50's, 60's, & 70's Full size Convertibles

jsylvesterjsylvester Member Posts: 572
edited March 2014 in Chrysler
With spring finally coming, I am anxious to spend some time behind the wheel of mine. I thought a discussion of such would be interesting.

I badly wanted a 58 New Yorker Convertible, but did not want to sell my first born, and to be honest, after seeing a late 50's convertible in person, kind of liked the 60's full sizer's better. After looking at a GTO convertible, didn't want to spend so much money on a car I would be afraid to drive it. Ended up with a 67 Ford Galaxie 500 XL convertible, a boat to be sure, but so many people had a Galaxie growing up, surprising number left, and surprising intereset in it.

So, how different was a 58 New Yorker Convertible from say, an early 70's Chrysler 300 convertible?

What year/make/model would make the best deal to buy, the parameters being:

1. Bang for you buck
2. At a minimum, at least holds it value.
3. Performance
4. Cost of ownership (parts, maintenance, etc.)

I'm getting 14 mpg in mine, but women much prefer it to my old Miata, surprisingly.


  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    The only full-size convertible I really remember from my youth was the '76 Cadillac Eldorado. A great-looking classic if I ever saw one. The only things wrong with it were too much overhang front and rear, brakes that wore out extremely quickly, and that monstrous 500-ci V-8 that got terrible gas mileage.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Well, looking at a car from that era, the ones I like are from the 50's. First choice would be a 55-57 Thunderbird. Only downside is that the ones in good shape are expensive. Second choice would be a '57 Ford Fairlane Skyliner. Of course, the convertable hardtop is grossly overcomplicated and expensive to work on, but oh-so-cool! Third would be the venerable '57 Chevy, like the T-Bird, the nice ones are expensive. Number 4 on the list would be a '59 El Dorado. Some people don't like the styling, but I do. Of course, those would be my top 4 picks. Being a convertable would make up for many faults, just to have the ability to put the top down. I wouldn't even mind a K-car convertable if I could cruise around when the weather was super nice, and drive something else the rest of the time.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHMember Posts: 22,845
    From the 50's-

    '57-'58 Chrysler 300C/D, big motor, big fins, can't get more 50's than that.

    '53 Buick SKYLARK, a spiffed up Roadmaster with
    bigger motor less chrome and wire wheels, Wow!

    From the '60's:

    '62-'64 Pontiac CATALINA, a nice car as a sedan or hardtop became a great one in topless form with a honkin' 389 under the hood.

    '62 Buick Electra, a friend's family owned one of these with the Wildact (401) under the hood and full leather, power everything. I drove it once or twice but I've never forgotten it.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 343
    I bought myself (after inheriting my sister's Karmann Ghia and then my folks' 56 Pontiac Star Chief) was a 57 DeSoto convertible. Great car, with the BIIIIG fins and hemi engine. Loved it, and it would probably be worth upwards of $40k in today's market (I bought it for $175, in 1964).

    Anyway, have fun with your Galaxie -- it's a great ride, and there ain't nuthin like a bench seat covered in smooth, buttery vinyl to keep you and your squeeze up close and personal!
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    I think the most practical value of '70s convertibles would be '73-'75 Chevy Caprice ragtops, especially ones with 454s. They can be picked up at bargain-basement prices.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,077
    I know you told me this before, but I can't remember. Was your DeSoto a Firedome or a Fireflite? Or, better yet, it wasn't an Adventurer, was it?

    PS: you make me sick, picking something like that up for $175.00. Sick I tell you!! (with envy, that is ;-)
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,077
    I came close to buying a '72 Impala convertible. It was white with a light brown interior that was good except for a very cracked dashboard (a common problem). This was back in late '91/early '92. I ended up backing out because they started playing a numbers game with me. One guy quoted $1995 (which I would've bought it for) but then I got told that price was wrong and they wanted something like $2700. They also couldn't "find" the key to the trunk for some reason. Later I found out why. The thing was horribly rusted, although they patched it up well enough that I couldn't tell from the outside. They also got kinda "funny" when I said something about having my mechanic look at it. This one just had a 350-2bbl, although it was enough to move that car's bulk.

    It seems the '71-75 Buick LeSabre is a pretty common convertible too, with a lot of 'em still around. For some reason, Oldsmobile Deltas and Pontiacs of this vintage seem to be much less commonplace.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    Did the '71-'76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtops have a problem with the dashboards cracking?
  • a_l_hubcapsa_l_hubcaps Member Posts: 518

    "I think the most practical value of '70s convertibles would be '73-'75 Chevy Caprice ragtops, especially ones with 454s."

    Those are very cool cars; I've seen several of them for sale in really nice condition. Back in the '80s when I was like 6 years old, my next door neighbor had a mid-70s Caprice sedan, complete with fender skirts, wire wheel covers, etc. I remember really liking that car as a little kid. She eventually sold it and bought a new Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight (around 1991?).

    "Did the '71-'76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtops have a problem with the dashboards cracking?"

    I think all cars from the '70s and '80s had that problem. Both my '86 Pontiac and my brother's '77 Toyota had cracked dash pads when we bought them. We retrofitted both with those molded plastic dash shells. They are really great reproductions that you just push on right over the original dash pad, and they can be bought painted to match. No one would notice anything amiss unless they really knew what to look for, and it's much cheaper and less complex than taking the whole dash apart to install a new pad.

    -Andrew L
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,077
    I've noticed a few cars of the era that seemed immune to it. Both of the Chrysler R-bodies I've owned (2 '79's...a Newport and a NY'er 5th Ave) had dashboards that looked almost brand new. Chrysler "cheated" a bit though with these cars, by using a removable metal panel across the top that you can pry off to get to the speakers. The part that faces the passengers though, is a high-quality soft-touch material that seems to hold up well. My '82 Olds Cutlass had the dash made out of what appeared to be the same material, and it didn't have any cracks. Same with my Grandma's '85 LeSabre. But then my '80 Malibu had cracks all over it. It was the same style as the Olds (except the pod that housed the gauges), but seemed to be of a cheaper material. I honestly can't remember the material on my '86 Monte though, or if it was cracked or not.

    It seems they used two different types of soft-touch material back then. The "good" one was softer to the touch, and would stay soft over the years, while the "bad" one was a bit harder, and became more brittle as the years went by. Sorry, I know that's not the most technical description in the world!

    As for the '71-76 Eldorados, I honestly don't remember, but I'd imagine they did crack. Cadillacs back then had another problem with the soft-touch stuff on the door panels. It looked nice when it was new, but seemed to crack pretty quickly.
  • badtoybadtoy Member Posts: 343
    It was a FireFlite. Maroon with leopard-skin upholstery (obviously aftermarket!). The power steering was so overassisted, I could take my index finger and spin the wheel, making that big ole whale do the most awesome, smokey doughnuts you ever saw!

    If the price makes you sick, what happened to the car will make you even sicker. When I left Guam to go to college, i sold it to some kid who promptly wrapped it around a tree. I have a feeling the tree came out badly too, but the car was totalled. I hope the kid was, too (just kidding, but only partly!).
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,077
    I forget the exact production figures, but I think they only made about 1000-1100 Fireflite convertibles in 1957. The Firedome was a little more popular, but not by much...maybe 1100-1200 I think. It's amazing though, how cheaply cars could be had back then, although when you adjust for inflation, maybe they're not such bargains! But my Mom bought a 1957 Plymouth in 1965 for something like $75.00. She doesn't remember much about it except that it was "Big and gray" (to quote her).

    ps: I woulda made you an offer on it back then, but I was around -6 at the time!
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Member Posts: 1,711
    On the big Eldorados, I noticed that the brakes wore out fairly rapidly and needed servicing quite a lot. The brake system on our doctor's '76 Eldo ragtop was totally gone by 56k miles a couple of years ago.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHMember Posts: 22,845
    was that, if I remember, correctly a convertible cost about $500 more than an equivalent sedan and every full size sedan had a convertible model.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,077
    I seem to recall (I might be off a bit), that the base price of a '58 Impala hardtop coupe was $2693, and the convertible was $2841. Seems like a small price to pay, even figuring for inflation. I read somewhere though, that the average '58 Impala 'vert left the showroom with an MSRP of around $4,000 by the time they added options.
  • andys120andys120 Loudon NHMember Posts: 22,845
    would get you at least a base Corvette and I think a 'Jag XK-150 could come in under $6k.

    2001 BMW 330ci/E46, 2008 BMW 335i conv/E93

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