Thinking of buying a classic convertible for the Summer? Here are ten of our favourite roadsters to provide some inspiration
Summer is just a few short months away, and what better way to enjoy those two fantastic weeks of sunshine than behind the wheel of a classic convertible. Despite the frequently non-compliant weather, the UK still buys more convertibles than most other European countries. Perhaps we’re just optimistic…
Keen drivers might be wondering what all the fuss is about, but there’s a reason that roadsters generally carry a premium over their hard top counterparts. More of the car’s character often shines through, and given that most classics are generally garaged and driven on sunny days anyway, having a convertible can provide a much more thrilling and engaging choice for those weekend blasts.
TVRs might not have not always been known for their build quality and reliability, however the Chimaera has bucked this trend, and over the years has proven itself to be a well built and largely trouble free car. Although early 4.0-litre cars had a few niggling faults, they’re generally pretty solid buys today, while the larger 5.0-litre engine tends to overpower the chassis. Values are currently on the up, especially for the more desirable later model 4.5 litre V8s. Great handling, reliable mechanicals and acceleration to embarrass much newer machinery make this TVR the one to have, just be sure to have the chassis inspected by a specialist. Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
The SL class convertible has been in production for so long, few people alive remember a time before they existed. The first three generations are now considered highly prized collectors’ items, but all of these solidly-built convertibles offer the perfect blend of style and occasional seating for two in the back. There is a massive range to choose from, starting with the early ultra-pricey 300SLs and elegant ‘60s built Pagoda top cars. These should perhaps be used a little more sparingly throughout the year, leaving the newer and more affordable third and fourth generation SL models to be used for regular long-distance cruising. Age, mileage and condition are the key factors dictating the pricing which can range from £6000 for a decent ‘90s SL500, to over a £750,000 for a concourse condition original 300SL. Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
An amazing global sales success in its day, the MGB remains a much-loved open top motoring icon. With zesty engines and great looks they are great fun to drive and are definitely a consideration for those on a tighter budget. Later models are much improved over the first cars, although avoid US-spec cars with their emissions strangled engines. There are tons still around but its best to avoid the cheapest ones, while watching out for rust. Prices vary but budget on £5000 and up for a decent example. Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
The Jaguar E-type is among the most recognisable British motoring icons, and even the most car blind pedestrians will crane their necks to get a better look at its exquisite lines. Early Series 1 cars are the most popular for good reason; their light weight and poised handling make them far more enjoyable than the later V12 engined cars, which were often specced with automatic gearboxes to combine with the softer suspension setups. Prices have been strong for some time now, and good examples of the first cars are trading for well over £100,000. A small price to pay for a piece of motoring history and a very enjoyable summertime companion.Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Built for 28 years and spanning four generations these Alfa Spiders have become synonymous with Italian passion and flair. Revvy twincam engines, classic styling and effortless flair make these great little classics to own. Early cars have the purer lines and are highly sought after while the later post 1982 models counter this with more modern running gear but are less desired by collectors, which is great news in terms of affordability. Finding a rust free example is the trick, but well cared for cars are mechanically reliable with a dash of Italian temperament thrown in. Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Classic British sports car styling, a sonorous straight six and engaging handling is what the TR6 is all about. Best for shorter blasts through the countryside where its light communicative chassis is at its best and its noisy motorway manners are not a concern, the TR6 is a £15,000 cure for a bad week at work. Avoid rusty examples, look for the optional overdrive models and you won’t go wrong with this well-established classic.Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
The first-generation Mazda MX-5 is credited with starting the modern day resurgence of the small two-seater convertible, managing to combine the joyful character of a ‘60s drop top with the reliability of a modern car. This helped it become the bestselling convertible of all time, and after a number of increasingly heavy replacements, Mazda has gone back to this philosophy for their latest MX-5 iteration.
Rusty projects start at £500, and mint condition low-milers can be £5000 and beyond. The best value to be had is somewhere in between these two extremes. Watch out for rust, stick to the manuals, and you will have a bargain weekend toy that will be hard to beat in terms of smiles-per-mile. Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Arguably the most elegantly-styled modern Ferrari, the F355 has risen greatly in popularity over the past few years. The GTS and Spider versions let you savour the searing 375bhp flat plane crank V8’s engine note all the more, losing very little in rigidity over the Berlinetta. A low-mileage manual F355 in the traditional red with cream leather is a sure-fire future classic, with low-mileage examples already commanding upwards of £110,000. Higher-mileage early cars can still be had for half that, but not for long.Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
The once-maligned ‘fried-egg headlight’ Porsche that (along with the 996) saved the company from financial ruin also turned out to be a class leading convertible in its own right. Mid-engined dynamics and incremental improvements over its lifetime mean that the facelifted 2.7 and 3.2 S models in manual guise are the ones to go for. Overblown concerns regarding engine issues have pushed values down, and £6500 is criminally low for a Porsche, but this is what a decent post 2001 2.7 Boxster goes for. Get one now before everyone cottons on.Read the buying guide and browse the classifieds here
Putting badge snobbery aside is a good idea when considering the VX220, for underneath those angular body panels sits what is essentially a series 2 Lotus Elise chassis. Excellent handling is a given, and so is powerful acceleration especially in the turbocharged variants – perfect for the occasional track day. £9000 is the entry point for the torquey 145bhp 2.2 litre car while £15,000 will net you the 200bhp turbo version. Entry and exit can be tricky, although storage space is more generous than you would expect. Largely trouble free and still priced at reasonable levels, now is the time to get one of these somewhat overlooked modern classics.Browse the classifieds here
Words: John Tallodi