Hooniverse Asks- What Car Would You Like to be T-Topped?

Yesterday it was pretty well proven that there really aren’t too many cars you all would jones for when the roof was wrapped in vinyl. That automotive equivalent  to an As Seen on TV toupee was so reviled by even auto designers that those penning the original Olds Toronado sculpted it so as to not have pillar-fender separation and hence making it vinyl roof proof.
T-tops on the other hand are what make the world go around. Or at least they did back as the ’70s slowly faded into the MTV decade. The general consensus at the time was that convertibles would be fully outlawed (when dropping tops is outlawed only outlaws will drop their tops) by pending federal rollover standards. Those regulations never fully came to fruition, despite Joan Claybrook’s best efforts to save us from our car-flippin’ selves. That psycho lady did manage to mandate that speedos could only go to eighty five however. Eighty five! Because car makers didn’t want to be caught with a bunch of un-sellable soft-tops they pretty much killed them off and hence the mighty T-top was born. More hair tousling than a sun roof, but able to leak from more corners than seemingly possible, the T-top proved not just a rag top’s second best alternative, but a whole passel of badassitry in itself.
At first an odd, and for some buyers unknown, feature of the C3 Corvette coupe, the T-roof burst onto the national consciousness when Sally Field shook her shapely  derriere in the open roof of Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am in the emotional drama Smokey and the Bandit. From then on Mustangs, Volares, Century’s and Datsuns embraced the T-Top as a way to bring the sun to their car buyers without having to re-engineer their cars so they wouldn’t shake it like a Poloroid picture. Today cars are designed better, and convertibles don’t typically make like a curly fry at the first driveway apron, but that doesn’t mean that the T-top is as obsolete as the tape deck. There are other attributes such as. . . well things like security and ease of egress when open.
As such, it seems like T-tops are an un-mined mother lode of awesome just waiting for someone to drive a pick into. If you happened to be that pick, what car would you most like to T-top first?
Image source: [mustanggt.org]

0 Comments

        1. I have to agree that pickup trucks have the obvious and widespread modern-day potential.

    1. I love t-tops! I have owned multiple vehicles that have had that option, and would own another one this very minute! I always thought it was wonderful to have all of that "wind in my hair" feeling, without the commitment of being completely roofless! Not to mention, you could have the glass out, and not have to worry about losing everything from inside the cabin that wasn't bolted down(damn ATM receipts, they just seem to crawl out from everywhere!).

      1. My dad had a gold Firebird with T-Tops. It was awesome. I also had a buddy in high school that got a 240zx with T-Tops. It was also awesome. We drove out to Bottomless Lakes, after finals, and old homework and stuff flew around like a tornado and we each got papers stuck to our faces. Good times.

      1. I think the sealed-beam headlights add just the right note of elegance and sportiness.

    1. Geez, for a minute there I thought you were going to say it would be taut human skin landau.

      1. Assuming that was what I was going to say makes one of us a very scary person.

      2. Nah, human skin is so last century. Whale penis leather landau roofs are the NOW fashion WOW!

      1. It's a mash-up of old Dodge Mirada parts on a new Dodge Challenger. I slap-chopped it back in april for the "What Car Would You Bring Back?" Hooniverse Asks question.

  1. The Porsche 911 should go back to a real targa roof, and there should be a revival of the 914.

    1. I once knew a guy (aeronautical engineer) that owned a 914. He kept a wrench handy at all times, in case he needed to jump out and disconnect the battery, to avoid a complete electrical apocalypse.

      1. Porsche: There is no substitute, except maybe a bicycle or a pair of running shoes.

  2. The new Trans-Am…oh wait.
    Having owned both C3 and C4 Corvette Coupes I will say that the T-tops were MUCH easier to deal with than the targa top. No tools to remove the t-tops and they were much smaller and easier to handle. Didn't notice that many leaks from the T-tops either.

    1. Stolen T-tops were a serious issue in the late 70's-early 80's, and used sets would bring in the neighborhood of $600 for glass ones. When the roof was designed for the 84 Corvette, I believe it was intentional that removal would require more than just a few no-tool seconds.
      How many leaks is your acceptable level?

      1. It was a 77 I bought in 1990. It didn't start leaking until 1996. I never got as far as weatherstripping replacement before the car got parked.

  3. The Mako shark II-inspired 1968 Corvette was intended to have a full targa roof, but in preproduction body flex was determined to be unacceptable, so engineers added the center support.
    <img src="http://corvette-world.com/images/68GMCO01.jpg&quot; width=500>
    I have always liked the look of the Duster II concept car and think the Road runner would have looked good with T-Tops.
    <img src="http://www.carstyling.ru/resources/concept/1969_Plymouth_Duster_I_02.jpg&quot; width=500>
    <img src="http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee188/jsand6769/70plymouth1.jpg&quot; width=500>
    Fuselage body would be appropriate, too.
    <img src="http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2009/11/21/15/19/1971_plymouth_road_runner-pic-3830059188281462996.jpeg&quot; width=500>

  4. Why must we subtract lightness? I'll stick with my full roof and the windows down thank you very much.

    1. With the t-tops in place, how are you supposed to get into the car? Baseball slide?

      1. I see what you mean. I agree….I'd just leave the t-top off. I like it better without it anyway.

  5. With all due respect to my fellow hoons, t-tops suck……with both lungs.
    There, I said it.

    1. I too am a fan of the closed roof.
      I don't need the sun beating down on me heating up the car while I drive it.
      The only thing a hole in the roof is good for is letting in water.

  6. I am also of the humble opinion that T-Tops are in the same class as vinyl tops.

  7. T-tops suck. They were a desperation kludge that came about in the mid-'70s when the convertibles were temporarily dying out. They had all the disadvantage of the convertibles – loose structure, extra weight, leaks, theft-prone – without the benefit of the full open-air experience of a real droptop. I'm not sorry at all to see them go. If I want light and air from above while still having a closed car, I'd rather have a moonroof – at least you keep the all-crucial side rails of the roof. Or I'll opt for a full convertible.

    1. Perhaps, but compared to a targa, you get a stiffer vehicle and easier storage.
      In theory, a t-top car probably provides better rollover protection than a true ragtop. T-tops are more durable than a soft top, and if it does fail, replacement takes seconds as a DIY instead of hours with a pro.

      1. As I understand it (which is probably not correctly), the issues of torsional rigidity and rollover protection are separate (someone get engineered in here to explain it).
        With modern engineering, you can design a convertible with equivalent torsional strength to a hard top, so a targa would also be build-able to equal strength (i.e. t-top no longer holds an advantage).
        As far a rollover protection, I was of the impression that the fixed roll bar was the primary concern. As long as that held firm above your head, the car would land on the hood and roll bar, keeping you safe so long as your head was not taller than the line drawn between the two. Since the windshield will likely shatter, and its frame is usually heavily raked, it doesn't provide much resistance to being flattened along the roll bar/hood line. Without the windshield for a brace, the t bar is just going to push the center of the windshield frame down until the roll bar makes contact with the ground. Thus the t-top adds no greater rollover safety versus a targa. In fact, as convertibles now have popup roll bars of sufficient rigidity to support the whole car, neither the t-top nor the targa hold a sufficient advantage over a full convertible.
        The final downfall of the t-top (and the targa), is that roof mechanisms (softtop, PRHT, retractable moonroofs) have reached sufficient reliability that you will likely never need to repair/replace them.
        /start tangent
        As mentioned, the unintended discovery of the targa top was the intermediate between coupe and convertible in terms of experience. They could both give you the open air atmosphere without the wind buffeting and the added complexity/hassles of the rag top. However, as Porsche (and tonyola) has discovered, this design goal lends itself to a moon roof (albeit a monster one). But hey, a brand name sells, and they have to sell something with the Targa name, they invented the whole genre (shutup Triumph! No one wants to call it a "surrey top").
        That said, a modern 914 version better have a targa top.

    2. T-tops are awesome. They were an inspired and creative response to anticipated regulatory changes in the '70s. They offer much of the open-air motoring experience of convertibles while maintaining a bit more structural rigidity and the relative security of solid panels, in comparison to vinyl or canvas droptops. I wish they had never passed into history. Bring them back and I will be sure to check the box on my next purchase.

      1. More like a little of the open-air experience. A real droptop offers nothing but a windshield surrounding you – no back window, no C-pillars, no blind spots, nothing overhead but sky. A T-top doesn't even come close.

  8. Wow, I guess you love them or hate them. This topic seems to divide the Hoonicommentariat like little else has. It's like watching Congress.

      1. That's another benefit of T-tops. They're divided.
        You like open-air motoring but your wife doesn't want her hairdo mussed? Leave her side in.

    1. That actually may be less douchebaggy than the standard version in that the driver clearly can't take himself entirely seriously. I dig it.

  9. "…Sally Field shook her shapely derriere in the open roof of Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am…"
    You know, I've never actually seen Smokey & The Bandit.

    1. You've gotta see that flick!! Just take the time and have a "70's Night". It's kind of a country music version of the Blues Brothers,sorta.
      "East bound and down
      Loaded up and truckin'"

    2. You poor bastard.
      It's a terrible movie best seen through the eyes of a 12 year old. Grab some otter-pops and make a date with the DVD player.

    3. See it, but the sequels must be avoided at all costs – I'm embarrassed to say I own them, even if it's just because they came boxed with the first.

    4. Well you're in for a treat then because that's some good wholesome American entertainment right there. Same rule apples to this and Cannonball Run – Do not watch the sequels! "Smokey and the Bandit III" may very well be THE worst movie ever made.

  10. Yeah, the T-top was obsolete before it began, as a properly engineered surrey top or Targa top did everything better, and was already in existence.
    Although sometimes I wonder what a 944 T-top would look like, just for the sheer '80s of it. Although it might require a driver with der mullet and a Heineken keg can.

  11. As I miss having a sunroof, I'm tempted to say my Civic. I also like the T-top/Targa roof hybrid that Jeep uses on the JK Wranglers, and wouldn't mind it on my YJ.
    But I can't get the thought of a T-Topped CTS coupe out of my head.

  12. This being Wednesday, I am surprised no one has mentioned the idea of two sets of t-tops (front seat & back seat) on a wagon.

      1. "<bad voice dub> Ha soo. Your Stingray Style defeats my Google-Fu ability! </bad voice dub>"

  13. Well…. I have thought of that once, and it was in regards to this:
    <img src="http://www.uneedapart.com/images/hyundai-scoupe-parts.jpg"&gt;
    My excuse being that it was warm late summer afternoon somewhere in southeastern Finland in 1998, I was on one of those awesome twisty backroads through the rapeseed fields, and I had just spotted a red C3 Corvette out enjoying the last days of somewhat reasonable fuel prices (0.70 E / litre of regular).
    Now that I have a clue about things like "structural integrity", I realize that it would be a truly bad idea of epic proportions. Even moreso than just T-Tops on a vehicle that wouldn't just fold together and collapse. IIRC when the last of the 4th-gen F-bodies rolled out of the factory there was an article about them being last T-topped cars made and how that was the one option for GM that had created the most warranty related complaints in the history of the company.

  14. Any stretch limo. Why limit the fun of sticking your torso out of the roof and yelling "WOOO!" like a tourettes-riddled Ric Flair down the boulevard to one or two at a time when the whole gang (including the driver) can get a piece of that action?

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