Convertibles are evil. But they’re also wonderful

The duality of a car guy's life
by Chris Harris | Jul 18, 2020
PHOTO: TopGear.com

We all have our weaknesses—Paddy McGuinness can be rendered speechless by a flump, and mine, for my sins, is a good value convertible. Almost always a car I should detest.

How many of you, like me, spent the majority of the lockdown swilling booze and making increasingly irrational and, thankfully, fictional car-buying decisions? Quite. Now that matters have eased and the car showrooms are open again, I expected this madness to end, but it hasn’t. In fact, it culminated last week in me standing among a load of nearly new Ferraris, chatting to a man about a California T. I know: Fetch the straitjacket for the small one that isn’t Fred or Paddy, but can drive a bit.

How had this come to pass? Clearly, the frustration of not driving combined with a Caribbean May left me imagining what it would be like to cruise around with the wind ruffling my hair. Or something. So, I began to appease my need to be in that virtual world, knowing full well I tell people I hate convertibles.

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I hate them because I should hate them. There is no convertible version of a normal car that isn’t worse than the hardtop on which it was based. McLaren does the best job because its carbon tub doesn’t rely on a roof for chassis strength, but the rest twist and shake and rattle and leak and weigh more than a funeral director’s petty-cash box. I have always sneered at convertibles and the people who drive them from my purist’s throne of superiority. And, like mostly strongly held beliefs of one’s twenties and thirties, I’m now regretting taking that position on this subject.

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Because of late—let’s say for a couple of years—I’ve secretly been borrowing the odd convertible to drive, and have found myself having far more fun than I could ever have imagined possible. Roof down, my priorities seem to shift to a different place—I travel more slowly and love the sense of being more exposed to the elements. I couldn’t give one-third of a crap about the steering column shaking or the damping being a bit ropey or the glovebox lid shaking itself to bits. I’m relaxed and happy.

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I never thought this would be possible—in fact, I’ve doggedly resisted it for decades, but there is one car I realize sowed the seed for these events. Eleven years ago, I leased a Mercedes SL63 AMG, ostensibly because the deals Mercedes were offering on them mid-recession were insane. I loved the thing and, unless the rain was typhoon-grade, I ran with the top down. But it was a very competent thing hat on or off. Whereas, some of the tat I find myself considering, isn’t so good.

The Audi RS5 convertible is a 450hp dollop of jelly, but it has V8 charms and four seats and doesn’t cost much compared with a new car, so I want one. Likewise the Alpina B3—what a lovely way to cruise around inhaling others’ flatulence. The common theme here is stuff that has already suffered the depreciation hit, which is why I ended up in said Fandango showroom, looking at a Cali T. My triggers for this were convertible and massive depreciation, and the £95,000 (P5.9 million) California is about the best example out there.

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So, I stood and looked at a beautiful Blu America example and imagined what it would be like to cruise around at not-great speed. And of course, the reality hit me that I’d look like a middle-aged lottery winner—or worse, Paddy McGuinness on his way to get hair implants. So, I jumped into my hardtop coupe and escaped. But I suspect I will soon succumb.

NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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