Hooniverse Asks-What's Your Favorite Changeable Car?

Transformers, robots in disguise. You know, I was not of the generation where that lead made any sort of impression, but I have seen my share of cars that can transform. I thikn the first that I remember was a Ford showcar – based on the Fiesta platform – that featured interchangeable rear caps. It could be a notch, a sloped hatch, small wagon, or even a jeep-like open backed free for all.

That one never made it past the auto expo security guards, but a similar proposition was offered by the Nissan Pulsar NX, and it added T-tops. That was one of the coolest looking cars of the eighties with its optional wagon back and pop up headlights, even if Nissan sold fewer extra backs than did KFC. Some other transforming cars are the Chevy Avalanche, The GMC Envoy XUV, and Ferrari 458 Italia, which may turn into a smoldering hulk.

The benefit of a changeable vehicle is the same as that of the Swiss Army knife – it can be a jack of many trades. However, that may mean that it is never the master of any one. That can be to its detriment, but who cares, transforming cars are fun! Which one’s your favorite?

Image source: [triplezoom.com]


      1. Ford actually considered a production version, but decided it would be too expensive. Still cool, though, and a wonderful example of the old we-can-do-anything mentality.

  1. Fiero.
    You can change it from a not-very-appealing GM product of the 1980s to a not-very-convincing Ferrari replica with one simple kit.

  2. How about the lamest excuse for "changeable"…?
    The 1974 Dodge Dart "Convertriple" — supposedly a convertible, station wagon and sedan in one. In truth it was a Dart with a flip-down rear seat for trunk access and a sunroof. Like I said, not bad for what it was, but lame marketing.
    <img src="http://www.foundationpc.com/brochure/73dartad.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. The bucket seats and sunroof of my station wagon also make it a sporty coupé-convertible, I suppose!

  3. My friend's mom had a Pulsar. First car I ever drove with power brakes. At the first stop sign, I had the sudden terror we were going to blow right through, until we ate the dashboard… Since that's my one lasting memory, I guess it wasn't that memorable a car. But the concept of changing out the back was pretty cool, though relatively unused.

    1. My eyes read one thing but my brain processed it as another: Blalet Chazer. I want one even more now.

  4. Hmm, 180hp, 2300lbs… Sounds like fun. I doubt too many hairdressers would really want the Mazdaspeed version. Even a standard power miata is a hoot to drive. Drop throttle oversteer was never easier.

      1. That makes three of us. Unfortunately my '59 was "changed" into a pile of parts by a previous owner at some point in the '70s. I bought it in pieces in the late '80s, got distracted by the whole undergrad/grad/grad thing, got further distracted by other automotive projects, and still haven't finished changing it back into a car. Something of a long-term project, I suppose.

    1. Plus, the camper looks like an angry troll with blood dripping from the corners of his mouth. It can not be unseen!

  5. I had one of those Pulsars. It was a cool idea whose implementation left a couple of things to be desired.
    1. Both tops were HEAVY! Forget changing out tops on a whim. It took at least three people to pull off a top change – two to hold the top while a third did the wrenching.
    I suspect that many of the Sportbak tops that Nissan sold are still sitting in the original owner's garage because once you set it down, it was quite a heave to get it picked back up. To my knowledge, Nissan did not offer a top holder like many companies offer with their removable hard tops.
    2. The trunk had a false floor made of thick plastic under which the t-tops could be stored. Nice idea. But with the Coupe (default model) hatch in place, the storage space ABOVE the false floor was not tall enough for a paper bag of groceries to sit without getting smashed. It made the "trunk" basically useless.
    Nissan would have been much better off making the Sportbak the default model and making the coupe hatch a dealer installed accessory for people who wanted a sportier look.
    The coupe back was basically pointless IMO.
    A couple of other interesting features of the car:
    1. The third brake light and rear defroster on the hatch(es) was powered through a little contact pad, noting to unplug when you removed the hatch. At least they did one thing right.
    2. There was an axillary third brake light stuck to the headliner on the "targa" bar – for running around in convertible mode without either hatch. A feature I never saw mentioned in any Nissan literature… "Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you, it's a couple, a shooting brake AND a convertible!"
    3. The factory tool kit for removing the hatch had a combination wrench that looked like a factory defect. One one end it had a box wrench the size of the hinge bolts, the other end had what could have been another box wrench, but without the hole in the center machined out. Just like a little round nub.
    I loved my Pulsar. But once the sportbak went on, I never saw any reason to convert it back to coupe mode.

    1. I always thought those were two separate models like the Geo Storm. I never realized it was the same car with swappable hatches.
      You think that top is bad to remove, try removing the roof on a K-5 Blazer or a Bronco. About 20 bolts and a 200lb top.

      1. Well the full size Bronco is roughly 150ish lb. and 17 bolts. It's just a pain to remove solo because it's hard to control where the top is going.

    2. I've never seen a wagonback in the wild. When I learned of them from Gran Turismo, I assumed it was a JDM thing.

    1. I have never actually seen one of these "notchback" Firebirds – just pictures. Were they really produced?

  6. [youtube fZGFDph65s0 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZGFDph65s0 youtube]
    My dad brought home a Spanish-language issue of Car and Driver (June 2003) home from a vacation. In it I was amazed to discover the coupe/targa/convertible/"pickup" that is the Citroën C3 Pluriel, and amazed again when I deciphered that it was not some auto show fantasy but an actual car you can buy. I'm not sure if it's actually any good as a car, but I still want one.

    1. I have one. Pathetic engine, 'special' wheels that prevent your average tire shop to work on them, noisy, heavy… But still such cool looks, and better in-real: all design details are pleasing to the eye, and everyone from my younger kid to my mother love it. And mine is in Bright Orange, of course! I am not a fan of the one featured above (of which top speed is a joke BTW). The 'arches' are a pain to move around, at about 12kg each… And of course if it rains… My seats are ruined, completely. Dunno what fabric they are made of, but a single drop of rain turns instantly into a dark spot. Silly for a car that is supposed to be outdoors-y. Now then, the thing is really the pick-up truck, and the speedster, and the coach as you like it.[youtube KdbiU4_U2ok http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdbiU4_U2ok youtube]

      1. The guy moving the roof arch indoors after taking them off the car really hammers the point home. Driving around in full-convertible mode must be a pretty serious commitment, have to make sure there's no chance of rain and that you're parking in a nice area, because you can't put the top up again until you get home!

  7. 1977 Oldsmobile Toronado XSR, with power retractable T-tops co-developed with ASC. It was all set for production, but cost and sealing issues led to its cancellation at the 11th hour after one or two prototypes were built; it was canned so late that it made it into the sales brochures:
    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2535/3826779019_95a786cd33.jpg&quot; />
    However, the Toronado XS, which featured the same wild wraparound backlight but a conventional power sunroof, did reach showrooms.

  8. International Scout or Scout II. In the middle of the baby Scout production you could have ordered it as a roadster w/o any top, or your choice of 7 different interchangeable tops. Fixed steel Cab, Station Wagon or Panel tops, Soft folding cab, station wagon, or the "sedan" Sporttop, or the fiberglass sedan Sporttop. The Scout II could be had in a number of different top and length options but not all in the same year like the baby Scout. 100" Wheel base with your choice of 2 different roadsters (steell doors or no doors); steel cab, station wagon, and panel tops; folding soft station wagon (with steel doors) or Safari (soft doors); and 118" wheel base models with fiberglass cab or station wagon tops. Passenger accommodations for 2,3,4,5,6 or 7 occupants. The baby Scouts could be had with 4,6, or 8 cyls Scout II with 4, 6, or 8cyl gassers or diesel 6cyls in NA or turbo form.

  9. I would have agreed with you; pop up headlights and stripey taillights, can't get any more rad then that.
    I was five though.

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