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Get your top off for the open road

Chris Thomas starts his new motoring column with a look at why ownership of convertibles –much loved by gays –is going through the roof

Get your top off for the open road

All motorists accept there is a romance that surrounds convertible driving. The idea of a slow coastal meander or blasting along a good country road blast with the sun beating down on you, whether you are driver or passenger, is a sure way to evoke sense of freedom.

Maybe it awakens the memories of our ancestors riding their trusty steeds, camels or elephants (depending on the continent) the wind blowing through their hair with not a care in the world as nature’s expanses materialised before them.

Sadly in the real world today’s open top driving is not the Hollywood fairytale of the 50s and 60s anymore. Our roads, we are told, are hideously over-crowded. With road tolls, congestion charges and heavy traffic pushing the network to breaking point, let alone the changeable weather, our roads are anything but free.

Still look around you and it’s plain to see that more people than ever are driving convertible cars. For lesbian and gay drivers who may not have children, it is a practical option at a time when more of their heterosexual friends will have to go for big family cars – under pressure to ferry their kids around.

If convertibles appeal, the options are expanding. The re-emergence of the ‘hideaway hard top’ transcends the top manufacturers new model ranges from Mercedes to BMW and now VW in its latest guise of the EOS; there are even rumblings of a convertible Land Rover Evoque on the horizon.

During a recent interview, Anthony Sheriff the MD of McLaren stated that there were currently more orders for the recently launched Spider MP4 – 12C than the hardtop version. Subsequently the company would only be making the convertible model in the near future. I like to think it’s simply because the convertible looks so damn pleasing!

In general (let’s not mentioned the doomed Ford Focus cabriolet) convertibles do tend to be a whole heap prettier than a standard hard top model and let’s face it, if you are spending over $30,000 or €25,000 on a car the aesthetics will be playing a big part of that. A hard top can bring the performance factor that excites motor hacks when a car is launched but a convertible brings the ‘wow’ factor to the masses.

As technology moves on we are also seeing the days of uncomfortable open-top motoring disappearing in the rear mirror. Convertibles now come with all the same options as their hard top siblings and performance figures to match them. The materials used for the roofs are increasingly cutting down the road noise when in closed position, the stereo options tend to be higher quality to take into account the wind noise with the roof down, some manufacturers even offer a warm air vent at neck level for those winter morning drives!

It’s not only the new car market where the topless movement is flourishing, the second-hand market is practically booming! If your budget does not quite stretch to the new Porsche Boxster (although I personally believe it’s worth it) or Mercedes SLK you can find early Boxsters (986) on the market for well under $12,000 (€10,000) and Honda S2000’s for less than that. These are cars originally worth three times that or more at point of sale and both regarded as two of the best handling roadsters ever made.

If fun on a budget is more the name of your game then look no further than the Mazda MX5, the most popular and successful roadster ever. Well looked after examples of the Mark 1 can be found for under $5,000 (€4,000), of course you do not get an electric roof or neck heater (although S special examples do have speakers in the headrest) but you do get a car that handles better than any other in its class.

The running costs are relatively low and with little more than a Hayes manual and a socket set you can undertake most minor pieces of work yourself which can be very rewarding. Even if you aren’t a wannabe ‘grease monkey’ servicing costs will not break the bank. Insurance costs are also highly reasonable and providing you are not looking at the newer 2.0 litre variants your road tax and fuel costs can be kept down. This is a sports car that anyone can own, it truly transcends motoring society and gives everyone the ability to enjoy open top motoring at its best!

My first car was a Mazda Mark 1 MX5, I am now on my third car, a Porsche Boxster S and I wouldn’t change my car history for the world. It doesn’t matter about the state of the roads, I’d rather feel the wind in my hair, even if it’s only a light breeze blowing across the traffic jam I am stuck in. Let’s try to move back to the days when motoring was fun as opposed to just a necessary evil!

Check out Thelma and Louise, their same sex kiss and serious convertible action here (note, GSN does not endorse people driving off the edge of a cliff):

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