Popular Convertible Car Hits
Here are some of our convertible choices you should consider adding to your collection. While every car collector wouldn’t mind having a 71 ‘Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible in their collection, we figured we should keep the models to ones available for the average buyer.
The Mazda Miata MX-5
There are a lot of reasons to like the first-generation Mazda MX-5. Mazda developed the two-seater in 1989, initially powered by a 1.6L Inline four-cylinder producing 116 hp. The engine wasn’t powerful enough to get into trouble, but it was fast enough to buzz in and out of traffic and had a grip on the road that made it power through curves like much more expensive sports cars. While power steering and power brakes weren’t added until later, the sports car was good enough to win Wheels Magazine's Car of the Year in 1989 and then Automobile Magazine’s Car of the Year in 1990. Car and Driver awarded the MX-5 with a Top 10 listing for three years (1990 - ‘92).
Mazda manufactured over 431k of these sports cars from 1989 to ‘97 before moving on to the second generation Miata. That number means that parts are readily available, and used models are readily available for reasonable prices.
Porsche has been in the business of making convertibles for years. The 968 was produced from 1991 - ‘95. As the last front-mounted water-cooled engine until the Cayenne, the 968 replaced the 944 as the entry-level Porsche. The sportscar was powered by a 3.0L four-cylinder rated at 236 hp and 225 lb-ft of torque. The car had an 11.0:1 compression ratio and could zip down the track, posting 6.4 seconds 0 - 60 mph. (By 1993, Porsche offered a Turbo S version that nailed a 4.7 second time but only made 14 of them - none offered in the US). With a top speed of 157 mph, the 968 is plenty fast for the daily driver.
The 968 Porsche came with a standard six-speed manual transmission with an optional automatic. While only 12k units were produced globally (4,665 were sold in the US/Canada), the car is one of the most famous Porsche models ever produced. While values have fluctuated recently, the manual shift in yellow, blue, red, or violet tends to be worth more.
Ford Mustang (First Generation)
When Ford came out with their pony car for the 1965 model year, the company could not have imagined their new sports car would become an instant classic. Estimating that they would only sell less than 100k units, the goal was exceeded within three months. After eighteen months, Ford had rolled over a million cars off the production line.
The ‘65 Mustang had a standard inline six producing 120 hp, with three other higher-performance V8 engines as options. A floor-mounted 3-speed manual transmission mounted to the floor was standard, but the Cruise-O-Matic transmission could be ordered. According to Hagerty, the 1965 - ‘67 models are the most reasonably priced, with good-quality models ranging from $35 - $75k. Now that the Mustang is on its way toward electric propulsion, we estimate that this classic convertible car will only continue to increase in value.
The convertible Corvette was integral to Chevrolet’s efforts to compete with foreign sports cars since its introduction in 1953. As the Corvette morphed into the Stingray, the second-generation Corvette (1963 - ‘67), Americans fell in love with the new design and made the two-seat convertible a part of the daily driving experience.
The C2 Corvette sold almost as well as a drop-top as the Coupe, and with a 327 ci V8 with a single four-barrel carburetor producing 250 hp was the standard powerplant in 1965, while there were also four other V8 options that could push the power output up to 350. A proven three-speed manual transmission was standard (although a four-speed manual and Powerglide automatic were options). Four-wheel disc brakes were introduced in ‘65, immensely adding to the vehicle's safety.
Hagerty lists a C2 Corvette convertible version as having a value of $58,000, although models with amenities like leather, power windows, and air conditioning (all options) can increase the value dramatically. Chevy produced over 117k C-2 Corvettes during the ‘63 - ‘67 production run, with about half convertibles.
Agonizing Convertible Car Misses
Just as some great convertibles have been manufactured over the years, there have also been a few duds. Let’s examine our top picks.
When Yugo introduced their low-cost version of transportation in the mid-eighties, the cheap car got snatched up by hard-working families attracted by the $3,990 price. The company marketed the economical vehicle as an affordable, reliable means of transportation, claiming that “Everyone Needs A Yugo Sometime.” With over 141k models sold over its production run of eight years, the car seemed destined to replace the VW Beetle as every man’s car. Unfortunately, the car was worthless, suffering from poor build quality, constant breakdowns, an ugly design, and a general source of ridicule from every other driver on the road.
Yugo needed a way to win itself back into the hearts of buyers, and for the 1990 - ‘91 model year, launched the Cabriolet. Less than 500 units were produced (most of them sold in the US),
The car was powered by a tiny 1.3 SOHC inline-four with a four-speed manual transmission or three-speed automatic transmission, had a top speed of 84 mph, and got terrible fuel economy.
Chevrolet Cavalier Convertible
With a rising flood of imports gaining popularity in the early eighties, Chevrolet thought it could stem the tide by introducing the Cavalier convertible to the lineup in 1983. The Cavalier was only the second front-wheel drive vehicle to be added to the Chevy lineup and their first attempt at a convertible model since discontinuing the Caprice in 1975. Chevrolet used a 2.0 inline (LQ5) four-cylinder engine with EFI, producing an underwhelming 84 hp as the only engine offered. Despite its $11,291 sticker (for the convertible), the Cavalier was the top-selling car for 1984 and 1985.
Chevy produced almost two million Cavaliers from 1981 - ‘87, but only 21k were convertibles. No one should expect that the Cavalier will ever reach the heights of a Hemi ‘Cuda in value because it is simply one of the ugliest designs Chevy ever produced.
Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible
With its retro styling design, Chrysler launched the PT Cruiser to woo customers toward its struggling brand. When a drop-top version joined the lineup in 1985, many considered the new Chrysler one of the ugliest cars on the planet. Coupled with its poor performance in frontal crash test ratings, the car sold reasonably well, with over 1.35 million units over ten years.
A standard 2.4L four-cylinder engine powered the PT Cruiser, producing 150 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. The Chrysler convertible suffered from mechanical issues and poorly designed interiors with cheap plastic knobs that continually broke off. The sheer volume of vehicles makes finding used versions (as well as parts) pretty straightforward, but frankly, who would want to? The PT Cruiser is better off dying a death rusting out in a junkyard than sitting in anyone’s garage.
GEO Metro Convertible
The Metro started as a joint venture between GM and Suzuki but failed to catch on with American buyers. GEO produced the Metro from 1987 - 1997, while Chevy tried to carry on the moniker from ‘98 to 2001. The car was supposed to be a simple, inexpensive car that could appeal to the masses, but it was a bonafide failure. (There are other words we wanted to use but couldn’t).
The 1.3L four-cylinder was underwhelming, and the car’s bland styling and cheap interiors were another reason to pass on the car. This car is a convertible that will not add to the value of your collection, no matter how good it looks or runs. This car's only saving grace is its excellent fuel economy, averaging nearly 50 mpg on the highway. GM replaced the Metro with the Aveo, which wasn’t much of an upgrade.
Popular Convertible Best - Buys
While few people can afford the Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles selling for millions of dollars on the auction block, some offer excellent value as drop-tops. Here are our votes for some of the best buys on the market.
Toyota MR-2 Spyder
Toyota offered the Spyder at a time when small roadsters were the rage, and everybody envied anyone who drove one. The third-generation Spyder was designed to compete with the Miata and was powered by a 1.8L twin-cam four-cylinder engine in 2001 that produced 138 hp and 126 lb-ft of torque. When mated with the five-speed manual transmission, the Spyder was lighter than its Nissan competitor and priced less, which made it attractive to many buyers.
Toyota was riding a tsunami of good press about their quality from the nineties, and the Spyder fit perfectly into that narrative. The Toyota MR-2 was produced between 2000 - 2005 (in the US market) with almost 28k units. Current values by Hagerty make the sports car a perfect investment at $19,500 for a model in excellent condition.
The most unique characteristic of the 1961 - ‘69 Lincoln Continental were the suicide doors, but the car was also a capable performer with luxurious interiors, solid quality, and a powerful V8 engine. The car was introduced in 1961 and was awarded the Excellence in Engineering Award by Car Life magazine the same year.
The Continental was powered by a 7.0L (430 ci) V8 engine (brought over from the Mark V), producing 300 - 320 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. Lincoln equipped the car with power everything. Walnut finishes were found on the dash and comfortable leather seating surfaces. The canvas top was stored in the rear deck and, when raised, had power locks to secure it to the top of the windshield.
Hagerty values the 1961 Lincoln Continental at $68,000 in good condition, but examples can be found for less money. The car is a fine example of a quality automobile made when companies seemed to care about putting out an excellent product.
We wanted to include some muscle cars for consideration, but rather than pick prominent examples like the Charger, Challenger, or Barracuda, we went with the Ford Galaxie. Named to capture Americans' love of the space race, the Ford Galaxie emerged in 1958 as Ford’s premier automobile. During most of the sixties, the Galaxie would be a popular choice for young buyers starting families and beginning to flex their purchasing power.
Our favorite is the 1966 version of the Galaxie 500, which sported a 7.0L (428 ci) Thunderbird V8. The prominent engine muscled power to the rear wheels by putting out 345 hp and had an 8.0 second 0 - 60 mph and a quarter mile time of 15.2 seconds. With its stacked headlight grilled and simple Coke bottle design, the Galaxie was the third best-selling car for the year, beaten only by the Mustang and the Impala.
Hagerty values a 1966 Galaxie as having a value of $38,000, and with so many units produced, it is relatively easy to find an excellent example for your collection.