail on the head with his comment: ‘In a modern cabrio the “open top driving” experience isn't what it used to be. Makes no difference driving top down.’ So is that it? Have convertibles become just so refined that there’s no point indulging any more? If so, surely there’s an easy solution: buy a classic one instead!