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A great convertible doesn’t have to be good, but it does have to make you feel that way
Editor’s note: Welcome to our new monthly automotive column!
I can sum up the American convertible in one sad car: The Chrysler Sebring. This mediocre jellybean was the best-selling convertible for most of 15 years, because from its 1995 introduction though 2010, the Sebring Convertible was the rental fleet convertible of choice.
That means it outsold cars bought by actual people, like Ford Mustang and Mazda Miata. Mazda moved a big 5,780 Miatas for all of 2013, and while Ford doesn’t break down Mustangs, they probably sold around 14,000 convertibles in 2013. Fourteen thousand! Out of 2.5 million Fords sold in the US. Only one out of every 200 Fords goes out the door without a roof.
But selling in tiny numbers is exactly what makes convertibles so very cool. If there were millions (or in some cases just thousands) of them on the road, they wouldn’t exactly stand out, but when you’re one of five people in 1,000—now we’re talking.
There are more than 60 new convertibles on the market (assuming you consider, say, the BMW 640 and 650 different models; more like 45 if you don’t). A Porsche Boxster or Aston Martin DB9 any enthusiast will know; but others are so deeply obscure it’s hard to imagine how they get built.They’re all cool by my definition, but as with animals, some cars are more cool than others.
So here’s a little list of “More Cool” convertibles.These are not necessarily the best of their kind but they do succeed in making you feel special. If you think I’m leaving American cars off the list, here they all are: Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, Jeep Wrangler, Chrysler 200. I like them all except the Chrysler, which I hate.
1. Volvo C70
A friend once made a 2,000-mile round trip to get the perfect early (2000) C70. That first (and better looking) 1998-2002 coupe generation sold a total of 6,465 in the USA, but a new 2006-2013 model did much better. While that was the last year for the retractable hardtop C70, a quick check on the Autotrader site shows 350 of them still on dealer lots.
2. Infiniti Q60
Like the outgoing C70, Infiniti’s Q60 has a retractable hardtop. And like many hardtops, you end up with a funny high bustle on the end. But on the business side, it comes with a 325hp V-6 that goes into the legendary Skyline and incredibly (for enthusiasts), you can get a six-speed manual. Infiniti sold 1,490 Q60s last year and I can’t imagine that means more than 250 of them were convertibles. Get the manual transmission and you must have one of less than 50. In the car world, we call those “unicorns”.
3. Nissan Murano
The CrossCab wins both “Least Likely” and “Most Ungainly.” The Murano SUV is inoffensive and didn’t deserve to have this done to it, and yet, someone thought, “Let’s take a softroader SUV and put a cloth roof on it, like an old Ford Bronco, except totally unlike that.” With the Cube, Versa, Leaf EV and NV van, Nissan is already The Ugly Car Company, so maybe they thought that they should take it to the logical extreme. Annual sales? Who knows. Five? Twenty? Nissan isn’t saying. How high do the numbers on a dartboard go? Lower than that. What a bizarre, unlikely little pug it is, so much so it’s sliding into the “So ugly it’s cute” category, like a toad.
4. Maserati GranCabrio
I have to include one true exotic and the Maserati is a truly stunning car. Lined up against any other Italian convertible from Lamborghini or Ferrari, this is the one I’d want to live with. Unless I had to pay for maintenance, which would have bankrupted Jack Lupton. This one is the Sport, with a 450hp V-8. Can you imagine answering, when someone asks you what you drive, “Maserati”?
5. Morgan Three Wheeler
This is an actual car, actually built by Morgan in England, and that’s its actual name. At 105, Morgan is one of the world’s oldest car companies and has always been tradition-minded. This is just the latest iteration of that, a brand-new, handmade version of the Three Wheelers they sold from 1910 through 1953. An 82hp S&S V-twin motorcycle engine sits up front, one fat tire holds up the back and who cares about the rest? This is one of the coolest objects of any kind on the planet.