There are niches and then there are niches within niches. Below we find the latter. Convertibles (as I’ve previously mused) tend not to be my cup of tea. I suppose they are a pretty big niche though. Some are versions of coupes with their top chopped off. A slightly smaller niche is drop tops (nearly always 2 seaters) that were designed as and are only available as wind in the hair merchants. I am deliberately overlooking the “niche” of the leaky, heavy, awkward looking folding metal roof brigade. My interest here lies in the coupes that were developed from cabriolet roots. Surely the nichiest of them all? They are few and far between and I can only find one instance where I prefer the source car to it’s hardtop progeny.
I was recently teaching a guy to drive who came from a family steeped in motor racing in particular and all things cars in general. The first time I picked him up I noticed a BRG Triumph GT6 parked outside. I just couldn’t help myself commenting on this pretty and rare car. “Oh that’s my project” he told me. Truth be told it is a project but not without certain charms, in particular a gorgeous set of alloys and some work (including a lovely exhaust) already in place. His car set my cogs whirring and I started thinking of hardtops that were spawned by convertibles that were only ever intended to be convertibles.
Without resorting to google I could only think of four others. I’m sure there are plenty of others but the more I read and write about cars the more I realise (despite my undimmed passion) how little I know about them. The other four that sprang to mind were the MGBgt, Mercedes SL Black and the two Beemers (Z3 and Z4).
The SL is an ultra rare high performance version of a grand tourer. I’ve never seen one. According to the internet it is significantly lighter than the standard model (which I suppose is what the L is meant to be about) and despite being a bit too shouty for me the roofline looks much better without the origami business up top. I was never a massive fan of either the Z3 or 4. Stick a shooting brake on the back though and I absolutely love them. The Z3 is sometimes dismissed as a clown’s shoe but I love the long bonnet coupled with the short stubby tail giving minimal overhang. A set of dished alloys set it off perfectly. As for the Z4, it’s one of only 2 Bangle era cars that don’t (really really badly) hurt my eyes. (The other is the 1 series in all it’s forms but specially the coupe).
This leaves the MG. Everyone’s favourite starter classic. Not mine although a straight 6 MGC might be nice. I’m probably being unfair but it’s seems to me it must have looked old fashioned even when first produced in the early sixties. The undeniable charm it had though was totally lost when they made the GT hatchback version. This is the only time where I feel the original ragtop looks nicer than the coupe version. I’m obviously in the minority as I still see many roadworthy specimens tootling around. When you consider BL’s build quality during the ’70s this speaks volumes for people’s love for this car (and also to the existence of plentiful spares).
So once again despite trying to generate goodwill towards the cabriolet species I can’t really muster any enthusiasm for them. What’s wrong with a sunroof eh?