The origin of the best vintage convertible cars
To understand what a vintage convertible car is, we must first ask, what is a convertible? Simply put, a convertible car is a car that features a roof that can be retracted partially or entirely. In modern convertibles, the procedure of retracting the roof is usually electric and works via the push of a button. However, in many older convertibles, the roof is retracted manually, and in some cases, it can even be completely removed. Convertibles have been around for a very long time, and some of the older models can date back to the 1930s.
Peugeot was the first large automaker to introduce a convertible with a folding metal roof that was fully automated. The 1935 Peugeot 402 Eclipse predated most other powered retractable hardtops by at least 20 years. When other car makers finally came around to introducing the same convertible hardtops, they did so mostly for luxurious cars. Luxury cars were generally out of the reach of the average car buyer at the time. But this changed over time, and convertibles became more affordable, making it so that a greater number of car buyers could access them.
In general, convertibles were more popular in continental Europe than in other parts of the world. The popularity of convertibles peaked after the second world war when their popularity spread to America. The American craze for convertibles was fuelled by returning soldiers who had seen the elegance of European convertibles and wanted to be able to drive similar cars. Over the years, several important convertible models were launched. Today, some of these models are highly sought after as collector's items.
What makes a convertible model a vintage convertible car?
Although there is no single consensus amongst experts and car lovers regarding what specifically makes a car a vintage model, it is generally required that the vehicle was manufactured between 1919 and 1930. Most vintage cars, including convertible vintage models, must be fully restored and in running order. However, these are just general guidelines. It is also important to consider that most owners have a deep-rooted emotional connection with their vintage convertible cars. This emotional aspect means that what one person considers vintage might not be to another. For this reason, it is quite difficult to judge exactly when a car is vintage.
What are some of the most iconic vintage convertible cars?
Some of the best vintage convertible cars that have been produced include:
Morgan Plus 4 (1950 – 1969): The Morgan Plus 4 was originally launched in 1950, and production ran until 1969. The car has all the classic looks of the 1950s, and some of the components are fashioned in wood. The Morgan Plus Four is equipped with a classic retractable fabric roof that can also be completely removed when the weather allows. Many vintage examples of the Morgan Plus 4 are collector items, and they can be quite expensive. Incidentally, the Morgan Plus 4 was so successful that the company even launched a modern version of the car.
Austin-Healey Sprite Mark 1 (1958 – 1961): The Sprite Mark 1 was one of the earliest mass-produced and accessible sports cars on the market. The small sports car boasted many firsts, including no externally visible trunk for additional rigidity. The car also has a striking personality with a smiling front grille and Bugeye headlights. The Sprite Mark 1 has a retractable vinyl roof, which can be folded back for open-top motoring on pleasant days.
Lotus Seven (1957 – 1972): The Lotus Seven is an interesting and unique vintage convertible car because of its dual personality. The car was built with motor racing in mind, but the designer, Colin Chapman, wanted the car to be able to be used every day as well. With this in mind, The Seven is built on a lightweight frame and offers no creature comforts or frills. What it offers is pure motoring pleasure and open-top driving that is second to none. The Lotus Seven is considered one of the most desirable vintage convertible cars to have ever existed.
Alfa Romeo Spider Series 1 (1966 – 1969): The Alfa Romeo Spider is a special car by all accounts. Pininfarina designed it and boasted several previously unheard of technical achievements, such as a double overhead cam engine cast in aluminium. The car also had disc brakes on all four wheels and a precisely balanced chassis with very accurate steering. The Spider is truly vintage, and as a collectable item, it is sought after. As a result, prices for this car model can reach quite a high amount.
1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder (1967): What is today one of Ferrari's most iconic cars had a somewhat difficult start. In the beginning, Enzo Ferrari was against the creation of the car. Still, Pininfarina and Scaglietti eventually convinced him that the car had potential. This vintage convertible car by Ferrari is a highly sought-after collector's car today, and it is truly considered both a vintage and classic car.
Jaguar E-Type Series 1 (1961 – 1967): Probably one of the most iconic vintage convertible cars of all time, the Jaguar E-Type was first unveiled at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. The car was described as "the most beautiful car ever made" by Enzo Ferrari. Since then, the E-Type has been a sought-after collector's item. The car is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also offers high performance and dynamic driving.
BMW 507 (1956 – 1959): As one of the rarest BMW collectable cars, the BMW 507 is a one-of-a-kind vintage convertible car. BMW only produced 252 units of the model, and the exceedingly high production costs almost led to the financial ruin of BMW. However, the 507 remains an exceptionally beautiful BMW model, and it is a rare collectable that steals the heart of whoever sets their eyes on it.
Mercedes-Benz 280 SL Pagoda (1968 – 1971): The 280 SL Pagoda is one of the most attractive Mercedes-Benz 280 SL models ever produced, and the car still has a very loyal fanbase. The Pagoda was especially popular in the United States, where it was wholeheartedly embraced by open-top motoring fans. The 280 SL is a true motoring legend, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find examples that are not already in private collections.
AC Cobra (1962 – 1967): The Cobra is one of the most legendary cars of all time. This vintage convertible car offers a signature Ford V8 engine combined with exceptionally good design. The British-American collaboration has endeared itself to many collectors, and it is very difficult to find an AC Cobra these days. In addition to being rare, the Cobra is also very expensive, and you can expect to shell out a wad of cash to park one of these splendid automobiles in your garage.
Why are vintage convertible cars so popular?
Different people buy vintage convertible cars for different reasons. For some people, it is a unique opportunity to step back to a period when driving wasn't just about getting from point a to point b but also enjoyment. Open-top motoring allows drivers to enjoy the journey instead of simply driving to reach a specific destination.
For others, purchasing a vintage convertible car is about making an investment into something that is likely to gain value over time. However, purchasing a convertible car as an investment is generally reserved for those with large bank balances and can be a very expensive hobby to enter. In general, most people purchase a classic or vintage convertible car simply because they find the car attractive and enjoy owning a piece of history.
Vintage convertible cars are varied, and there are many different models to choose from, so choosing one can be a challenge. When buying any vintage car, it is important to make sure that the car is mechanically sound and that there are no serious problems with the bodywork. Problems such as rust can be difficult to solve and often requires lots of time and effort to fix. However, if you fancy the idea of restoring a vintage convertible car, it might be a good project.
In short, vintage convertible cars are excellent driver's cars that offer pure driving pleasure. Few things come close to the enjoyment of the open road and open-top motoring on a sunny day. More and more people are discovering the benefits of owning a vintage convertible car. It must also be mentioned that most of these classic cars do not offer the same modern tech you would find in newer cars and SUVs. Vintage convertibles often offer the bare basics, and for this reason, they are popular with people who prefer motoring over driving.