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The Wonderful World of Convertibles – 2

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Numbers drastically dropped in ’66 to 162,523, followed by 150,538 in ’67 and a dismal 118,366 in ’68. Additional safety regulations and escalating insurance rates made convertibles more expensive to manufacture and more costly to own.
During this time of drop-tops and high horsepower and the problems each would eventually create for the domestic auto industry, the import brands more than picked up the slack. Small, fun-to-drive sports cars from MG, Triumph, Fiat, Volkswagen and Datsun embedded themselves in the hearts and minds of enthusiastic American drivers. Beginning with the release of B in 1962 and lasting until the collapse of MG’s parent company, British Leyland, the English automaker found homes for 365,000 of the two-seaters in the U.S. Not to

 

 

Yat Ming’s 1960 Chrysler 300F represents the luxury convertible segment well.

 

 

be outdone, from 1968 through the 1972 model year, Fiat sold 458,000 of its Italian 124 Spyder sports cars. The undisputed king of imported convertibles was the Volkswagen Beetle. Manufactured from 1959 until 1979, 540,000 of the demure open-air tubs were sold.
While the imports may have had distribution numbers, there was no replacement for the style of the great American convertible— especially those of the 1950s. Aside from the aforementioned ’57 Chevy Bel Air, the massive Cadillacs, powerful Chryslers, stylish Pontiacs and legendary Oldsmobiles made this the decade that defined the romance between man and machine.
Convertibles slowly disappeared from the American automotive landscape throughout the ’70s. Ford, GM and Chrysler phased the once popular symbols of success and style from their lineups. The final (at the time) Mustang convertible was built in 1973. Chevy ceased production of

Franklin’s brawny Chevelle SS proves that even though convertible sales may have been waning in 1968, style and muscle were not.

 

 

the Caprice convertible and Corvette Roadster a year later as well. What was billed as “The last convertible” rolled off the Cadillac assembly line in June 1976. The final Eldorado was taken directly to a General Motors storage warehouse for eventual display. The last Eldorado to be sold was reportedly purchased by Russell Knott as a gift to his father, Walter, creator of Knott’s Berry Farm, the world’s first theme park.
The final American convertibles proved to be nothing more than a shortsighted decisions or well-publicized farces.  (continued on next page…)

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Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:25 AM

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