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The Wonderful World of Convertibles – 3

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Between 1997 and 2002, a very limited number of Prowlers were produced, first as the Plymouth and finally as one of the Chrysler line. Fewer than 9,000 were built.

 

 

Ford returned to its ragtop ways when it unveiled a new Mustang convertible at the 1982 Chicago Auto Show. Production models went on sale the following year, and 23,400 buyers stood in line to pay as much as $15,000 for a GT version. Chevy countered in late 1983 with—of all cars—the Cavalier. With Ford and Chevy reopening the open-air path, Cadillac released an all-new Eldorado in 1984. Furious buyers of the “Last convertible” Eldorado quickly filed lawsuits. But the die had been cast: convertibles were back, and the best was yet to come.

 

After a hiatus of more than a decade, the Vette convertible returned in 1986. Chevy commemorated the event by pacing that year’s Indy 500, and Greenlight has just released this 1:18 version.

Two of history’s most successful and significant convertibles were the Mazda Miata and Chrysler Sebring. As different as night and day, these two cars set trends that allowed the world’s automakers to create a reasonable blueprint to design, market and sell ragtops with financial confidence. The Miata (now known exclusively as the MX5) is the best-selling open-air sports car of all time. Chrysler has sold more than 500,000 Sebring convertibles since it introduced them in 1996.  
Convertibles continue to be a staple of the diecast world. The big “mints,” Franklin and Danbury, played a major role in preserving the grace and grandeur of early postwar American convertibles in the premium price range. Maisto, SunStar and Welly have the modest price points covered. GMP’s recent additions of the 1970 GTO and Roadrunner are taking the lead position in the classic muscle-car category along with Exact Detail’s 1970 Chevelle SS454. RC2 also offers an array of convertibles in low to medium price ranges. Hundreds of makes and models are available in 1:64 scale from Hot Wheels, Jada, Maisto, Johnny Lightning and Matchbox.
 The import sports-car market is also well represented in diecast thanks to Kyosho (BMW, Miata, MG-A, Porsche Boxster, Mini Cooper), AUTOart (Fiat 124, Nissan 350Z, MGB, etc.) and Mattel (Ferrari Daytona, California, etc.).
 

 

Even as the enthusiasm for  convertibles faded, the Vette roadster remained popular. This Franklin ’70 is notable for its fiberglass, rather than diecast, body and hardtop.

Today’s automakers have taken their cue from half a century ago, and nearly all offer at least one convertible model. For the 2007 model year, drivers will have more than 50 ways to put wind in their hair at prices ranging from as low as $20,000 for the Chrysler PT Cruiser to $320,000 for the Lamborghini Murcielago.  While the spirit of the early days of convertibles has returned, the
problems that plagued automakers in the ’50s and ’60s have been remedied. Advancements such as independent rear suspension, front-wheel drive, thermal polymer molding and computer-assisted structural design have removed the shortcomings subjected to time and mileage.  The taste of consumers has changed with the times as well. This is reflected in the size and styles of contemporary convertibles. For example, the 2007 Chrysler Sebring is 31 inches shorter than its 1969 counterpart; it is also 1,119 pounds lighter. The new version gives up 170  (continued on the next page…)

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:25 AM

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