In his latest article for Toronto’s The Globe and Mail, car columnist Peter Cheney compares convertible tops to spray tans and breast implants. They “aren’t the best idea,” he writes, “but we want them anyway.”
In terms of engineering, safety and practicality, Cheney is correct. Convertible cars make no rational sense. But every driver I know still dreams of owning one. What gives?
Last week we asked, “Why do people still prefer leather in their cars?” The conversation that followed was great. Let’s have another lively discussion about why people still love convertible tops.
Here’s an excerpt from Cheney’s article “Convertibles are a bad idea, and I love them anyway“:
Cutting the top off a car is never a good idea. (If the engineers had their way, there would be no topless vehicles.) But the convertible car is not a product based on best engineering practice. Instead, it is the bastard child of overweening vanity and irrational desire – we want the sun on our face, the wind in our hair, and all eyes upon us. (I admit that I have a weak spot for convertibles.)
Even though I enjoy driving them, convertible cars are an engineering travesty – by removing a car’s top, you compromise its structure, and reduce its strength in virtually every plane. (Removing one side of a box is not a wise plan.) Compared to a car with a roof, a convertible is a wet noodle, with vastly reduced torsional stiffness. […]
Every time I drive a convertible, I am struck by the Faustian bargain involved in its essential design – taking the top off a car heightens the sensation of driving, but it makes the car perform worse. Over the years, I realized that the convertible top is a bad deal in virtually every sense – it is less weatherproof than a hardtop, it steals trunk space when it’s folded away, and it offers all the security of a pup tent (a thief can slice through it with a pen knife and make off with your prized possessions.)
These deficiencies never stopped me from loving convertibles. And when I get my hands on one, I make the most of it – the top stays down almost all the time. […]
Logic had gone out the window – or maybe it had blown out the top. Either way, it was a good time. [more]
What do you think? Are Cheney’s assumptions about convertible tops correct? And if so, how do you explain people’s continued fondness for them? If anyone knows the answers to these questions, it’s auto upholstery professionals like us.
Edward Munday says
Retired… Well It Probably All Started With The Covered Wagon. Some People Just Enjoy The Outdoors And Have More Money Than Gumption Although I Did See A Movie About Albert Einstein Where He Had A Service Station Atendant Cut the Top Off Alberts Auto So He Had Gumption And Money… I Own One Too.
Nadeem Muaddi says
Aside from the thrill of top-down motoring, my guess is that vanity has a little something to do with it. Cruising around in a convertible is a sure fire way to get noticed…