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The sun is shining on the cabriolet

S.T. Dupont

The cabriolet, victim of strong anti-automobile sentiment during the 70s, almost ceased to exist. I remember only too well that at that time practically the only convertible available was the Cadillac Eldorado. Luckily, convertibles survived and there have never been as many on the market as there are now.

There are two types of convertibles today: authentic convertibles with soft-top, canvas or textile roofs (my favourites) and coupé cabriolets, otherwise known as hard-tops. The first in this family is the Mercedes SLK roadster, introduced in 1997; the last generation will arrive in dealerships this summer. As it is often copied, there are at least ten similar vehicles on the market, including the Infiniti G37, Lexus IS C, BMW 3 series, Ferrari California, Mazda MX-5, Volkswagen Eos, and the Volvo C70. The main advantage: better soundproofing. Disadvantage: smaller trunk space.

But the true convertible for many is still the soft-top, with roofs that can often be matched to the car’s colour. The latest Fiat 500c, for example, offers three hood colours: red, beige, and black. Among its competitors are the Volkswagen New Beetle, the Smart Car, and, of course, the Mini Cooper. There is a vast choice of larger models, ranging from the Audi A4 to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, and ­including the Boxter, the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Mercedes E class, and many others depending on your budget.

The main advantage of the hard-top: substantially heavier. Disadvantage: the chassis can cause noise. For those who live where it’s always warm, there are spyder convertibles such as the Porsche 550, the model driven by James Dean when he was killed 55 years ago.


Photo : Ladislas Kadyszewski

The first foldaway hard-top of the modern era is the SLK by Mercedes-Benz who has designed a real beauty for 2012.

The first foldaway hard-top of the modern era is the SLK by Mercedes-Benz who has designed a real beauty for 2012.

The first foldaway hard-top of the modern era is the SLK by Mercedes-Benz who has designed a real beauty for 2012.

The first foldaway hard-top of the modern era is the SLK by Mercedes-Benz who has designed a real beauty for 2012.

A real and a model version of the Porsche 550 (the same model James Dean was driving when he died 55 years ago)

A real and a model version of the Porsche 550 (the same model James Dean was driving when he died 55 years ago)

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