Wind in the hair motoring is something that goes hand in hand with classic cars. Yes, there are classic cars of all shapes and sizes, but even so, it’s the convertibles that we romanticise. The thought of blasting through the countryside in an open-top Jaguar E Type is far more exciting than doing the same in, say, a Triumph Dolomite. Convertibles just scream carefree fun, and that’s something we all want a slice of. And that’s why we’ve put this list together.
We’ve rounded up five classic convertibles for you to mull over while you wait for the weather to get a bit more… suitable. And because we know everyone is different, we’ve tried to cover a wide range of budgets. Driving with the sky as your roof isn’t reserved for the wealthy – it’s open to everyone. So have a look at our list and decide what you want to buy, and where you want to go…
1) Up to £2,500 – The MGF
Don’t scoff. The MGF might not be the most obvious classic, but with early models now being 25 years old, they deserve a place on this list. Plus, the MGF was and still is a brilliant mid-engine, rear-wheel drive roadster. It was designed by the same man who penned the Escort RS Cosworth, which gives it serious cool points. It was held to the road via clever and very sporty Hydragas suspension and in 1.8VVC (Variable Valve Control) guise, it packed 143bhp.
People will make jokes about the head gasket, and the truth is the MGF was plagued with issues, thanks in no small part to the complex nature of the cooling system. However, if you’re buying one today, the head gasket will almost certainly have been repaired, so you have nothing to worry about. And at up to £2,500, you can’t get more bang for your buck.
You can always rely on the Germans to knock it out of the park when it comes to building an elegant, sleek convertible with tight lines and enviable build quality, and the mighty Audi convertible of the ‘80s is exactly that. Just referred to as the Convertible, the Audi is actually based on the 80. However, you get an electric folding roof that retracts into the body of the car.
Audi did its best, but even so, the Convertible isn’t the most torsionally rigid of vehicles, as such it’s more of a cruiser than a B-road blaster. But get a 2.8 V6 and you’ll be rewarded with a wondrous soundtrack everywhere you go. Plus, being an Audi, the build quality is exceptional, and as such, it still feels tight to drive today. A definite daily classic, that’s for sure.
When it comes to classic convertibles, there are few as striking and as iconic as the mighty Saab 900, in Turbo guise of course. You could buy a naturally aspirated one, but where’s the fun in that? What you need is the whistle of a turbocharger mated to a 16-valve engine in your ears as you drive along. With 175bhp, the 900 Turbo was and still is no slouch. Sadly, it is the automotive home of scuttle shake, but we choose to see that as an amusing characteristic rather than an out and out flaw.
Saab 900s used to be cheap machines, but over the years the values have climbed for the best cars. This has been helped by the demise of Saab, which now makes these classics something rather exclusive. But more than that, the 900 convertible is a safe, fast, four-seater that, much like the Audi, you could use every day should you like. And when you do, you will be sure to turn heads as people give you admiring glances. The Saab 900 is just, well, it’s just cool. And who doesn’t want to be cool?
We couldn’t put this list together without including a TVR, could we? And while prices for the Griffith have shot up, the Chimaera remains relatively affordable. Two seats, a fibreglass body draped over a spaceframe chassis, a manual gearbox and a thumping great V8 make this one of the most exciting, evocative cars in this category. You’ll love it for the noise alone, but it’s a lot more than that. The hand-built Blackpool bullet is an example of wonderful design with near-perfect proportions. It’s a proper sports car.
Introduced in 1992, the Chimaera was a bigger, longer car than those previously offered by TVR. This made it less of a handful on the road, though be warned, it’s still a V8 with rear-wheel drive – some caution is required. Shop around for a Chimaera – there are plenty – and get one that’s been looked after (the chassis can rot badly) and you’ll have a ragtop that will have you giggling like a giddy child every time you blip the throttle.
When the budget is unlimited, there is nothing to hold you back other than your imagination. However, we would encourage you to consider this, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Spider, because when it comes to classic convertibles there are few as beautiful as those cars from Italy. And the Giulia, well, it is quite simply achingly beautiful. It’s also a reminder that convertibles aren’t about the destination, they’re about the journey. They are for enjoying the moment, not breakneck speed.
We’ve gone for the Giulia rather than the Giulietta as it has a bigger 1.6 engine which will make it more enjoyable in today’s traffic. It still has the pure, delicate design of its forebear though, with lashings of chrome and perfectly sculpted lines. This is a car that everyone will love and fall for, whether they like cars or not. It’s an exercise in style as much as it is one of all things automotive.