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Driving Down the Convertible's Memory Lane

Miguel Mendez/Wikimedia

It's been a long road for the convertible since it's hey-day.

Our dreary spring weather, with the occasional brief flirtation with summer temperatures, has all of us ready to bust out of our homes to the nearest patio, deck, or outdoor restaurant seating.

The same is true for driving. Windows down and sunroofs open are an integral part of summer driving.

Nothing compares, though, to the unbridled pleasure of a convertible. And although this style of car has always been with us, it goes through its own cycles of popularity.

Automotive contributor Mark Savage remembers there were many convertibles available when he was a kid - like Dodge Dart, Volkswagon Beetle, and Chevy Corvair convertibles. But there were also convertibles that families could afford to buy, like the Plymouth Valiant or Chevy Impala convertibles.

"You could buy (it) and the whole family could fit in and go take a ride and have a good time in the summertime and so forth," he says.

These days, though, convertibles had taken a decidedly upscale tone, with very few of them being affordable to the average person. Savage says most convertibles today are $35,000 and up, and are mostly sports cars and "the rich man's convertible."

But he says that doesn't mean car companies couldn't get creative.

"They're making a new Impala right now," he says. "I guess I'd like to see them, why not cut the top off of one of these things and see what people would do? I think because the automotive marketplace is so much follow the leader, it's really hard for anybody to have the guts to go out and take a chance on something like that."

If convertibles were to become popular again, Savage suspects they would be four-door, to fit the modern demand. But he also acknowledges that the price - rather than a sweet power hard top - is what will ultimately determine if the convertible comes back.

Savage also admits he's biased toward convertibles.

"After a week of driving this Beetle convertible, it's hard to go to work or go home in a bad mood, because you put the roof down and it's 75 or so degrees and life is good," he says. 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel auto writer Mark Savage is also the editor of American SnowmobilerMagazine, which is published by Kalmbach publishing in Waukesha.

Dan Harmon was one of the original members of Lake Effect (formerly At Ten). He started at WUWM in November of 1998 and left December of 2015 after 17 years of production.
Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.