MORE THAN A DRIVE
GETTING THE OPEN-AIR EXPERIENCE WITH ADDED COMFORT FROM A SOFT TOP
Some of us are like dogs: We love the fresh air on our faces. We want to hang an arm out of the open window, regardless of the temperature or the time of day. We crave the way the wind feels at speed and can’t help but be disappointed at every stop sign or red light. We love the way the air feels and smells, and we embrace small stings from sand falling off the truck ahead. We even tolerate the rain because it’s real—visceral—and it’s part of feeling alive.
It was on a drive to work roughly 18 months after having moved to a location with 300 days of sunshine per year that a thought suddenly occurred to me: I was wasting my commute time trapped in a truck when I could be accomplishing the same task and
enjoy the sunshine and wind in my hair.
I wanted a convertible, but I needed fourwheel drive. That’s when it struck me: I needed a Jeep.
Needless to say, I’ve been obsessed with Wranglers and open-air driving ever since. And, with the launch of the JL Wrangler and the new Ford Bronco, open-air driving is available to many others with the higher need for creature comforts from a newer vehicle.
Going ‘Full Monty’—Finally
A year of ownership went into this new 4WD convertible before the hard top was nally pulled off. Up until that point, I‘d only dabbled in open-air driving by removing doors or hard top panels. I hadn’t yet gone “full Monty.” A year—12 whole months—and roughly 300 days of sunshine came and went before I embraced the fact that my vehicle was made to be enjoyed and not preserved like some precious dessert. Why wait until it becomes a stale iteration of its former self before removing the hard top? Sure, some dust and rain found its way inside, but still, my only regret is that I hadn’t taken it off sooner.
The popularity of these ultra-capable SUVs with removable tops has skyrocketed; yet, even the casual observer would note that most stay buttoned up while on the road.
If this describes you, then please heed this advice: Open up. You’ll thank me later.
The fact of the matter is this: If you paid for a convertible, you should enjoy your vehicle as a convertible, even if it’s just on occasion. The simple thrill of going down the road with the top open has a way of bringing a jovial thrill to even the sternest face. It brings an elementary feeling of freedom and rule-breaking, even though it’s what these vehicles were designed for.
Hard top to Soft Top via a Kit
This is easier to accomplish than you would think. Simply removing the hard top and going for a joyride is a great start. However, the ultimate level of adaptability, ease and comfort will come from installing a soft top.
Several aftermarket companies sell complete soft tops as a kit. This removes the guesswork and, if your vehicle only came with a hard top, it leaves you with one, simple solution to equip your vehicle with a soft top. With
several options on the market, nding one that ts your individual needs should be easy. Companies that manufacture soft tops—such as Bestop, which has been the supplier of soft tops to Jeep since the early 1980s—have options from a minimalist approach to a full replacement.
If a full soft top isn’t for you, one recent development is a “Sunrider”-style top, which replaces the smaller, removable panels of a hard top (usually above the front row of seats) with a quick ip-back soft top.
Pioneered by Bestop in 2016, this style has been so popular that these products are now available right at the dealership for Wranglers and Broncos alike. While these options won’t let you go fully convertible, they will allow access to open air in seconds without having to remove your vehicle’s hard top. Also, they’re suitable for all seasons and climates.
For those ready to take the full plunge, a complete soft top can be installed at many vehicle accessory shops—right in your driveway with simple hand tools or through home installation options that offer professional help at your convenience. Additionally, new designs and technologies, such as zipperless windows and assist mechanisms, have eased the headache of yesteryear’s soft top designs. It’s safe to say that soft tops today have been optimized
so that anyone can operate them.
Consider This …
How about cargo accessibility?
Imagine your cargo area packed to the gills for a back-road adventure. Out tted with a hard top, items are only accessible through the tailgate at the rear or through the rear doors around the rear seats. This isn’t always ideal.
Now imagine being able to reach right through the side rear window. Equipping your vehicle with a soft top means you can remove panels for access to your gear as you never could before.
Worried about extra noise? No need. Over the years, vehicles have become quieter, faster and more comfortable.
Naturally, we all like this aspect. If soft tops didn’t follow the same trend, they’d be amiss. Thankfully, options exist for higher-end materials such as twill, which insulates, looks great and lasts a long time. In fact, these are the same materials used in very high-end convertibles.
Lastly, you can take full advantage of the switch to a soft top by using it to customize the look of your vehicle.
While some prefer the traditional, squared-off look in the back to match the vehicle’s heritage, others prefer the sleek, modi ed look of a fastback-style soft top, such as the Trektop by Bestop. Use caution though, because adding this amount of personal "pizzazz" could change you into the sort of person who glances back at their vehicle and smiles when walking away from it when it’s parked. Or, worse yet, you could be the person who pulls off the highway to take photos of it in front of “Now Entering … ” signs at state borders.
Ultimately, whichever way you decide to go, you’re nearly guaranteed a big smile to share with friends and family while on short ice cream trips or exploring never-ending dirt roads.
Go beyond rolling the windows down and putting an arm out. Accomplish all the things you need to do with your vehicle, such as commuting and grocery runs, but do it … better. Enjoy a little taste of ... a dog’s life.