Hooniverse Asks- What's a Good Summer Convertible?

Now that we’ve mostly made it through the slog of winter, and mud season is upon us, what better time to think about going topless. Some of us may already have a summer convertible (or two), but for those who don’t, how about a little help here? What do you think would be some good choices for a reasonably cheap (under $10,000, say) convertible?

The most common answer that springs to mind would be the Miata, that MVP of the drop top set. But with Boxsters being of an age and quantity where decent ones are commonly available for around our max price, might not make the Mazda the obvious choice.

Also, what if you’re a family man, or a pimp, and need more than just two seats? There’s always the Mustang, much like the Miata the go-to choice for cheap top-down driving. But they’re pretty ubiquitous and as we all are looking for something a little bit different, there may be other options that will serve our needs better. How about a 283-powered Chevy II?

So, discounting the double M of topless motoring – Miata and Mustang – what are some good options for our pasty friends in need of some good old vitamin D? And if you think that either the Mazda or the Ford are the best choice, let that be known as well. Let us know, what’s a good cheap ragtop?

Image sources: transamnmuscle.com, chooseyouritem.com]

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74 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What's a Good Summer Convertible?”

  1. scroggzilla Avatar

    Miata, Boxter, Z3, Alfa Romeo "Graduate", or even a Fiat 124 Spider should all fall in that price range. The quality of the pickings at $10k is the subject of an entirely different discussion.

    1. Alfa Seltzer Avatar
      Alfa Seltzer

      I'm currently hooning a Spider Veloce and last summer it was a a 124 Spider. Oddly enough I now find myself yearning for a softly sprung E30 convertible.

  2. Reuven Avatar

    If you're in the USA then your options for a reliable, inexpensive and not-cost-to-insure convertable are pretty slim. I think the Miata, MR2 and S2000 are your only real options. Sure you could get a mustang or a wonder from the late 1960s early 1970s.. but you'll just cry every time they don't start and the roof leaks.

    1. jjd241 Avatar

      Here is a fixer upper!

    2. Black Steelies Avatar

      This is an enthusiasts blog, I'm sure if the roof leaked or the motor didnt start then we'd put up with it or fix it for a car that is special enough.

  3. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    Rollin' in my 5.0
    <img src="http://static.rateyourmusic.com/album_images/e59392efcf84ab34ad8bcb485b29f566/410361.jpg"&gt;
    …no but seriously, I would go with the massive 60's/70's American steel.
    Either a beatup Cutlass Convertible like this – http://cincinnati.craigslist.org/cto/1678577162.h
    OR a nice clean Galaxie Convertible –
    <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/3m23pf3la5O35V65W5a47405aaa36998b1ef8.jpg"&gt;

  4. SSurfer321 Avatar
  5. CaffeineFuelled Avatar

    An Austin Healey 3000 Mk III would be my personal convertible of choice. No idea how to upload pictures here though so here's a link:

    1. Alff Avatar

      Any sub $10K AH 3000 will likely cost twice that in restoration.

      1. CaffeineFuelled Avatar

        You're absolutely right. My mistake, I failed to read the part of the article that stipulated under $10K.

  6. Alff Avatar

    This will be my 15th summer with an S3 Alfa Spider as my summer driver. On the plus side, they are beatifully engineered (the aluminum castings are a work of art) and, for their day, pretty mechanically advanced. For example – wet sleeved, DOHC engine with VVT that predated VTEC by 10 years. Depending on where you live, they are relatively uncommon to downright exotic. They are also very affordable to acquire. I am presently contemplating buying my third, needing all glass, seats and suspension but with only 54k original miles, for a whopping $900.____On the downside, they require lots of maintenance, parts are expensive, knowledgeable mechanics scarce and they don't offer what could be considered high performance.____That said, I've often passed on the opportunity to move on to a mechanically superior in every way Miata more than once. IMO, the Miata just can't match the charm.

  7. SSurfer321 Avatar

    How about a gently used 1998 M3? The $8,450 asking price will leave you with $1,550 for Guibo joint replacement.
    <img src="http://images.autotrader.com/scaler/565/421/images/2010/3/18/263/583/15320591607.263583791.IM1.02.565x421_A.565×376.jpg"&gt;
    Find it Here

    1. Alff Avatar

      NP. Once you've done it, Guibos are easy.

  8. Tripl3fast Avatar

    A summer convertable? One that has weather proof seats and a top that is always down. A winter convertable? One with all wheel drive and a good heater.(Chicago) A good color would be black. I'll call her Bettie

  9. tr6driver Avatar

    Although it's hard to argue with a Miata…you can't turn left without seeing another one.
    Personally, I'll take a nice, really nice (at 10k it better be perfect) early Triumph Spitfire…

  10. BGW Avatar

    Not a huge Mister Two fan, but they seem to be fairly available and cheap 'round these parts.
    Or you could just pick up a $6000 1995 SL600 Convertible: w/ a mere 73k miles. 'Course, there's the small matter of the phrase "excellent condition with exception of wiring harness/throttle bodies" but, really, how bad could it possibly be?

  11. mdharrell Avatar

    MGB. They're great fun and can be found everywhere, so take your pick. Particularly if you're happy with the rubber-bumpered cars (I am), nice ones are to be had for far less than $10K. Also, they build character.
    I suppose I should have left this choice for KillerZomBee to bring up, since he has the best picture of "fun in an MGB" ever taken, but hey, he's not the only one with a B.

    1. KillerZomBee Avatar

      I nearly didn't bring it up, cause it would be such an obvious post from me and the ZomBee humor may be a little played out by now. But then I remembered I am a post-whore. (See obvious post way down below)
      In any case, you are the insane one (he is) so you can post anything you want. Just don't play with sharp objects.
      BTW, did your MG Metro ever come as a convertible?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Sadly they never offered a convertible Metro. Every single KV Mini 1 was a ragtop, though. The company discontinued this (along with the stone-capstan drive) for the Mini 2 and promptly went out of business. Coincidence? I think not.

        1. regalregalia Avatar

          umm…didnt they? http://www.gmphotostore.com/images/53218408_pr.jp

          1. mdharrell Avatar

            Sorry, I meant the British one, the variously-badged Austin/MG/Rover Metro. You're quite right about the Suzuki Cultus/Swift/Geo Metro/Chevy Metro/Miscellaneous-other-named car.

          2. KillerZomBee Avatar

            Behold, the other OTHER Metro, and the other other MG. <img src = "http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs487.snc3/26618_366282673854_319564098854_3800207_3381999_n.jpg&quot; />

  12. muthalovin Avatar

    Turbo LeBaron. Refinement AND style.
    <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/2938/2661/32343830005_large.jpg&quot; height=384 width=512>

    1. Alff Avatar

      Can be had, along with requisite matching belt and shoes, with enough jack left over from your $10K for a whole summer's worth of early bird specials at Luby's.

    2. RedBaron89 Avatar

      ya Lebarons are the only way to go. Turbo, 5 spd., better than average handling (GTC), and still doesnt look too outdated for a 80's drop top. They tend to sell for less than 2 grand in decent shape, then spend about 2-3k making it fast & reliable (for an 80s dodge) and spend the rest on go juice.

    3. Black Steelies Avatar

      You bet your boots it's a LeBaron! Are there two LeBarons Freddy?

  13. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

    With what else are you also going to be carry around all the summer toys?
    <img src="http://www.mytrain.com/truck/01t.jpg"&gt;

    1. Kogashiwa Avatar

      My cousin has one of these, with the hardtop not the softtop, and is immensely proud of it.
      If it's no better to drive than my wretched '96 Dakota though, I'll pass. I hate my truck so much. His is a 4×4 though which would help.

      1. Alff Avatar

        I had a basic 2wd Dakota of similar vintage to the one pictured. It was a solid, basic small pickup that drove like what it was. No complaints.

    2. RedBaron89 Avatar

      wonder why they ever stopped selling these… who dosnt want the breeze, sun & fun of a convertible combined with 4X4 and a handy bed to put all your stuff in…I think chrysler figured out this thing would absolutely muder the jeep so they discontinued it. haha ya thats the answer!

      1. Juliet C. Avatar
        Juliet C.

        Um, this beats a Wrangler…how?

  14. Feds_II Avatar

    I've been going down this road all winter… The RX-7 is not getting any use, now that there are always kids to haul around. My choice is thus limited to 4-place cars. My budget caps at ~$3000 (See bit about kid$), so:
    Mustangs are plain, Saabs are maintenance intense, nobody wants a lebaron, or a Sebring. If I had a bit more dosh, or lived somewhere below the snow line, I'd be looking at a Falcon, but since I don't, my answer has come out as a Rabbit Convertible. As long as it's not white on white, they're reasonably gender neutral, and you can hop them up as far as your wallet allows.

    1. Alff Avatar

      You could do much worse. One of the best cars I've ever had.

  15. joshuman Avatar

    I would like a chrome bumper MGB. I would drive it for a few years and then toss in something with more power. Or, I could instead get myself some old Alfa. I cruzed the local Craigslist for a few minutes and found a few well under the budget. There are several BMWs available and a few Volvo C70s. I did not include links to any of the Seabrings.
    Here is a Ford Galaxie 500 for $1400. http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/1680496959….
    <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/3n53m03pb5O45T05R1a47e28da89e4ea911f3.jpg&quot; style="width: 300px; height: 225px; border: 0" alt="imgTag" />
    1999 BMW 328i Convertible – $7800 http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/1680205045….
    1977 International Scout II Terra – $1500 http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/1680738998….
    2002 Volvo C70 Convertible 2D T5 – $9500 http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ctd/1679906774….
    1994 Jaguar XJS – $4500 http://seattle.craigslist.org/skc/cto/1679800651….
    1978 MGB Roadster – $4000 http://seattle.craigslist.org/oly/cto/1679029826….
    1964 Triumph Herald Convertible – $1200 http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/ctd/1678437093….
    69 Austin Healey Sprite Convertible $4800 http://seattle.craigslist.org/see/cto/1677444844….
    51 Jeep Willys M8 wtt/wts – $2500 http://seattle.craigslist.org/tac/cto/1675674761….

  16. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    '87 – '93 Mustang V8. Sweet soundtrack from under the hood, low entry cost, and infinitely available parts for repairs and/or upgrades. WTF else could you possibly want? Oh, I know, the ability to roast the tires at will. Well, it's got that handled too.

  17. MarionCobretti Avatar

    Convertibles are for cruising, but how can you properly cruise without six or seven of your friends? A '70 Newport is what you need for that. Just make sure all of your friends bring gas money.

  18. Tomsk Avatar

    Fourth gen F-bodies aren't the most refined or best performing ragtops ever made. But Z28s like this one are pretty fast, and you'll be the envy of the trailerpa…I mean, neighborhood!

  19. rocketrodeo Avatar

    Any motorcycle.
    That said, my '69 Ford XL GT convertible was pretty fun. Sort of like a roadgoing Chris Craft.
    <img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4038/4288879939_e26813d570.jpg"/&gt;

    1. nofrillls Avatar

      Indeed it is.

      1. dustin_driver Avatar

        Although I failed with that pic. For under $10k it'd have to be an NB, not NC. But hey, you maybe just maybe could almost get a Mazdaspeed NB Miata for around $10k . . . Or, better yet, pick up an older NB and throw a Flyin' Miata turbo on it. Mmmmmm, Flyin' Miata . . .

  20. KillerZomBee Avatar

    Have I got a convertible for YOU!
    Cost less than $500…. has racing provenance… and is about as "Different" as it gets. Been around the track a few times, if you know what I mean, nudge-nudge, wink-wink…
    (No seriously, we are looking for another driver.)
    [img src =http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc3/hs089

  21. Paul Avatar

    I'm a family man and a VW/Porsche fanatic and I'm dying to have a drop top summer car. I would say Wrangler, just because I can take my kids out on the beach with it, but my inner "race car driver" tends to lean me to a convertible beetle from the 60's or 944/968 Porsche. But the bottom line is my budget is about $5k and I simply cannot deny the e30 BMW's, I just love them.

  22. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Howabout <img src=http://hphotos-snc3.fbcdn.net/hs446.snc3/25598_1226083019145_1441110493_30465597_3696688_n.jpg>
    but seriously now… <img src=http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_aOuQOD5vUs8/SeDFaiguuKI/AAAAAAAAAiA/iW_1AWOYG_g/s320/daisy_duke_jeep.jpg>

    1. Alff Avatar

      I'm guessing the car in the above shot is plenty large to carry all of the owner's friends. The bottom one, not so much.

  23. ptmeyer84 Avatar

    Triumph TR6
    /end thread

  24. K5ING Avatar

    Here's my ideal summer convertible (assuming the picture link works). It's a 1969 Olds Cutlass 'S' convertible. I owned it a number of years ago, sold it, and now regret it.

    1. ptschett Avatar

      THIS. My dad's a convertible fiend, he has six (four are Spridgets); but for the best convertible of the fleet I'd be picking between the two GM intermediates, one a '70 GTO and his latest purchase, one year older than your car and in blue.
      <img src="http://www.davesclassicauto.com/autos/263_02.jpg"/&gt;
      It just has the Olds 350 with the Super Turbine 300 2-speed auto for a powertrain, but that's more than enough given the unpowered four-wheel drums.

  25. Rich Avatar

    Honda S2000. It's a pure and simple sports car that will never fail on you.

  26. BЯдΖǐL-ЯЄРΘЯΤЄЯ Avatar

    A Sawsall and a little imagination can make very cheap convertibles. But to feel the wind I go for a motorcycle.

    1. Alff Avatar

      With a sawzall and a LOT of imagination, you could make any car into a motorcycle.

  27. Manic_King Avatar

    +1 to MB SL, R129, last "proper" MB and can be had with emergency-use-only back seats which are maybe usable for some shorter trips……

  28. dustin_driver Avatar

    I thought this was Hooniverse. I thought this was the home of automotive outcasts and oddities. Was I mistaken? No? Then pray tell why no one has mentioned the Citroën DS 21 Decapotable?! Zut alors!
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/87/Citroen_DS21_Cabriolet_ca_1967.jpg/800px-Citroen_DS21_Cabriolet_ca_1967.jpg"&gt;

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Remain calm– keep in mind we're playing with a ceiling of $10K. Other than that, groovy! I'm all for French convertibles, even mainstream ones like the DS.

      1. dustin_driver Avatar

        Oh, I jest. All in good fun. All in good fun.

    2. dr zero Avatar

      Very nice. But a little hard to find under $10,000 though.

  29. Black Steelies Avatar

    Either a mid 60's Caddy DeVille or any 60/70's Buick would be ideal for me. Big comfortable and easy to drive.
    <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/3pe3oa3lc5T45Q65S3a46edc3360c4c22188a.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://images.craigslist.org/3kb3m83ob5Y25W35X2a4574f80d51a2281ad1.jpg"&gt;

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      I wholeheartedly agree with you on the Caddy. I've wanted one just like this for a long time. Gimme mine in red or black, though.

  30. Maymar Avatar

    I've been on a bit of a Wrangler kick lately (might be from spending much of last week talking about them, and telling people that, no, there are no plans for a diesel), so that's my easy answer. But beyond that, insert cheapish American boat here – there's plenty from the 60's and 70's that'll do the trick.
    Barring that, Renault Alliance convertible – the French ride will help make your summer nice and relaxing, and being economical, you'll be able to spend more money on sunscreen. Sunburns are a bitch.

  31. Froggmann_ Avatar

    The ol' Bronco works just fine for me. Yes there is a roof over my head but I still get plenty of sun and all the atmosphere Summer can give.
    <img src="http://i133.photobucket.com/albums/q53/Froggmann/Shows/Fab%20Fords%202009/IMG_3254.jpg&quot; /img>
    And yes the top is already off…

  32. facelvega Avatar

    I'd grab an Allante, ideally the '93 model that actually had a little power. These cars are trading dirt cheap now. Knockout looks, and all the old wails about initial maintenance should be sorted on any car that's been on the road for 18 years. It's much the same running gear as a later Eldo or STS, so you could even get a pretty Allante with a ton of miles for a few grand and then drop in your own relatively fresh northstar replacement and stay way under ten grand.

  33. P161911 Avatar

    You can find a nice Z3 for under $10k and if you look hard you might even find an S52 M Roadster. Miatas are great, but I'm over 6' tall and far from the slim side, so I DON"T FIT IN A MIATA! But I do fit in a Z3 rather nicely.
    Of curse another option is any of the early 1970s American boats for cruising. You could probably find something nice from Buick, Oldsmobile, or Mercury for less than a comparable Ford, Chevy , or Mopar.

  34. Sam Avatar

    73 blazer. pop the full convertible top about may and put it back on in mid September. Thats how we do in Montana. Extra points for pulling a jet boat of similar vintage.

  35. Balestra Avatar

    It really irritaatees me to read "convertable". Not really that hard to change the A for the I is it? That said, Boxster it is.

  36. W. Kiernan Avatar
    W. Kiernan

    Where I live (Tampa) it's getting about time to put the top up and crank the A/C. Daytime highs are beginning to push the nineties and the daily-monsoon season is just around the corner. Also if you drive while wearing shorts, your knees might get sunburned.
    Winter was nice this year, though I have to admit that since my Miata's heater blew out, that week or two when the temps dropped below 40° F. was a bit cooler than one might have preferred.

  37. Eurylokhos Avatar

    Gotta go with the one parked in my garage, a Miata. Perfect fun car, ridiculously entertaining to drive, no matter how fast it's going, cheap to own, cheap to insure, cheap to buy. Plus. they are reliable, dead simple to work on, and parts are cheap. Just an all around fun car. Every time I read someone say that they don't fit in a Miata, I wonder what their body type is. I'm 6'1", and at 315lbs I'm a pretty big guy, and I fit just fine. Just a great car.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I'm pretty close to the same size as you 6'1" ~300lbs. My shoulders hit the window in a 1st gen Miata. Also my knee has no where to go. I have short legs for my height (30" inseam) and long arms (37-38" sleeve length) so maybe that has something to do with it. (Yes I am built like a gorilla.)

      1. Eurylokhos Avatar

        I'm not saying it isn't tight, it is. But it's comfortable, heck, I drove from Baltimore to Des Moines in it. I find that the 94-97 are just a bit more roomy, since they redesigned the door panels without the armrest (I've had both a 90 and a 94). My height is definitely distributed diffferently than you, I've got a 32 inseam, so that may be the difference.

  38. 35mm Avatar

    International Scout. For 10k you can probably get a dozen or so.

  39. 35mm Avatar

    International Scout. For 10k you can probably get a dozen or so.
    <img src="http://i10.photobucket.com/albums/a136/beaushaw/P6082275.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">

  40. James Avatar

    gotta be a C900 Turbo convertible. Hell, a C900S convertible (as long as it's a 5spd) would be just fine. Convertible's aren't about going fast (to me) they're about enjoying the ride. Also, anyone who says that Saabs are a pain have never worked on a 900, they're so simple!