Summer’s coming, the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting and you’re stuck in a tin box. Granted, air conditioning makes life seem far easier but you still crave a convertible. The problem is, your wife and 2.4 children won’t fit in the MGB or MX5 you had in your younger days.
But four seat convertibles are not the preserve of the rich and famous. For little more than the cost of a supermini there are some excellent classics from which to choose. And if your budget doesn’t quite stretch to ten grand we’ve even found one for three. Read on…
Think classic four seat convertibles and you think Triumph Stag. That gorgeous Italian styling hides a sonorous V8, beautiful interior and space for four. It’s hard to see how prices for Stags haven’t rocketed like those for Jensens and Jaguars, until you remember the car’s shady past. Engine issues were commonplace, ranging from head gasket failure and overheating to broken valve gear caused by a stretched timing chain. But the specialists have sorted the issues out now – improved cooling systems and careful rebuilds ensure that a Stag engine will last forever if looked after. Rough Stags fetch five grand, with the best pushing fifteen. Ten thousand pounds should get you a solid, cosmetically tidy car that runs well.
Mercedes W124 convertible
The Mercedes W124 convertible was one of THE cars to be seen in in the 1990s. It oozed elegance and sophistication, yet because it was an E class it didn’t shout too loudly about the state of your bank balance. And it’s this lack of brashness which makes it to appealing as a classic. Everything is assembled so nicely, and it makes you feel special without feeling overbearing. There’s a choice of four and six cylinder engines ranging from 2.2 to 3.2 litres. Best bet for regular use would be a facelifted E220 – and nice ones can be had for well under our £10000 ceiling. You’ll have to look harder to find an E320 convertible within budget, but they are out there.
The 1980s were a time of greed. Greed was good, greed worked, and if you got a big enough bonus you might be able to treat yourself to a new 3-series convertible. These days though, they’re surprisingly cheap. Even a concours condition 325 can be yours for under the ten thousand ceiling, while nice 316s can be had from as little as £4000. We’d choose a six cylinder car, and the manual transmission cars are more desirable. The Baur converted early cars with fixed windows – known as cabriolets, not convertibles – are less desirable, and command less value as a result.
The demise of the Triumph Stag led to a gap in the market for an upmarket four seat convertible. Fortunately, Reliant was at hand. Taking a tin opener to its Scimitar GTE the Tamworth company created a car which looked familiar to Triumph fans – the T bar roof of the Stag was replicated, and the GTC hood frame began life on the Triumph. But an £11360 convertible was not the car Britain wanted after the winter of discontent and on the brink of recession. Just 442 were sold. They can be had for as little as £2500 now, though really nice examples command £6-7000.
Vauxhall Cavalier convertible
Classic convertibles needn’t be the preserve of the rich and famous. The 1960s proved that; Triumph Herald convertible, Morris Minor, Hillman Minx and more. But as the 60s became the 70s drophead versions of humdrum saloons fell out of fashion and it took until the 1990s for them to come back into vogue. But in the 1980s, General Motors decided to be different. They took the 2 door Vauxhall Cavalier, sent it to coachbuilder Hammond and Theide to have the roof cut off, stuck the 1.8 litre engine from the Sri in and stood back. While never a huge seller, demand was sufficient for Vauxhall to keep the car on their books from 1985 to 1989. And they’re not expensive to buy now; £4500 buys one of the very best, with plenty of nice examples around the £3000 mark.
With classic bargains like these which are fun for all the family, there’s no excuse not to go topless this summer. But buy them now – as the weather gets warmer, they’re going to get more desirable. Prices can only rise in line with the temperature.