Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Convertible Conversion?

I fear that I might be drifting into another midlife crisis - I found myself seriously entertaining the idea of buying a convertible.  I mean, if there was ever a style of car completely impractical for the UK, it is the convertible.  It isn't just the the fact that we don't really have he weather for them here, but I've long nursed a prejudice against convertibles, despite never having owned one.  Back in the day I owned a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro, built at the time when true convertibles couldn't pass US safety regulations.  So, instead of a soft top, US manufacturers came up with the T-top option for their sportier models.  This involved the vehicle being equipped with two removable glass panels in the roof.  When removed, they effectively exposed the occupants of the car to the open air, but left the rear part of the cabin intact and guaranteed the structural integrity of the car by retaining a small section of solid roof between the windscreen and rear window.  Whilst, to some extent, this succeeded providing the driver with something of the convertible experience when the panels were out, this arrangement came with its own problems.  The most notable of these was that the seals on the removable sections were never any good and leaked like buggery in heavy rain.  Moreover, unlike a conventional convertible roof, you had to find somewhere to stop the car in order to replace the panels if it started raining while you had them out.

On top of all that, despite the presence of the T-bar in the roof, I always felt deeply insecure when I drove the Camaro with the tops off, leading me to assume that I'd feel even less secure in a true rag top.  Besides, after the water leakage problems I had with the T-top, (a word of advice, never take a car with a T-top through an automatic car wash), I've always thought a convertible impracticable as I have no garage, meaning that any car I own is permanently exposed to the elements: I've always suspected that the canvas top would inevitably leak during heavy rain.  (To be fair, though, my current car, a Ford Focus, leaks when parked up in heavy rain, despite being a hard top.  The problem being that the seals in the rear driver's side door seem to have gone).  Yet, despite all of these reservations, I've found myself looking more and more at convertibles as I begin my long search for a replacement for the aforementioned Focus.  The latter is becoming ever more expensive to keep on the road, is a diesel (nowadays a major crime) and increasingly tends to cough up clouds of smoke.  I was amazed that it passed its last MoT so easily.  I suspect that it won't pass another with the new regulations aimed primarily at diesels which are about to be introduced.  Hence the search for a new car.  Actually, if I hadn't been ill for most of the first quarter of the year, I would probably already have replaced it.

The fact that I use my car for work has dictated that my choice of vehicle be relatively practical: hence a string of old Mondeos and the Focus.  But with my planning to ditch the job, the Focus' replacement needn't be so practical.  Which is perhaps why my attention has been drawn to the various second hand convertibles currently available.  Of course, being naturally cautious, the convertibles I've been looking at are Volvo C70s and Saab 9-3s.  After all, Swedish cars are safe and reliable, (and might not leak).  There are quite a reasonable selection of venerable examples of both models available in my area at quite low prices.  OK, I know that a lot of them have high mileages and will have endured a fair amount of wear and tear, but every so often one turns up with a long MoT and mileage under 100,000.  (That said, high mileages aren't such a problem for modern engines, which can easily do 200,000 plus miles without requiring major work - provided they've been serviced properly).  But, like I said at the beginning, perhaps this is just another of my periodic midlife crises.  Perhaps I'll end up compromising with myself and settle on a hardtop C70 or 9-3.  Then again, I have a sneaking suspicion that this convertible business is just something that I'm going to have to get out my system by owning one, even if only for a few months...



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