Tuesday September 12, 2017
Summer is nearly upon us, although I refuse to take any responsibility if you are reading this in the middle of a Force 9 storm, and the criteria for this magnificent pricing is ‘reasonable’ seating for at least a quartet of adults and enough room in the boot for a decent-sized picnic hamper. For those missing the Reliant Scimitar GTC or the VW Golf Cabriolet, these and many others will all feature in future Top Tens – watch this space. But, for now -
Citroen Visa Decapotable
Any four-door drophead is a fairly exclusive beast, especially one based on a European supermini and Citroen sold only 2,633 examples of the Visa Decapotable. The alterations to the body by Heuliez meant that in France the convertible version cost 25% more than a standard Visa 11RE – but such style cannot be measured in mere money.
Ford Escort XR3i Cabriolet
Hitting the market at the right time with the right product is the aim of any car manufacturer and the launch of the XR3i Cabriolet was as well-timed as any routine from Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. The conversion was by Karmann and although the result cost around £2,100 more than the standard car, thousands of hair-gelled Filofax-wielding motorists thought it well worth the extra money.
Skoda Rapid Cabriolet
Suppose you could not quite manage to negotiate the overdraft facilities for a 911 Turbo? Not to worry, as there is another, and rather cheaper, rear-engine sports car from the same era – and one with a usable back seat! The Cabriolet was modified by Ludgate Design & Development of Kent and while no-one would claim that it has quite the same top gear prowess of a Porsche (the top speed was around 95 mph) few would deny that it is tremendous fun.
Sunbeam Rapier Convertible
The flagship of the Rootes Group ‘Audax’ range and both the perfect car for a jolly day out at the races (whilst clad in an immaculate blazer and cravat of course) but one with a competition pedigree. For some reason, possibly a side-effect of watching a good deal of the 1950s and 1960s British films, I always imagine Terry-Thomas driving one of these splendid Sunbeams.
Talbot Samba Cabriolet
Closely related to the Visa, they were both derived from the Peugeot 104, the Samba Cabriolet became a car of choice for quite a few proto-Yuppies or anyone who appreciated a genuine bargain. The Pininfarina conversion may have added an extra £1,000 to the Samba’s price but it was extremely; well-executed and, as Autocar rightly said it ‘put a lot of fun back into motoring’. It was even groovy enough to survive a commercial as dire as this gem.
Vauxhall Cavalier Centaur
An extremely attractive open-air version of the Cavalier 2000GLS Coupe Mk. I by Crayford of Westerham. The price was not cheap by late 1970s standards, but then there was really another med-sized drop head like it in the British new car market. And, after all, who could put a price on exclusivity - a red Centaur with optional Campagnolo alloy wheels was the hippest car of suburbia and generally perfect for any ‘executive’ who also owned a gold Casio watch and an Atari TV Tennis game.
Wolseley Viking Hornet Sport
Last year I wrote about the ‘Heinz 57’ Hornet and thisinterpretation of an open-air Mini is equally enjoyable. Take a Wolseley Hornet with a Crayford drophead conversion. Add a Taurus-tuned 1-Litre A-Series engine with free-flow exhaust and a modified cylinder head plus adjustable steering and other accessories. Next, apply a jaunty flash to the coachwork - and the result is one of the delightful convertibles imaginable.