Rollover safety requirements, CAFE standards, and the quest for quieter cabins have killed the pillarless hardtop, especially the four-door variety. But having been allowed to drive my family’s 1973 Pontiac Bonneville 4-door hardtop throughout my teen years, I can assure you that the automotive world is the worse for it. There is a uniquely blissful feeling about piling three of your best friends into a big four-door hardtop — comfortably, without having to crawl over one another — rolling all four windows down, and cruising wherever your desires lead while the warmth of a summer evening rushes in to caress you through the huge open expanses on either side.
Today, we celebrate this sensation not with a Pontiac, but with three other cars equally (or more) deserving of your consideration:
- The 1960 Dodge Dart Phoenix This 4-door hardtop from Mopar was still fairly early in the game for this configuration, and yet it is already moving away from the initial intent to mimic the lines of a ragtop convertible. The car is equipped with a 318 “Power Pak” V-8 and a Torqueflite automatic transmission.
- By the time this 1967 Ford LTD came along, most hardtops had adopted a fairly formal roofline and the side window shape was nearly identical to their pillared sedan siblings, just minus the window frames. It’s up to you if the magic of the 4-door hardtop configuration was waning. This car is similarly equipped to the Dart Phoenix, employing a 289 V-8 and slushbox automatic.
- Two decades later, very few 4-door hardtops remained in production, but Nissan carried the flame with several models for the domestic Japanese market, including this striking 1982 Nissan Gloria Brougham. Though a turbo was available on some versions, this Brougham has a 2.8 liter normally-aspirated inline six and a floor-shift 5-speed manual.
Now, which of these three hardtops would you choose to:
- RACE – build into some sort of dedicated racing machine (not street legal) for your choice of competition — any legitimate, sanctioned form of motorsport: road course, rally, drag, LSR, Baja, etc.;
- DAILY – have as your sole street-registered car, for all your commuting and general transportation needs.
- RESTORE – do a museum-quality, factory-correct, frame-off restoration, then add to your collection, but not register to drive on the street.
Your choices should be accompanied by your persuasive justification, or at the very least which choice you felt most strongly about. As always, more caveats (there are always caveats) appear after the jump.
IMAGE SOURCES: TopClassicCarsForSale.com, Barrett-Jackson.com, Wikipedia
- Assume that you’re given these three vehicles outright, so there’s no acquisition cost, but the cost of race-prepping, maintaining, insuring and restoring them will be on you.
- Assume the cars are in “average condition” for their age; neither junk nor in flawless condition.
- These are your ONLY three cars. You cannot factor in any other cars you might actually own, e.g., “I’ll daily the MR2 because I have a van I can take the kids in…” Likewise, you can’t sell the restored car to buy another vehicle.
- You must assign one of the cars to each category. You can’t say, “I’ll race my street car,” or “I’ll drive that one for a season then restore it.”
- You can’t half-ass a car you don’t like, such as theoretically racing Lemons or doing a “20-footer” cosmetic restoration.