With the mild winter that we’ve enjoyed in Kansas City, it’s easy to think about spring and all the fun outdoor activities that will break when the weather hits the 70s. And for car lovers, nothing beats the open-air driving experience that only a convertible can provide.
Roofs have been going up and down since before motorized vehicles even existed. And American car companies have provided some of the most iconic and memorable convertibles of them all.
Of course, the sun hasn’t always shone on the American convertible scene. Governmental safety concerns persuaded automakers to phase out most convertibles in the 1970s, and the final holdout, the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado, seemed to mark the end of the convertible era.
There was still a great demand for drop-tops, however, and by 1982, Chrysler began offering a convertible version of the K-Car-derived LeBaron. As the ‘80s wore on, convertibles started popping up on everything from Cavaliers to Corvettes. The public refused to let them disappear.
Today’s convertibles are better and safer than ever. Some feature retractable hardtops similar to those offered by Ford in the late-1950s. Some of them have roll bars that thrust out when the car’s computers sense a roll over. The basic rag top typically includes a form-finished headliner, and quality tolerances that make them virtually leak-proof.
Carmakers from around the world sell convertibles in the U.S., but if you want one from the “Big Three,” there are several choices. Of course, Chevrolet has offered a Corvette convertible most years since 1986. They recently added a convertible to the Camaro line, and for 2013, there will also be a convertible version of the powerful ZL1.
Ford has been offering a convertible version of the Mustang for several years now, and it continues to be among the most popular convertibles available. And in 2013, the 600-hp Shelby option will also be offered in top-down form.
Dodge does not currently offer a convertible version of their Pony Car, the Challenger, but MOPAR fans can look to Chrysler for their big sky experience. The Chrysler 200, formerly the Sebring, has been a perennial favorite for rental car agencies and retirees for many years. This car is available with either a conventional fabric roof, or an optional retractable hardtop.
Some companies that offered alternative, unique convertibles have gone out of business over the last couple of years. For example, Pontiac offered the Solstice roadster sports car, and the G6 with its slick retractable hardtop. And Saturn was selling the Sky roadster sports car when they ceased operations.
The slideshow to the left contains ten of the most iconic, classic American convertibles ever made. These are the ones everybody knows—the cars no automotive fan can escape. All of these pictures were taken at car shows and events near or in Kansas City. Maybe there’s a car in there that you’ve seen before.
For more from this author, including automotive history and car show coverage, be sure to also visit www.hovermotorco.com.