At the first sign of rain you simply raise the roof at the flick of a switch and in 13 seconds you are under cover.
by Leon Rochocco, Jr.
“Sex Sells” has long been a popular tenet in advertising.
And sex appeal has typically made it easier to sell cars. The movie industry has always favoured convertibles for their leading men and women, whether Carey Grant, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Kevin Costner or Susan Sarandon.
Virtually any car becomes sexy when you chop the top, but I did say virtually. These five cars resist the glamour and glitz that often come with convertibles.
1985-1987 AMC Alliance Convertible
Built in the United States using a 1.7-litre engine and transmission from Renault, the Alliance was very much French in feeling. It was small, mundane in appearance and less than competitive against the best from Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda. It wasn’t cool with a roof and it didn’t get cooler without one.
A good measure of its appeal then is its collectability and desirability now, which is nil.
1989 Yugo Cabriolet
The formula for the Yugo was simple and it was laughable. Buy a 20-year-old-design of a highly rust-prone Italian economy car, barely update it and ship it to America by the thousands. At first, people will buy a product that is vastly cheaper than the competition, but once the public finds out that it is slow, unattractive, outdated, uncomfortable and minimally reliable, the charm leaves in a hurry.
Did a convertible version help the image and dramatically boost the sales?
Again, the answer was “Not really” – a response that was reinforced by a price that was double the cost of the GV Plus hatchback, which had gained fuel injection and six horsepower.
1960-1963 Studebaker Lark VI Convertible
Solid, sensible and reliable all summed up Studebaker’s Lark. It was a good car without flash or panache, which had limited appeal to car-mad teens.
There’s no question that lowering the top on the Lark made for a pleasant experience, but it didn’t change the status of this car from dud to stud when it came to sex appeal.
1908-1927 Model T Ford
Ford’s Tin Lizzie has always been rugged, reliable and in a class of its own. But sexy? Not likely.
The roadster or touring car versions may be fun, simply because fun goes with open-air motoring like peanut butter goes with jelly. Sex appeal, though, simply isn’t part of the equation with this American icon, though the story would be very different if we were talking about a 1940 Ford Convertible Coupe.
1961-1963 Rambler American
The Rambler had to be one of the most sensible cars built in North America: properly engineered to conservative standards, with incredibly reliable straight-six engines and pricing within reach of middle class budgets. For 1961, the line offered a convertible and it was a lot like its sibling – responsible, sturdy and dull.
In appearance and performance, the new drop-top was essentially an open-air version of an orthopedic shoe. You know, the kind of show that Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie would avoid like the plague. Even spraying pheromones on this car wouldn’t give it an ounce of sex appeal.
Leon Rochocco, Jr. writes for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca.
Truth is this car is more about looks. How it looks and how you look in it…
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Took the all-new BMW 4 Series Cabriolet on one of those leisurely and slow drives typical of a Sunday through Nevada’s stunningly beautiful Valley of Fire National Park.
Problem was that it was a Tuesday and the only other car on the road seemed to be the somewhat inappropriately named pace car ahead that kept our speed to a fraction below the posted 30 mph speed limit (which is 48.280 km/h to be precise).
Apparently, the overzealous state troopers, you know the guys with the mirrored sunglasses, had warned the Bavarian hosts that they would hold them responsible for any outrageous road behaviour, hence the so called pace cars ahead of each group of pearl white 435i cabriolets.
This topless edition joins its coupe sibling in the new 4 series classification which is really a new name for 3 Series two-door models. Just like the 2 Series coupes are actually two-door 1 Series models. Oh, never mind.
Anyway, this is a tourer for those with the cash rather than the sports-minded – $67,400 for the test car – so perhaps the afternoon stroll was more appropriate than a blast on the nearby freeway. (A base 428i version starts at $56,600, and comes with a 2.0-litre, 241 hp, turbocharged four-cylinder engine.)
If you are looking for feedback through the steering, you are not going to get much but there is no argument that it offers a smooth ride and cornering is effortless at 32 mph… devils, aren’t we?
Once out of the park, the Smokey bears joined the press pack as impromptu pace cars!
One ahead of us pulled off at a donut shop as we hit the highway. Here was our chance to open up. A bit. The 300-hp turbo inline-six swiftly moved through eight-speed auto tranny to 100 klicks in a smidgen under six seconds then I chickened out. (Six-speed manual transmissions will be available in Canada, which should increase sportiness in performance.)
Rumours circulated the evening dinner that a member of the Russian press corps had secured a $1,000 fine on that same stretch of road at about the time my co-driver and I had taken turns to punch the pedal and play briefly with steering-wheel mounted paddle gear changers.
Oh, and that’s when he were able to test the true effectiveness of the rear air diffuser (thumbs up) though when it is in place it rules out back seat passengers (thumbs down). And the rush of cooler desert air prompted us to flick the switch on the neck warmers, ah yes, a mark of true luxury.
Truth is this car is more about looks. How it looks and how you look in it.
And it looks absolutely fabulous, darling, now you ask. Can’t speak for myself.
It is simple elegant in profile but a scowling front gives it beastly pretensions. The power hard top rises smoothly from its hiding place in the trunk in 20 seconds. We were told it could even be raised in speeds up to 18 km/h. Why would you want to?
When that top is in place it truly looks like a coupe. Cool but even cooler when you lower the windows and see it as a pillar-less coupe! When the top is up it offers 370 litres of trunk space (222 litres when topless), which makes it the roomiest in its segment. BMW says it will comfortably stash two sets of golf clubs, if you are that way afflicted.
Classy leather interior, with ergonomically correct front seats. Can’t say the same about the back seats but then who wants to share the open top experience with anybody other than one’s beloved?
Controls handy though the rotary control was a bit too close to the front seat passenger for my liking.
No fuel consumptions estimates are available yet. There will be an X Drive version later this year.