Alan’s not converted

Recently, Mr Alan Liddell gave us the lowdown on his Real World Dream Barn. Clearly inspired by the positivity surrounding his top ten list, he’s now written some words on one of his motoring pet hates. I’ll leave the waffling to Alan now, but will say that you can follow him on twitter @aldoliddell

I have loved following the Shatchback story here on PetrolBlog. It has struck a chord with many petrolheads and has inspired me to write about a type of car that I have a problem with, and that is a car with no roof…

Now, I don’t really mean cars that have been designed to be a roadster/convertible, although i don’t like too many of them either. No, the ones that get me are the everyday family cars that have had a tin opener taken to them.

Before I start, if you think I hate convertibles because I’m up here in the frozen north, then you’re wrong! I admit that they are only useful for about 15 minutes a year in Scotland, but my dislike is to do with the fact they are too often a poorer car than the one they are based on. I suppose your worries will be more about damage from parking under coconut trees down there in the tropics?

Apologies for the rant, it must be the cold getting to me. So where was I?

Oh aye, lifestyle choices derived from family cars. You hear these cars called by a few names – convertible, drop top, soft top, or the worst…cabriolet. Urgh. What pretentious nonsense.

MK3 Vauxhall Astra cabrioletThese feelings of dislike for the cabrio have been suppressed for a while now, but came to the fore the other day when I passed a very clean 205 CTI. In white. Very ’80s! These, I believe, are quite sought after, and, just as when they were new, I’ve no idea why you would choose one over a tin top 205 GTI. In my opinion it is compromised in almost every way, just to cater for weather we Brits hardly ever see! It is beaten by its tin top brother on looks, handling, performance, practicality, security… need I go on? The 205 is a drivers’ car ruined by the soft top version and, I think, explains my grievance perfectly. I’m not just picking on the 205 either – the Renault 19, Rover 200, Escort MK3/4/5, Astra MK2/3 all have similar issues.

The MK3 Astra is actually something of a double whammy, as the drop top version was based on the saloon, making it a Shatchback as well!

Another one that springs to mind is the 1993 Rover Mini Cabriolet. The styling just looks so awkward! You can hear the Rover directors in the boardroom, “Yes, we’ll get John Cooper to do the sporty models, and erm, Silver Cross to make the cabrio”. Remember as well that in 1993 this cost £11,995 against the Cooper’s £7,195. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Although it doesn’t technically fit in here, I must admit that a few years ago my wife and I had 18 months with an MGTF as our main car. I’ll also admit that it was good value to buy, good to drive and nice to look at. However no-one can convince me that it’s half as nice as the lovely coupé prototype they made. I’m sure this would have sold very well if it had been given a chance.

I appreciate this might get a few backs up. A lot of people love these cars and I would never slag off any car enthusiast or people that are keeping rare cars going. They’re just not for me.

I look forward to some comments and hopefully a few people agreeing with me!

Be interesting to see what people think of Alan’s view. Answers on a postcard to the usual address, or simply leave a comment below.

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ABOUT AUTHOR
Gavin Big-Surname
The chief waffler and founder of PetrolBlog in 2010. Has a rather unhealthy obsession with cars from the 80s and 90s, and is on a one-man mission to collect the cars nobody else wants. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

18 comments

  1. January 22, 2012
    Aaron Marsh

    I can wholeheartedly agree on some levels (such as the Mini, Vaux Corsa, Pug 205 and Rover 100) as they’re literally a hatchback with the roof cut off. I’d say 90% of them are actually developed as a model in their own right.

    I’ve yet to own (and therefor form an experianced opinion) on drop-tops, but I’d like to think that I’ll own one at some point.

    Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      aldoliddell

      Yeah agree with all the models you mention! As you can read below loads of people love them so don’t let my nonsense stop you owning one, the MX-5 Antony mentions is a great shout, still pretty cheap at the moment as well. Just steer clear of the Escorts and Astras!

      Reply
  2. January 22, 2012
    Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    Five years ago, I would have agreed with this.

    Now, I’m not so sure.

    My mind was turned to soft-tops after I bought my MX5, though obviously this was designed as one from the outset. It did introduce me to the joys of top-down driving though, and the first fallacy is that you can barely ever get to drop the top in the UK – that’s just an impression held by people who haven’t bought one.

    I can only speak for the MX5, but it was so easy to drop the top that I did it quite regularly. Even in colder weather, because the heater was excellent and buffeting not so bad, so the inside of the car would remain warm.

    Hatchback-cum-convertibles are slightly different of course and generally have a few structural issues, but I don’t necessarily think they’re all bad. Apart from the Astra. But ever since my brother got a 205 GTI I’ve mused about how fun a nice CTI could be, particularly in the summer when convertibles are simply better than regular cars. No arguments please – there is no motoring experience like dropping the hood on a sunny day. Once you’ve done it, you wonder why all cars aren’t like that.

    I always liked the Renault 19 convertible too, partly because the twin-humped tonneau cover was so well designed. The Megane ‘vert had the same thing going on, and that looked good too. Then there’s the Mini, and the older Beetle if you like, which both look a bit daft with the pram-hood but are still cheap, characterful ways of driving in the open air. Even the current MINI convertible would probably be great fun with the roof down and a few (small) friends in the back.

    This is turning into a blog post of its own so I’ll leave it there…

    NB. You do have a point on security. My MX5 got nicked. Though it’s not like a regular 1980s hatchback isn’t easy to steal anyway…

    Reply
    • January 22, 2012
      MajorGav

      I completely agree with you re the number of times you can have the roof down or off. When I had the VX, the roof was off more than on, even throughout the winter. A fleece, hat and gloves were essential though!

      And then when I tested the 308CC a few weeks back, I found that even in the coldest weather, it was possible to have the roof down.

      Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      aldoliddell

      I only had the roof down a few times in my MGTF, but never really enjoyed it, would possibly have been better if i had invested in one of those wind deflectors! I still stick by my moaning-faced opinions, i just prefer the look of hard top cars (where there is the option). I totally agree that the MX-5 is a fine car, i wonder if I could import a coupe from Japan…

      Reply
  3. January 22, 2012
    #Project924

    To start, I think roadsters are superb, I own one, and some of the nicest drives ever have been wrapped up warm on sub zero day with clear blue skies and the roof down. One or twice with snow on the ground. As a top down experience I think a crisp cold day beats sweltering sunlight. So, I like having the roof down.

    But I do agree, I am not for convertibles. I like to have a car in the form in which it was designed. Especially some of the older cars. Picked up so far have been ’80s hatches, but even the more exotic, the Porsche 911, pre-996, when down the roof looks like a pram. Or the Ferrari Mondial Convertible, which I admit to wanting for a moment when I saw it in Weird Science, but no, it is wrong. Although 2 seater roadsters / spiders I am willing to accept.

    To take the case against lopping the roof of a *ahem* perfectly good car to it’s extreme, I present the Vauxhall Cavalier Convertible. All kinds of wrong.

    And yet the Americans seem to do it well, with their really big cars. The convertible Cadillac or Lincoln Continental have a certain appeal. I suspect they would be shocking to drive and yet, I quite want one. Not over here. In the US, maybe. Maybe with hydraulics for extra bounce. Or perhaps that’s it! This type of automotive hatchet job is best left for saloons, cars with the correct profile and something that wasn’t the best drivers’ car in the first place?

    To end with something familiar, from the point about the saloon profile above, I think that the current tin top CCs leaves them looking not entirely dissimilar from the trusty shatchback.

    Reply
    • January 23, 2012
      Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

      I concur with the 911, but I’d extend it to any generation of 911 convertible. That said, I’d have the Targa versions, for the aforementioned reasons of open-top cars being brilliant. Post 993 Targas in particular look fantastic, mainly thanks to the long, glass roofs.

      Reply
      • February 1, 2012
        #Project924

        Yes, the Targas are great cars. I made a comment on Twitter earlier when someone asked for comments about the new 911 convertible, simply… if you want a convertible Porsche, but a Boxster. I guess I could add to that, if you want fresh air, buy a Targa. The 993 even had it’s own split rim alloys!

        Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      aldoliddell

      Good call with the cavalier! I agree that the 2 seat roadster on a nice drive on a nice day sounds good, but i personally dont believe that it would be better in a convertible 205/XR3i than a hard top version. I have to put my hands up with your American car comment, i agree the full size 50’s & 60’s Convertibles do look good! But only over there, on a long straight road! I googled this after reading your comments and admit the ’65 Pontiac GTO and the 50’s Cadillac Eldorado look pretty good! Not sure how good they would be to drive, but they do look the part. I think they look a bit OTT when you see them at shows here though. I like the CC comment at the end, don’t get me started! The 206cc def. has the shatchback look!

      Reply
      • February 1, 2012
        #Project924

        You’re quite right about the big American convertibles, I think the caveat there would be, in their environment. Over here they tend to look a bit silly. Pontiac GTO is a fantastic looking car, in any form.

        Reply
  4. January 23, 2012
    James Clark

    I will take you out in the Land Rover 90 rag-top when she’s running. Started life as a County. Trucks with no roof are cool, because they’re so utterly pointless and impractical.

    Reply
    • January 23, 2012
      MajorGav

      Ooh, you’ve finally got yourself a Landy, James?! Excellent. That’s the problem with not being on twitter – I’m so out of touch. I need to know more, so I’ll drop you an email. Cheers. G

      Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      aldoliddell

      Does sound interesting! I suppose i can be 2-faced with this one as it can’t change the way a landy drives too much, does it? And you can always bolt the roof back on when winter comes round!

      Reply
  5. January 23, 2012
    limey

    Some reasonable points made, but on the whole I can’t agree with the rant up top.

    For starters, you’ll be amazed at the number of times roof off motoring is possible in the UK. I especially loved sunny winter days and crisp clear nights for driving sans roof. My funniest moment was when I got caught out by a hail storm while blatting down a country road. It was a full 30 seconds of pain on my noggin before I found a safe place to pull over and roof up. By which time the foot-well carpet was covered in a layer of ice.

    Yes, some hatches look awful in cabrio mode, old escort, golf and astra are prime examples. However, I’d gladly have a 205 or original mini rag top.

    Motoring along with the fresh air blasting around you is a wonderful experience. Though I do accept that its not for everyone.

    The writer does make an excellent point in that convertibles that are designed to be as such are better regular cars that have been chopped. I certainly agree and that’s the ideal, however, its not always practical.

    Oh and the convertible that I had? It was a CRX DelSol SiR import with the TransTop electric roof. My wife and I really enjoyed that car and were gutted when a plonker in a Probe drove into it.

    Reply
    • January 23, 2012
      MajorGav

      I agree. In my book, if it’s not raining, get the roof off!

      As for the CRX DelSol – hmmmm. Off to eBay I go… 😉

      Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      aldoliddell

      The Hail story made me laugh, sounded sore! Sounds like most people replying like the feeling of regular open air driving which is fair enough! I’m not so sure myself but would not rule out ever owning a soft top car again, it just wont be one of those 80’s/90’s hot hatches i mentioned!

      Reply
  6. January 25, 2012
    FailCar

    I also hate the 205 CTi. Have you seen the video by Kanye West and Jay-Z for the song Otis? Well the Maybach in that looks like it may have been created by the same people that modified the 205 GTI to create the CTI. Don’t get me wrong, I love convertibles (MX-5 and S2000 also in the garage…) but ones not built for purpose tend to be turds.

    Reply
    • January 25, 2012
      MajorGav

      Ha! Welcome back Mr FailCar! PetrolBlog’s a better place when you’re around!

      Reply

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