The convertible is the classic symbol of true cool. It’s been that way since the internal combustion engine was invented. Over the years, auto manufacturers have pushed the limit of creative design and cutting-edge innovation to meet that high standard. And as the weather heats up, we thought we’d take a look at 10 of the most iconic drop-tops since 1950.
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It’s tough to deny the Americana appeal of the first generation ’Vette. Its design is instantly recognizable, with its wraparound windshield, rolling shape, and iconic creases that sweep from the front wheel wells into the doors. And the addition of an optional 265 cubic-inch V-8 engine in 1955 and a fuel-injection system in 1957 gave the Corvette power to match its presence.
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General Motors made sure that the 1950’s would end with a bang when they created the ’59 Eldorado. With Batman-like tail fins, dual “bullet” taillights, jeweled front and rear grilles, and chrome in almost every place you can imagine, the Eldorado is the epitome of what some would consider gaudy 1950’s styling. But the bells and whistles didn’t end with the design: the Eldorado featured power equipment such as seats, windows, locks, steering, and brakes as well as air suspension features that many cars of the day didn’t offer.
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Many enthusiasts value this British roadster for its sleek body and cutting edge performance of the 1960’s. The Series 1 handled well for its day, thanks in part to a torsion bar front suspension, independent coil spring suspension, and disk brakes as a standard feature. Early Series 1 models had a 265-hp 3.8-liter inline six cylinder engine and four-speed manual transmission. Later cars received a larger 4.2-liter engine with more torque and an updated transmission.
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The Shelby Cobra is an unconventional vehicle. And that’s why we love it. The car was developed after Carol Shelby crammed a Ford V-8 engine into a lightweight AC Ace roadster body. The souped-up coupe had mixed success on the race track, but the Cobra remains popular in part because of its unique backstory. Early cars had 260 and 289 cubic-inch Ford V-8s, while later models received larger 427 and 428 cubic-inch engines. Our hats are off to you if you can track down one of these old beauties; only a little more than 1000 Shelby Cobra roadsters were built from 1962 to 1967.
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The Ford Mustang debuted five months before the 1965 production year in order to appear at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, the Mustang has become one of the most iconic cars in American history, and the first generation convertible is practically rock and roll on wheels. In its first model year, the Mustang was available with four engines: a 101-hp 170 cubic-inch inline 6 cylinder, a 164-hp 260 cubic-inch V-8, and a 289 cubic-inch V-8 with 210-hp or 271-hp. The Mustang saw instant success and served as the inspiration for other “pony cars”, including the Chevrolet Camaro and the Plymouth Barracuda.
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Why should sports cars and luxury vehicles have all the summer fun? The International Scout is right at home cruising on the beach or trekking through the forest for a weekend adventure. Sadly, sport utility convertibles fell out of vogue in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, but the trend could be returning. Land Rover is expected to release a Range Rover SUV convertible in 2016.
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As the 1960’s gave way to the 70’s, the Triumph TR6 stands out as one of the last hold-outs of the old-school body-on-frame design. Triumph was also keen to include a 2.5 liter inline 6 cylinder engine, which gave the British roadster some added pep over its 4 cylinder competitors, such as Alfa Romeo and MG.
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The Mercedes-Benz SL convertible managed to escape the boxy design and sharp angles that ruled the 1970’s and 80’s. And for that reason, it stands out as one of the most handsome convertibles of its time. Over its 17 years of production, the third generation SL had engines ranging from a 2.8 liter I-6 to a whopping 5.6 liter V-8.
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The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most rugged convertibles ever built. Although outwardly resembling the original Willys MB and the Jeep CJ, the Wrangler received a different and improved suspension, drivetrain, and interior. Its compact size, 4x4 off-road capabilities, rectangular fold-flat windshield, and ability to be driven without a top or doors have made the Jeep Wrangler popular around the world to adventure enthusiasts, beach-goers, and others. The Wrangler is in its third generation and has undergone multiple trim packages, editions, and updates, including Chrysler’s 285-hp 3.6 liter Pentastar V-6 and five-speed automatic in 2012. However, many purists will tell you a Wrangler with an automatic transmission is blasphemy.
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Porsche has a long legacy of producing performance convertibles, but the latest Porsche Boxster S has become one of its most well-rounded convertibles to date. The 315-hp 3.4-liter flat-six engine paired with a six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch transmission redefines the idea of performance. The speedy vehicle accelerates to 60 mph in just a short 4.2 seconds. And front and rear trunks guarantee plenty of luggage space for two. Road trip? We’re thinking yes.