Stop Moaning, Find a Baseball Cap, and Buy a Convertible

Here’s what you do.

You buy a convertible.

It leaks like a colander, you never put the top down, your friends, family, they assume you’re planning on joining the circus. It won’t go around a corner because it’s busy doing its best Gumby impression. It’s about as useful as a salt shaker on a snowy road, and all you hear is the constant buffeting of the wind against your fragile eardrums.

Perhaps you have caught on, buying a convertible is not like this. In fact, any self-respecting ‘car person’ (whatever that actually means (unless, of course, you are shaped like a car and enjoy things like synthetic lubrication and 93 unleaded)) has it in there interest to own one. Not now, maybe not in a few years, but sometime.


The convertible is a compromise. Hardcore, track day enthusiasts will tell you, “Well you can’t take that thing to this coned up parking lot! It will be like a Spaniel’s ear with four wheels!” Is cowl shake a real thing? Yes, sir. You certainly feel it. Hitting a series of small, staccato imperfections, you will feel, as it is described, a shake. If you’re going around a corner, and you hit this series of washboards, will the car suddenly decide, “Well then, had enough of this driving on the road business,” and flip off into a nearby field, you certainly dying in a heinous accident?

No. Well… no.

The fact of the matter is, if your coupe, SPORTS oriented two-door was derived from a sedan, it isn’t much more rigid than the convertible. Sure, Jerry Lee Lewis won’t be playing on the radio, but the sedan variants of these cars are the most rigid by leaps and bounds. This is, of course, assuming you bought a convertible with the intent of taking it to the said parking lot with the aforementioned cones. Unless you bought a Miata, (because you don’t have a choice) this probably isn’t the case. If you bought it as a DD, which, don’t worry, I’ll talk you into, Jerry Lee Lewis won’t be there, and you won’t have to hear any raucous piano. Also, he’s eighty-three.

If what you want, which is what I think we all want, is the connection, then boy am I about to be your personal Billy Mays. A convertible will connect you to not only the road but all of the things you never realized you were missing about driving.

Let’s cut to the chase.

The sound is better. Not just from the engine, but everything around you. Putting the top down is like buying an expensive set of headphones. The sort that allows you to hear the subtleties of music you never realized were there. The kind of thing that, if the Earth was a musician, he/she (or a really big turtle– depends who you ask) would endlessly complain about their philistine listeners not hearing. The engine noise is also louder, it’s of a sweeter quality, and you’ll hear things you haven’t heard before.

I am a firm believer that even ‘non-car people’, can be given a taste of the righteous cause with just a few seconds worth of noisy acceleration through a tunnel or underpass. I’ve done it before. At 7900 RPM, in a tunnel, with the top down, even the most plain, boiled hot dog sort of people get it.

The opposite is also true. Sometimes you will be surprised to find just how quiet some places actually are.

The visibility is perfect.

Ever complained about the tree trunk pillars that find their place in most new cars? In a convertible, there is no deep dark forest surrounding you. With the top down, you will no longer be searching around, frightened with a flashlight inside a cave-inspired interior. Looking in the rearview mirror, everything is there for you to see.

The sensations you get, not just of the road, are also better. Driving at night (which is arguably the best time for a convertible), you will suddenly be aware of the subtle changes in temperature. Watch as you feel, oh, just slightly cooler. Your car’s thermometer tells you that, yes, you are right. You will think, “Ah, I am truly attuned with the climate and nature.”

The smells are more evident as well. Driving through a rural area, fresh scents of foliage, cool water flowing, and animal feces will waft themselves about your nostrils. Driving by a roadside eatery you will get notes of food, beer– really it’s like being a coffee snob, and describing this oh just delectable roast you just found at a quiet little corner store.

Not only will you smell more with the top down, but you’ll also smell less with the top up. Second-hand convertibles don’t tend to smell as much as the previous owner. It doesn’t ever get the chance to marinate in the previous owner’s filth, like the worn-out, fun-run t-shirt you sleep in. This is of course because every weekend the car has a chance to completely air out, like being on a clothesline. This all coalesces into my final point. I think everybody, even the people who write the screenplays for things like car insurance and chewing gum commercials, understand.

Going for a drive with the top down is an event.

When you have a regular car, and you tell somebody that you want to ‘go for a drive’, unless they know you’re a car person, they probably assume you want to talk about something, or that you did something, or they’re in trouble.

In a convertible, the person typically just says, “Yes.”

Make a nice day into a better one. Turn a temperate summer night into something interesting. Listen to the leaves in the trees rusting on a cool autumn morning. Take that boring old zucchini and make it into an exciting vegetable pasta your kids will love!

Are there drawbacks?

To quote Bill Burr, when you have a convertible, you’re kind of like the guy that owns a boat.

You’re out on Sunday scraping barnacles off the thing, you should probably get a cover, and everyone wants a ride. When you don’t have the top down, when you spend a weekend, not on the boat, people ask you why. “Hey man, why aren’t you out on the sound today?” They don’t care if you are or not– they want to go. This may be a little pestering.

Your top may leak, mine is nearly twenty years old and does not, but I can’t speak for everyone.

There are little rips in my headliner. They bother me. It happens.

It’s louder on the highway with the top up or down. Your girlfriend will forget a hair tie, you’ll be guilted into giving her your hat, and you’ll be squinting like Clint Eastwood in Fistful of Dollars.

It’s heavier, probably slower, and gets slightly worse fuel economy than it’s coupe counterpart.

If you’re the type to make spreadsheets about 0-60 times and would be ashamedly embarrassed to see the coupe version of your car on the road…

Put the top down.

I assure you, you will not regret it.

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31 responses to “Stop Moaning, Find a Baseball Cap, and Buy a Convertible”

  1. danleym Avatar

    Or just buy a motorcycle…

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      I can fit my whole family in my convertible. And no need to put everyone in helmets and other protective gear. Try that on a motorcycle.

      On second thought… don’t.×432.jpg

      1. HuntRhymesWith Avatar

        Sure they have a great family carbon footprint, but Binh no longer has a left foot because of that truck that was riding over the double yellows in October.

    2. crank_case Avatar

      Or an open car, which isn’t a convertible, because it doesn’t “convert”. Who’s got the real motorsport credential now coneheads? 😀

      Of course as a Cappuccino owner this Coupe vs. Convertible discussion thing seems silly, the official car of why not ALL THE ROOFS? Coupe, T-Top, Targa, full convertible. Take yer pick. Sure you have to play roof lego a bit, vs. effortlessly throwing back the top on an Miata, but a small price to pay. (and yes, all the roof bits do fit in the boot with ease)

    3. onrails Avatar

      I used to say the same argument, but the convertible didn’t need me to spend 5 minutes putting on a jacket, boots, gloves, earplugs/buds, helmet, etc. just to go for a ride. And the same in reverse, plus finding somewhere to put them, when I got to where I was going. Add to that no real luggage capacity, heat/air, asking anyone to come along was a pain, etc.

      Nothing, and I mean nothing can beat a bike for lightweight giggles on a back road. But I found our convertible to be so much more friendly to everyday life. Plus windows up and heat on as needed really increased the seasonal usability. If it wasn’t raining and was above 40 degrees F, the top was down.

      1. danleym Avatar

        I definitely agree that the convertible is much more practical and friendly to every day life. The average American isn’t going to just own a motorcycle- almost everyone in the US that has own has a car, too, for practicality alone if not other reasons.

        But, for most of the arguments made in the article, a motorcycle will fit the bill better. “Make a nice day a better one. Turn a temperate summer night into something interesting.” I’d argue that if that is the goal and you can fit a motorcycle into your life, then the experiences on a motorcycle are richer than those in a convertible.

      2. Wayne Moyer Avatar
        Wayne Moyer

        I have spent more time in my convertible than on my bikes. It really does come down to the gear. If I was one of the bikers who didn’t gear up than maybe I’d ride more. There is something to being out in a convertible without a helmet that feels great. I mean I love riding and I miss a couple of my bikes. Not my last one though. That bike and I never got along. The one I miss the most was the one I could just hop on and go. The HD Street 750.
        Yet with my currently classic convertible there is a dance to get it out on the road. It’s not like a modern car. I can’t just get in turn the key and go. It takes prep. So I don’t damage it for the future. With the HD Street it was get on, jacket, gloves, helmet and go.
        So yeah… it’s close. The car offers one thing my bikes didn’t. It’s far easier to go with 2 or 4. Sure the bike could do two up, and did, but the Corvair does it far easier.

        1. onrails Avatar

          The year where I had both the convertible as well as a streetbike, that was the trend. More often than not, I took the convertible. Maybe not the highest of highs, but very far from not the lowest of lows either. A better overall experience.

    4. crank_case Avatar

      Or an open car, which isn’t a convertible, because it doesn’t “convert”. Who’s got the real motorsport credential now coneheads? 😀

      Of course as a Cappuccino owner this Coupe vs. Convertible discussion thing seems silly, the official car of why not ALL THE ROOFS? Coupe, T-Top, Targa, full convertible. Take yer pick. Sure you have to play roof lego a bit, vs. effortlessly throwing back the top on an Miata, but a small price to pay. (and yes, all the roof bits do fit in the boot with ease)

      1. Scoutdude Avatar

        The Cappuccino is interesting, one of the local importers had a couple a while ago and things like this make me think I really should have gone down and at least taken a look and see if I could fit.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          If you can fit in a mk1 Miata, there’s a good chance you may fit in a cappuccino

          1. Scoutdude Avatar

            Thanks, it sounds like it could work. It would be a toy and not a daily driver.

      2. salguod Avatar

        Ok, now I want a Cappuccino.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          There’s one running around here with the rego plate ‘DECAF’.

    5. salguod Avatar

      I’m not a motorcycle guy, but, if I understand right, if you are wearing the proper gear, no skin is actually exposed. Kinda like a skin tight coupe. 😀

  2. Maymar Avatar

    I don’t disagree with your basic point, but also, I’m pale, burn easily, don’t like the heat, and spend most of the summer searching for shade. I’d rather just get a pillarless hardtop and get enough of the convertible experience while enduring less of the cruel torture of the sun.

    1. Wayne Moyer Avatar
      Wayne Moyer

      First nice choice of cars. Next it will still burn your arms. You could go with a more modern T-Top.

      1. Maymar Avatar

        It was down to that or a Mercedes C126, and GM had the nicer press shots.

        And thinning as my hair is, t-tops are also an excellent alternative (and sunscreen, lots of sunscreen).

    2. Zentropy Avatar

      I so love the look of second-gen Corvairs. Such a gorgeous shape.

  3. William Byrd Avatar

    Totally agree, I love convertibles. I haven’t owned many, but I’m in my 40s now so I am due! haha

    One of my greatest automotive moments of zen was driving a Lotus Elise through the back roads of Northern CA. It was slightly chilly, but I had a hoodie, and definitely had several of those “ohhh wow” moments.

  4. onrails Avatar

    Sold my Solstice GXP so I could save up to get the SS. I still miss that car. Exhaust note like a vaccum cleaner but everything else was perfect. And top down, especially on a warm night with the right music playing, was magical.

  5. Zentropy Avatar

    Sorry, but no. You sound like the guy trying to justify buying a boat. A convertible is just like driving a coupe, with added inconvenience. I’ve been driving for 37 years and haven’t yet felt any desire for a convertible. If I want the feeling of fresh air and sunshine, I’ll run or bike.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      That’s ok man, each to his own. But for me personally – cruising along, staring up into “nothing” and seeing only sky, or stars and feeling that rush of air…it’s really something that I’m unable to capture in words to describe properly. Maybe it is because it’s so damn cold for so damn long here that I truly savor the few moments of pure summer we get? And you’re right about the correlation between a convertible and a boat (although I don’t think anybody needs to justify a love of being on the water) they are close to the same kind of awesome.
      Now I’m kind of depressed – I want 80 degree sunshine, and my Jeep ‘naked’, and enough hair on my head to fulfill the Jeep hair, don’t care mantra. June is coming…

    2. salguod Avatar

      Hey, don’t yuck someone else’s yum. 😀

      I made my case in the first post. Top down adds a lot to the experience for me. I simply love the wind and the warmth. I drive a lot, even in my fixed roof cars, with all windows down and the sunroof open.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        Ha! To each his own, friend. I’m not trying to argue anyone away from convertibles, I’m just expressing my personal disinterest. Anyone who enjoys them should do so! I understand completely GTXellent’s comment about “something that I’m unable to capture in words to describe properly.” I know the feeling, it’s just not convertibles that provide it for me. To me, the drawbacks of a convertible completely outweigh its benefits. YMMV.
        Now, the windows-down thing I absolutely enjoy, but unfortunately less so in modern cars. My ’66 Mercury gives excellent flow-trough ventilation with minimal turbulence (and the lack of a B pillar makes it nice), but roll down the windows in our family minivan and it sounds like I’m on the inside of a beating drum. Not nearly as pleasurable.

  6. toplessFC3Sman Avatar

    Nothing like 8500 RPM through a tunnel, turbo whooshing away, with the top down, or a nice cruise out away from street lights on a warm summer night. She doesn’t see snow or autocross action anymore (That’s what the RX-8 is for), but makes a very nice summer cruiser and part-time DD.

  7. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    I’ve never owned a convertible but we had a VW Rabbit convertible in the family fleet for a while and it was fun to drive top down and not very different from my Jetta top up soit didn’t feel like much of a compromise.
    Personally I’ve just had motorcycles since older bikes are cheap to buy, cheap to insure and don’t take up a lot of space. With the bike as my “fun” car my actual 4 wheel vehicle can be utilitarian

  8. HuntRhymesWith Avatar

    You forgot the part where homeless people come up to you at lights and beg for money, and you can’t escape because closing the top takes 15 seconds. Or that must just be a California thing.

  9. Alff Avatar

    I’ve had a convertible for most of my 37 years of driving. I’m convinced that’s the principle reason I need hearing aids.

  10. Turbobrick Avatar

    Topless motoring is at it’s best when kept below 55mph, before or after 11 am and 6pm and away from freeways and interstates. You also have to wear a hat, because the sun will cook your head at least in Texas, not to mention the free hair styling you’ll get from the wind.

  11. Wayward David Avatar
    Wayward David

    I had a convertible (actually a roadster) when I was in high school waaaay back in the mid 1970s. Living in the foothills of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains provided lots of opportunity year ‘round for memorable drives in my 1960 Austin Healey “Bugeye” Sprite. I particularly remember one Christmas day when my Mom was in full Hyacinth Bucket mode. It was Christmas so there had to be a fire in the fireplace, she had every burner and both ovens going to fix Xmas dinner, and we all had to wear our Xmas sweaters. The latter were well named because it was about 78° outside and a good 5° warmer than that inside. At one point in the craziness i just looked over at Dad and said that I thought we had time for a quick drive up in the mountains before dinner. He was out of his chair before I finished speaking. We hopped in the Bugeye and headed to the little village near the ski area on Mount San Antonio (Old Baldy to locals). I still remember the sights, the smell of the pines, the way the temperature changed with the elevation, the sound of the little 4 banger in the long tunnel going into the National Forest area, and the joy of spending some uncomplicated one on one time with my father. Father and son, But with me doing the driving and taking responsibility for getting us back in time for dinner. Two adult men out enjoying a beautiful Christmas day in an open car. It would not have been the same in Dad’s Nova wagon or Mom’s Chevelle. I wouldn’t remember it nearly as vividly or fondly over 40 years later, either.

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