Which are the best classic convertibles?
At this time of year thoughts start to turn to longer, lighter days, warmer temperatures and ditching the coat until October. So what better time of year to start thinking about darting around in a classic drop-top?
Here, we offer an eclectic range of suggestions – from cheap and cheerful to rare gems.
MG MIDGET/AUSTIN HEALEY SPRITE
The beauty of the MG Midget, also available in earlier models as the near-identical Austin Healey Sprite, is that there is one for almost any level of classic car buyer.
Decent usable examples can be had for as little as £1,500. For that, you’ll usually be looking at later examples towards the end of the Midget’s life, with a 1500cc engine and the often-maligned rubber bumpers. The purist collectors’ choice they might not be, but if cheap top-down fun is your aim, this is hard to beat. At the other end of the scale, pristine examples of the cars, which first hit the road in 1961, can fetch well into five figures. For that, concours quality is what you can expect.
Maintenance and parts are cheap and some 226,000 examples were built up to 1980, so it’s not hard to see why the Midget is still has a huge following worldwide today.
TRIUMPH HERALD CONVERTIBLE
Another British institution, the Triumph Herald was produced between 1959 and 1971 in various guises, including the popular convertible. Italian design meant it was no ugly duckling and total sales were more than half a million, so there are plenty still on the road.
As with the aforementioned MG Midget, prices can vary widely – from restoration project of less than £1,000 up to factory-standard cars that are well into the tens of thousands. If a bit of retro British summer fun is what you want, it needn’t cost the earth by any means.
Harking back to the glory days of the 1960s, stick a bit of rock ‘n’ roll on the stereo and you’ll be transported back to a bygone age.
FORD MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE
Hopping across the pond, the legendary Ford Mustang is the complete antithesis to the British classics. Think Steve McQueen, long, straight open roads and big, big engines. The Mustang has never been sold in the UK, until 2015 that is, so all cars are imports in one way or another.
The ‘Stang was launched in 1964 and examples from that period evoke the golden age of the American Dream, when petrol was cheap and the country was mobilising with glamour and coolness. For these purposes we’ll stick to the first generation car, produced between 1964 and 1973, is the archetypal Mustang.
But they’ll cost you most, of course, with prices in the UK for decent useable examples getting well into five figures. That said, they’re a genuine investment and will only appreciate in value if you look after yours.
VW BEETLE CONVERTIBLE
You’ve got to have a European option when looking at classic convertibles and what better than the iconic VW Beetle? Most will know its history, of course, as the car first developed in Nazi Germany by none other than Ferdinand Porsche.
Later, it became the complete antidote to the totalitarian regime in which it was conceived, as it was adopted as the vehicle of choice for free-spirited hippies in the 1960s. And the drop-top couldn’t be a more ideal car for that trip to the beach. Almost 22,000,000 original-style Beetles were built before it finally stopped being made in 2003 and they continue to be sought-after
Convertibles command good prices, unsurprisingly, and are harder to come by.
ALFA ROMEO SPIDER
This list just wouldn’t be complete without an Italian and the Alfa Romeo Spider is a special one.
You might best know it from its famous performance in running out of petrol with Dustin Hoffman at the wheel in the film The Graduate.
It was built between 1966 and 1993, but what we’re really talking about here is the sweet little original, produced from 1966 to 1969, that you could quite easily see yourself blatting around the Italian countryside.
That said, all versions through the years maintained that classic look, possibly with the exception of the final early-90s iteration, and therefore you can probably find one if your budget is limited.
For later ones sub-£10,000 would see if you driving off into the sunset. However, if you want to be like the previously mentioned Mr Hoffman, you’ll need more like £50,000 or even more.