Evo - - CONTENTS - Richard is a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor to evo and one of the mag­a­zine’s found­ing team @Dick­iemeaden

Meaden, Porter and Kravitz

HE RE’ SA QUES­TION FOR YOU: HAVE YOU owned a con­vert­ible car? I’m not talk­ing ded­i­cated sports cars like Cater­hams or Elises, or even MX-5S, as they’re all great and meant to be roof­less. I mean a Road­ster, Spi­der, Speed­ster, Volante, Cabri­o­let or any other fre­shair ver­sion of an oth­er­wise tin-topped model.

Even ask­ing such a ques­tion in the gung-ho pages of evo feels like I’m broaching a taboo sub­ject. One that risks you mark­ing my card as an ef­fete char­la­tan and a traitor to the cause of rock-hard sus­pen­sion, Nür­bur­gring lap times and tyre-shred­ding over­steer.

Yet the truth – un­set­tling for me and, per­haps, un­palat­able for you – is I rather en­joy roof­less cars. Not all of them, but quite a few. That’s con­fus­ing and con­tra­dic­tory I’ll ad­mit, but hope­fully goes some way to you giv­ing my con­fes­sion a sym­pa­thetic hear­ing. Some of you might even come out in my de­fence...

I don’t get soft-top hatch­backs, though. Nor do I like the idea of sa­loon-based soft­tops. I’m not sure I get metal fold­ing roofs ei­ther. I’ll also con­cede there have been some heinous crimes com­mit­ted in the name of open-top mo­tor­ing over the years. Who­ever signed-off on the E 30 M 3 Con­vert­ible should be shot, as should those who bought them. Sim­i­larly I still feel my teeth splin­ter­ing at the mem­ory of the abom­i­na­tion that was the B7 Audi RS4 Cabri­o­let. Sa­loon? Yes! Avant? Dou­ble yes! Cabrio? Hell no! Like­wise, I still can’t coun­te­nance 911 Cabri­o­lets of any flavour, though per­versely I would en­ter­tain a Targa. Go fig­ure.

And then there’s the rise of the diesel con­vert­ible. Apart from the abom­inable PT Cruiser Con­vert­ible, is there any­thing sad­der than an open-top oil-burner? As Colonel Kil­gore never said in Apoca­lypse

Now, ‘I love the smell of NOX and car­cino­genic par­tic­u­lates in the morn­ing. It smells like des­per­a­tion. Or a cheap lease deal.’

Some years ago I ran a Jaguar XKR-S Con­vert­ible on evo’s Fast Fleet. I’ll ad­mit my in­ner cabrio­pho­bic purist gri­maced at the prospect. Largely be­cause anti-con­vert­ible sen­ti­ment had been drummed into me by much of the mo­tor­ing me­dia I’d con­sumed in my im­pres­sion­able youth. I also knew it would pro­vide end­less amuse­ment for for­mer evo con­trib­u­tor Jethro Bov­ing­don, who took great de­light in snort­ing with de­ri­sion when he saw me drive it with the roof down. Which was a lot more of­ten than I would have pre­dicted prior to liv­ing with the car. It helped that the year I had the Jag in­cluded a prop­erly hot sum­mer, but I re­call the win­ter was a hard one. I should know – I was liv­ing in a caravan on a build­ing site at the time. Funny thing was I’d feel just as in­clined to drop the roof on a cold, frosty morn­ing, or one of those cloud­less days after heavy snow­fall, as I did on a scorch­ing sum­mer’s day. The plea­sure, and the sense of oc­ca­sion and con­nec­tion, weren’t tem­per­a­ture de­pen­dent.

It sounds like a ter­ri­ble cliché to cite the height­ened sights, sounds and smells that come with open-top driv­ing as a source of sen­sory plea­sures de­nied those cocooned in their coupes, sa­loons or hatch­backs. But, like most clichés, that’s only be­cause it’s true. The Jag wasn’t a great driv­ers’ car, but it was char­ac­ter­ful, mem­o­rable and gen­uinely en­joy­able. I’m sure I liked it more be­cause it was a con­vert­ible; I have a sus­pi­cion the coupe would have fo­cused me more on the XKR-S’S lack of feel and trac­tion. Not hav­ing a roof just seemed to suit it to a tee.

Maybe the sun’s gone to my head, but of 2017’s new mod­els I have the ma­jor hots for the As­ton Martin Van­quish S Volante ( just imag­ine the noise of that V12!) and the AMG GT C, which looks ab­so­lutely stun­ning. I wouldn’t have one over an AMG GT R, but I sus­pect it’s a more de­sir­able and en­joy­able ma­chine than the reg­u­lar GT.

Pa­gani’s Huayra Road­ster looks ut­terly sen­sa­tional. Like­wise I think I’d choose an Aven­ta­dor SV Road­ster over a reg­u­lar model, and I’d be sorely tempted by a 488 Spi­der de­spite my reser­va­tions about metal roofs on con­vert­ible cars. Lower down the lad­der I’m cer­tain I’d have a Boxster over a Cay­man. At least be­fore Porsche stuck that gruff flat-four in them. I’d even have a job de­cid­ing be­tween a 981 Boxster Spy­der or the ven­er­ated Cay­man GT4. Sorry – I’ll get my coat.

Mad­ness? Maybe. But as high-per­for­mance cars be­come ever more pow­er­ful, ca­pa­ble and ex­ploitable in a world less and less tol­er­ant of speed, I think I’m finally start­ing to crave ways of in­ject­ing fun and en­gag­ing my senses with­out feel­ing com­pelled to drive at crazy ve­loc­i­ties. I love a hard­core hot hatch, su­per­sa­loon, Spe­ciale or RS just as much as the next man, but per­haps it’s time to con­sider that, far from be­ing soft­core, the elu­sive thrill of driv­ing is more read­ily ac­cessed with the roof down.

‘ Who­ever signed off on the E30 M3 Con­vert­ible should be shot. The buy­ers too’


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