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Convertible vs. Hardtop Coupe - which is better for a collector car?

parmparm Posts: 723
OK, this an age-old topic for debate. If you could only have one collector car, which is the most "owner friendly"? A convertible or a hardtop?

I'll kick it off. Nothing beats the feeling of an open air driving experience. And, is there anything more enjoyable than driving a convertible on a warm summer's night? Sounds like this will be a slam-dunk debate, right? Not so fast.

How about when it's 85+ degrees with a blazing sun unmercifly beating down on one's forehead - especially if you're stuck in traffic and can't get any wind in your face? (can you say heat stroke?) Wearing a hat is great solution, until it blows off your head. Speaking of wind, ever try listening to the radio (assuming you're over 35 and didn't spend $10K on a brain-numbing, woofer thumping, window rattling sound system) or carry on an intelligible conversation with the passenger to your right (forget about anyone seating in the back seat) while at speed? OK, putting up the top on intense ozone action days would eliminate 3rd degree burns on your head, so the convertible wins that battle for its versatility. Then again, the hydraulics/mechanism of a convertible is just one more thing to worry about breaking down (and expensive to fix) - just ask the owner of a 1960's convertible Continental.

Then, there's the issue of the effects of time. While manufacturers usually built in more structural reinforcement, convertibles are prone to body twisting, aren't they? Wouldn't that add up over the course of 40 years resulting in some squeaks and rattles that could never be eliminated no matter how hard you tried?

Needless to say, a convertible is more susceptible to vandalism by even the lowliest of pocket knives. And, the price (ie., the entry into the hobby) of a hardtop is appreciably less than the price of admission for a convertible (assuming both cars are comparable in condition). On the other hand, there is a die-hard contingent that would say "anything OTHER than a convertible is merely a PARTS CAR!

Let's hear what you all have to say. Are convertibles over-rated, OR are they the only way to go?


  • parmparm Posts: 723
    Wow. I know it's the holidays and all, but I thought such a "thought provoking" subject would the topic of at least "some" debate. Is everyone in a tryptophan-induced coma from eating too much turkey already??? ;-)

    Is it possible that I presented both sides of the issue so eloquently and thoroughly there's nothing else to add? Yeah right, that'll be the day. LOL!
  • Okay I was going to give everyone a chance before your bigmouth host crowded the board, but since the boys are obviously in some pre-holiday coma, I'll jump in.

    One thought I had was that if you plan to vintage race at all, you want the coupe version---say of an Alfa or an MGB or even a Shelby Mustang. They are safer, more rigid, and easier to modify for racing.

    Another question is climate. If you've ever baked in the sun in a ragtop in Arizona, or felt the heat through a black canvas top frying the top of your head, you'll go for a coupe. But in a milder sunny climate like Colorado or mid-range California, the soft top is hard to beat for those warm night breezes and spectacular scenary.

    In a metro area, the ragtop presents security issues as well.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Overrated. The top is one more thing to break, and it lets the sun ruin your interior and your skin. :(

    I'll probably pull the convertible top and the motor off the S2000 at some point.
  • and what, plant geraniums? Or use a tonneau? Or?
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    I got the OEM hardtop for it back in September and haven't had it off since then. The only reason I would take it off is to pull the soft top.

    Edit: and maybe tint the rear window some.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,578
    I've had my '67 Catalina convertible for about 13 1/2 years now, and have loved every minute of it. But...I dunno if I'd want a convertible as my only car.

    It's fun to drive around in nice weather with the top down, and wind buffeting is actually almost non-existent in the front seat. But anybody in the back who's self-concsious will immediately start whining about what it's doing ot their hair. It squeaks and rattles more than a hardtop model probably would, but GM actually did a pretty good job building these cars. Most of the noise from mine comes from aged, crumbling window seals, and not any inherent design flaw.

    I dunno about other manufacturers, but with my Catalina, even when the hydraulics stop working, you can still raise and lower the top by hand. It's easy if you have two people, but I can do mine by myself...even with a bum shoulder. Putting it down is no trouble at all, but it's hard to get it back up. Still, there is the added complexity, and the added expense of having to replace the top every so often. My top needs to be replaced, but I've just slacked off with it since the car's garaged most of the time.

    Normally, convertibles give up some trunk room and back seat room, but GM's big cars from this era gave up very little. You can still get 3-across seating in back more comfortably than just about any car made nowadays. You'd have to move up to an SUV, truck, minivan, etc, to find better. And while the top probably takes about 5 cubic feet of trunk space, it's all up front, at that shallow spot over the rear axle. Even with the full-sized spare, I imagine there's 17-18 cubic feet of trunk space back there. Most midsized and even some full-sized cars would be proud to boast that much trunk volume nowadays.

    My car has never been vandalized, but I also just have the stock AM radio in there, and nothing worth stealing. I'm sure that otherwise, it would've been broken into by now.
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    Where I'm going with this is with a car that's more suited for cruising versus carving up a winding canyon road. I'm talking something domestic from the 1960's, such as a Cadillac, Buick, Plymouth, take your pick. Which is the better way to go? Convertible or hardtop coupe? For now, let's exclude muscle cars from this discussion since going strictly hardtop is more of a no-brainer.

    For a nice cruiser collector car, I've always leaned toward convertibles because they seemed like more fun. But, here's the thing. I just don't know if a convertible is the best choice if we're talking"older Detroit iron". It seems to me that an older convertible would be more susceptible to body panel alignment issues (40 years of body twisting takes it toll, does it not?), rust, squeaks, leaking (when the top is up) let alone the whole idea of maintaining the hydraulics and a mile of wiring. Plus, a hardtop coupe would be less expensive to buy and it's much easier to install a decent sound system given the availability of a rear package shelf for speakers. You could get a darn nice coupe for the price of a "needy" convertible. Ahhhh, but a convertible is just the thing for a warm summer evening drive. What's a guy to do?

    How 'bout this? For your daily driver, you could go with something along the lines of a Pontiac G6 with the hardtop convertible option (or pick your favorite other modern-day convertible that fits your budget). For me, the G6 makes sense because its bigger (ie., more livable) than a Solistice/Sky/Miata, etc. and the convertible hardtop is perfect for Indiana winters. But, when the weather turns warm, at the touch of a button, you're driving topless (bring on the warm summer nights). And, you're doing so with all the comforts and reliability that modern day technology provides. So, with your daily driver doing "double duty", this frees you up to satisfy your collector car sweet tooth with a hardtop coupe. Tastes great - less filling! A win-win.

    Or, does the prevailing thought of, "If your collector car is not a convertible, it's a parts car" win out?

    Whad-da-ya think?
  • ok well the debate delima here is that the weathers too cold, vandalism, mabey even worrying about leaks later on, but the question was which option is better for a COLLECTOR. Almost every collectible car you look at is more valuable if you can find the one with the convertible top and if youre a car collector you should have a garage to put your cars in so vandalism and dry rotting from the sun should not be a problem. Me and my friend who own a car dealership in my town have purchased three classic cars recently and they are all locked up in a garage but if you arent really a collector and you just want a cool car to drive around every once in a while but you dont have a garage then get a hard top and a car cover. Oh and if anyone was wondering what the three cars are there a 55 bel air a 68 camaro and our newest a 58 thunderbird. If anybody has any classic cars or trucks for that matter that they are looking to sell get up with me at rhodes.eric thanks
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    After spending years trying to like convertibles, I've decided I just don't like them. They are great when it is not too hot, not too cold, not too sunny, not too cloudy, etc., so maybe 5% of the time at best. Other than those perfect days, they are basically inferior to their hardtop equivalents in every way.

    That being said, from a collector's standpoint you need to have a convertible.
  • The collector car "market" agrees with the convertible owner in most cases (with a few rare exceptions where the coupe is worth more). The reason for this is a) the convertibles often look better b) you can have more fun at parades and c) they made fewer convertibles than coupes in most cases.

    So rarity, style and application to a particular low-stress use (display) gives the edge to the collector car convertible.

    In "enthusiasts" terms, the 60s convertibles are gawd-awful. The chassis flex is pretty startling, especially if you make the mistake of adding modern poly bushings, hi-tech shocks and radial tires. Then the chassis really suffers. Only solution is to WELD in chassis stiffeners, like the Mustang 5.0 crowd does, but then you have altered the car in an irreversible fashion. You don't wanna do that to a Hemi Cuda ragtop!!!
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    Regarding finding ideal weather conditions, I agree totally. Gee, I thought it was only ME who thought that out of 365 days, only a handful (here in the Midwest) are conducive to top-down driving.

    Regarding chassis of a 1960's convertible, is the reason why you wouldn't want to use poly bushings is because they work smoother than the original - thereby making the frame take more of a beating?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,578
    Regarding chassis of a 1960's convertible, is the reason why you wouldn't want to use poly bushings is because they work smoother than the original - thereby making the frame take more of a beating?

    Yeah, pretty much. That poly stuff is hard and won't flex like the original rubber. So it'll give you a firmer ride and theoretically better handling, but it's also going to transmit more road shock into the car.

    Back when I first got my '67 Catalina convertible, I used to drive it everywhere. And put the top down on days when it really wasn't conducive to it, such as too hot or too cold. Eventually, the novelty wore off, and I drove it less.

    Shifty, what would be an example of a car where the convertible version is worth less than the hardtop counterpart? I'm sure there are some, but I just can't think of any right offhand. I guess some real exotic, rare, custom-built stuff back in the real old days would be worth more, but with, say, 50's, 60's, and 70's stuff, are there any?
  • fintailfintail Posts: 32,887
    I know a 300SL gullwing tends to be worth about twice its convertible sibling, sometimes more. Perhaps some special high end Italian cars are similar. I can't think of any Detroit iron.
  • Yep fintail's right, the Gullwing is worth more than its 300SL Roadster equivalent. Only the coupe is called the Gull Wing.

    Some Ferraris don't much differentiate between coupe and targa models because the coupes are better for vintage racing, especially in Europe, where very VERY few enthusiasts race vintage convertibles.

    Also Porsche 911 coupes of certain years are worth more as coupes or sunroof coupes than as targas. This is because targas are a PITA on those cars.

    With domestics, I think a '63 Corvette Split Window can top a convertible version in value.

    I'm sure there are others, I just can't thing of them.
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    "I'm sure there are others, I just can't think of them."

    Well, how about a 1964 Cadillac? LOL! I've found a very nice, original hardtop Coupe Deville that's for sale. Original owner had the car for 40 years and for much of its life was kept in a garage under blankets (I'm not kidding!) when not in use. So the car is in great original shape. I never thought about owning a hardtop collector car until I saw this one. It's that nice and I've seen my share of '64 Cadillacs. Owner is asking $12,500. Thoughts?
  • Price seems a bit stiff. More like $,8500--$10000 for a beauty. It can't compete in value with a convertible, which should bring around $25K at least. This is one car where I'd choose the convertible I think. Cadillac coupes just don't cut it, image-wise IMO.
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    I don't disagree that a convertible carries more appeal and I wouldn't have given this car a second look EXCEPT for the fact that it is in such unbelievably good shape. Original paint looks amazing (considering it is a 43 year old car). The back seat looks brand new (OK, big whoup, I know) and the front seat/dash is in good shape, though understandably not as pristine. From a mechanical standpoint, the car has been decently maintained, so it runs well. Even the clock works. A/C has been converted to modern. Intake and exhaust manifolds have been replaced (or at least worked on) and the valve covers were recently redone - all to original specs. However, the engine bay is not detailed. I've always been told to look for a car that (much like an ideal mistress) has a great body and all the trim pieces (and this car certainly qualifies on that count) because the mechanicals can be fixed less expensively (compared to body work).

    In real estate it's: "Location, location, location." With collector cars, its: "Condition, condition, condition", is it not?
  • Ah okay, more like $7,500 --$8,000 now that you describe it. I thought it was a #2 car but I can see now it's a #3.

    You have to be careful about spending too much for a car like this because values are very stagnant and not likely to go anywhere.

    But it's a great cruiser if you have the room for it. You just won't get noticed much like you do in a drop top Caddy. These are good cars.
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    $7,500 to $8,000? Well, that would be lovely if the seller would agree to that. But, something tells me he wouldn't. I agree this car isn't a #1. However, a #1 (a true #1) would be worth well more than his $12,500 asking price - even for a '64 Coupe Deville. Given the merits of this car, I was thinking that $10K would probably be about right. I'd be curious to know how much he paid for it one year ago. All other things being equal, I would think it'd be worth about the same now as what he paid for it then. However, he has made some mechanical repairs (exhaust, manifolds) since then - which I'm sure he would want recognized in his sale price.
  • Well I can't say more without actually seeing it. You see, you are in love and I'm not so I can be cruel and heartless about the fair market price. :P

    For $10,000 the car should be pretty nice all around with no glaring defects or ugliness. for $12,500 it should be borderline spectacular, and for $15,000 the best in the world.

    These are not high dollar cars, the coupes I mean. Sellers have to take their eyes off the convertible prices and realize that theirs has a hard--top.
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