Tuesday August 9, 2016
Written by Andy Roberts
When the sun shines (last year it was on August 5th) many a classic enthusiast has the urge to head for the beach. And with any of these fine cars they can take friends or family with them:
Morris Minor 1948-1969
Because of its popularity and longevity, it is too easy to take the Morris Minor Convertible for granted. The 1948-1950 MM versions have that exquisite ‘low headlamp’ styling while the later 1000s have more ability to cope with the demands of modern traffic. And any well-preserved Morris has sheer charm as standard.
Austin A40 Sports 1950 - 1953
The A40 Sports was the result of a collaboration between Jensen and Austin, with the result being the epitome of an early 1950s British tourer. Early versions have a floor gear change which was replaced by a column shift in 1951 and all A40s look as though they belong in a Rank comedy starring a cravat-wearing Donald Sinden.
Ford Zephyr/Zodiac Mk.2 1956-1962
Or, the car that all skiffle and rock and roll musicians regarded as their ultimate goal. After all, who could resist a car with a hood that raises and lowers via the press of a button? The three on the column is easy to operate and, best of all, the Ford has almost the same appeal as a Cadillac while being much is easier to park.
Hillman Minx 1956-1962
The Gazelle is often underrated compared with its Sunbeam Rapier stablemate but it has much the same body. Early examples have a wonderfully period four-on-the-column, the styling is splendidly late 1950s and, best of all, there is also space for a quartet of reasonably sized adults. Plus, even with the hood raised there is still room for a chap to wear a trilby when at the wheel.
Wolseley Hornet ‘Heinz 57’ 1966
Crayford created many fine soft tops from British family saloons and the Wolseley is my favourite. Heinz commissioned 57 (naturally) Hornet Convertibles for a promotional giveaway in 1966 and the special equipment included a radio, a picnic hamper, a built-in makeup tray and, my own favourite, a power point and an electric kettle in the boot! Happily, 41 examples of the ‘57’ are believed to survive.
Triumph Vitesse Mk.2 1968-1971
Arguably the finest incarnation of the Herald range, with the early handling problems ironed out thanks to the redesigned rear suspension and acceleration superior to a Capri 1600GT. There was also the carefully planned cabin, the standard equipment that includes adjustable steering plus, of course, there is Michelotti’s very elegant coachwork.
VW 181/182 1969-1983
I’m quite serious; this is fun, versatile and, yes, practical 4-seater convertible based on the floorpan of the Type 1 Karmann Ghia. Most examples of the 181 were LHD but a small number of right-hand drive 182 models were sold in the UK as the ‘Trekker’ in 1975. And it is hard to resist any drophead equipped with a folding windscreen and removable doors.
Triumph Stag 1970 - 1977
For too many years the Stag’s reliability problems masked its true potential but today it is regarded as one of the finest cars to wear the Triumph badge. The detachable hard top means that owners have a sharp-looking coupe for winter months and there is also the kudos of driving a ‘Bond car’; 007 used a Stag in Diamonds Are Forever.
Talbot Matra Rancho Découvrable 1981 - 1984
The Découvrable is not a true convertible as the door and rear window frames remain in situ when the roof is lowered, but then the Rancho is not really an off-roader either, for all of its mesh covered lamps and nudge bar. However, for anyone who wishes to sit in their driveway while wearing a bush shirt and hat – the better to spot any lions in deepest suburbia – this is the car for you!
Jaguar XJS Convertible 1988 - 1996
A ‘four seater’ only if the rear occupants are either reasonably short and/or uncomplaining, but with a Jaguar as magnificent and in my totally non-objective opinion, beautiful as the XJS Convertible, this matters not one iota. As many a car writer noted, it was a ‘classic’ even before production ceased.