My 10 Favorite American Ragtops (Part I)


Everyone has dreams and fantasies. It may be finally making that elusive hole-in-one. Or it could be actually meeting the hot girl who lives 3 doors down. Maybe it’s winning the Lotto. Whatever they are, we all have dreams.


Mine is having a cool car/truck/motorcycle museum/garage/shop with a great man-cave attached where I and my friends can hang out and putz around (when I dream, I dream big). Of course this collection would be heavily convertible based and almost all American made. In fact, I could probably list a hundred cool and classic droptops I would love to have in such a collection. But while listing a hundred convertibles I find desirable would be fun, I thought it would be more fun to try and par that list down to my absolute top 10 favorite.


So after hours of adding to, arranging, and rewriting my list, here are 5 of the top 10 convertibles I would want in my personal collection. (I reserve the right to change my mind at any second, day or night).



1971-72 Cadillac Eldorado—this stunning car is tops on my convertible list. My dad loved Cadillacs and he drove a few of these as a used car dealer in the ‘70’s. But even though he preferred the 1969 and 1970 Deville convertible because he felt the rear wheel drive Cadillacs were better than the front wheel drives, I somehow fell in love with the lines of the ’71 and ’72 Eldorado convertible.


image of 1972 white Eldorado convertible

I just like the looks of the ‘71 and ’72 Eldorado ragtop even though I think the same year  Eldo Coupe looks terrible. The coupes rectangular quarter window and straight C pillar just don’t have the sex appeal of the sweeping lines of the quarter window and top that makes the convertible so sexy in my eyes. The convertibles’ C pillar area makes this droptop look as good with the top up as it does with it down, which is pretty rare with factory produced ragtops (I must admit that many lead sled convertibles and custom truck droptops often look better with the top up. Go figure).


To me, the ’71 and ’72 Eldo convertible looks slick and clean, kind of a successful mix of American and European styling rolled into one. From the slabbed and slightly peaked quarter panels and fenders, to the simple chrome strip that run down the side and ends in fake louvers arrear of the door, the car drips elegances. I find that I admire these particular ragtops from any angle, side, front, rear or combination, and the car is a thing of beauty.




1969-72 Corvette—in the early ‘80’s, I owned a numbers matching 1964 Corvette which I used as a daily driver for awhile. I really like the looks and style of the C2 but haven’t included one my top 10 list. Instead, I would like to have a ’69-72 Corvette ragtop.


image of orange 1972 Corvette

Every year I fall a little deeper in love with the curvaceous body that was mind shattering when it first appeared in 1968. The car looks to be tearing up the highway even when it’s standing still. It isn’t overloaded with chrome and unsightly spoilers and such. It is just clean and beautiful. Plus, it has one of the best dashboards in any American car of the era. Add in the great engines available for those years and this car is a winner all the way around.


(Some of you may notice I didn’t include the 1968 Corvette in the list. The ’68 was prone to excess body cracks which was redesigned and reinforced for the 1969 and forward models).




1964-68 Mustang—the Ford Mustang is the longest running of all pony cars. That alone is enough reason to love and respect these cool cars. Tack on the fact that even after 50 years, they are still abundant, affordable, easy to get parts for, and guaranteed to turn heads, and most would want a first model ragtop in their personal collection. Plus, with the short deck lid and long hood, they are great looking cars.


image of red 1964 Mustang convertibleMy personal desire for a Mustang convertible goes back to childhood. My dad constantly changed the daily drivers my mom had at her disposal, except for a butternut yellow ’65 we had for a couple of years. Those summertime errands my mom always had to do became a lot more bearable when the top was dropped.




1948-49 Cadillac—I admit it, I’m a little biased toward the full sized GM convertibles. I’ve always liked most of GM’s styling and the full size models were the cars that received the most focus for many years, making them the beneficiary of GM’s best styling cues. Add in the fact that my dad almost always drove Cadillacs, and you can understand how I developed a soft spot for GM’s fanciest brand of ragtops.


image of 1949 maroon Cadillac convertibleWhere most Cadillac enthusiast would pick the iconic 1959 Cadillac because of its famous fin and tail light assembly, I choose the Cadillac that started the whole tail fin craze, the 1948-49 models. For starters, I really like their looks from the front, especially the ‘49’s. I think that big chunky grill is awesome. I also really find their side chrome treatment very tasteful and classy. And of course, I am attracted to the slight bulge of tail fin protruding from the quarter panel. All-in-all, the whole package oozes elegance and style. Besides, I’ve always had an interest in the decades of the 1940’s, so I need at least one convertible to help connect me to those interesting times.



1987-1993 Chrysler Sebring—this is the newest car on my list and it is here for a reason, it is the car that got me back into the convertible scene. I had sold my 1969 Electra ragtop 10-12 years prior and was developing the itch for another droptop. A teal green Sebring was sitting along the side of the road and caught my daughters attention (she was 9 at the time and already into cars). The Sebring had 17s and low profile tires. It was exceptionally clean but needed a trans and a top replacement. I wanted a convertible and so the deal was struck.


image of 1993 teal green LeBaron convertible

After the car was on the road, I really started to appreciate the 25 plus miles to the gallon and the overall quality of the car. I also took a good look at the body lines and style of the car and realized what a looker it was. Yeah, the trunk and back seat are too small, and it could use a repaint, but this is the car that got me back in the game and helped to birth this site.


There it is, Part I of the 10 American ragtops I would most want in my personal collection. I will list Part II as soon as I can decide which 5 of the 30 or so ragtops still on my list would qualify. Meanwhile, what are your 10 favorite American ragtops?

Custom Convertibles

Webster dictionary has multiple definitions for the word ‘custom’, but in regards to the term ‘custom convertible’ or ‘custom ragtop’, I like the following definition best, “built to individual tastes”. image of old photo custom convertibleBecause that tells us exactly what a custom car is, it’s an extension of the builder or owner’s particular tastes and interests. It’s their work of art. It’s their calling card. It’s them in cold hard steel.

Hot rods and customized convertibles have been around since before WWII. Guys (well, mostly guys) altered whatever car they could afford or were able  get their hands on. image of red custom Mercury convertibleDuring the war, many old automobiles, many of them ragtops, were scrapped for the metal content to help out the war effort. Consequently, available custom car choices were often somewhat scarce. And adding to the heartache, since most of the models built after the war were of the sedan variety, finding an affordable convertible candidate was sometimes difficult at best.


image of convertible lead sled convertible with a Carson topHowever, the ingenuity gene that gives birth to the custom car
enthusiast once again took over. If a suitable convertible could not be found, ingenuity took over and guys made their own custom ragtop by cutting off the top of their coupes. This was especially true after the early 50’s when General Motors introduced the new sleek looking hardtop model. The lucky ones who could afford it would spring for a cool custom, one piece, lift off lid called a ‘Carson top’; so named after the Californian who was first credited with the design.


Later day, (mid 1950’5 through the 1990’s) custom ragtops were less about cutting off the roof and more about cool candy, metalflake, pearl, and custom paint jobs. image of 1964 Chevy lowride custom convertibleThese wild and beautiful paint schemes are evident in the lowrider segment of custom convertible builders. Mag wheels, custom grille and tail light treatments, and minor changes also dominated the custom scene. Whatever the owner’s choices, the changes, whether bold or subtle, lent a distinctive personality to each custom droptop.


In today’s custom convertible world, you will see a variety of altered ragtops. Some owners are simply adding new low profile wheels and tires. Others are adding special graphics. image of new 4 door caddillac convertibleOn the more radical end of the spectrum, there are builders once again turning hardtop cars into custom convertibles. This is often out of necessity because the model they wish to alter is impossible to find in convertible form, either because of rarity or never manufactured. And this idea applies to brand new, off-the-showroom-floor cars as well.


This same ‘cut off the top’ mentality has given birth to the fastest growing segment of custom convertibles, the custom convertible truck. And if one thinks about it, the custom truck makes sense, if for no other reason, trucks are plentiful and very affordable. image of yellow convertible Chevy truckjpgThese cool rides are taking to the street in abundance, especially in the warmer, sunnier western and southern states. Custom convertible trucks are a cool addition to the ragtop scene.


Convertibles, in all shapes and form, are here to stay. That is the great thing about living in a country where individuality is to be respected, if not totally understood. And even if you like your ragtop 100 percent factory stock, one can’t help to get a smile on their face when a custom convertible rolls down the street.

image of 4 door convertible impala

I know I can’t.


Storing Your Convertible


It’s November. It’s cold. It’s raining a brisk hard rain. And it’s supposed to for days. This is Northwest Indiana and I hate it.


image of rainy cityWell, that’s not totally true. I only hate the colder weather for two reasons;


  • When I have to work in it.


  • When it’s too cold to enjoy my convertible.


Unfortunately for me, that time of year has arrived where I must quit enjoying the use of my ragtop but continue to work in the cold. image of storing Chrysler LeBaron convertibleFortunately for my convertible, it goes into winter storage where it can avoid any kind of cold weather labor. I know those of you who reside in the southwest don’t quite understand my situation, but for a vast majority of the rest of the nation, many of you are familiar with the need to take you droptop off the road for winter.


Of course, there are other reasons besides seasonal, for storing taking your car off the road. For many, money is extremely tight, and the dollars saved on insurance, plates, and gas from not using a recreational convertible could be money spent elsewhere. Or maybe it is impossible to find the time to drive your ragtop. Or possibly your car is just too valuable to constantly drive on the open road in harms way.


Whatever your reason, if you are going to store your convertible, there are a few things to think about. First, is it a short term or long term storage? Different storage lengths will determine how you store your car. This article will deal with short term storage and its related issues.


Before we begin let’s make sure we agree on what constitutes short term storage. In my mind, short term storage is anything less than 6 months long. However, if you are storing your convertible for other reasons besides seasonal ones, think long term, even if you plan to revive your car in a couple months. image of corvette convertible barn findThe reason I suggest this is; to many times short storage is planned but those plans change and that short term turns into years. Don’t believe me? Have you ever heard of a barn find?


Anyway, since I like to drive my cars at the first sign of spring, I try to do any repairs that I have been putting off before storage happens. This includes easy fixes like tune-ups, exhaust or fluid leaks; even burnt out light bulbs. Or more difficult ones such as a convertible top replacement or top motor repair. I also give it a thorough cleaning and waxing so I am not faced with that chore next spring. I suggest you do the same. It’s really a drag to want to take that first spring drive but instead are faced with maintenance issues.


If you choose not to do any repairs before storage, at least perform these simple preparations. Just before you put your droptop away for that winter slumber, change the oil. image of changing oil on convertiblejpgThis will remove many of the contaminates in the engine. If the transmission or rear end is due for a fluid change, add those to your list as well. Next put some high quality gas stabilizer in the tank (click here for gas stabilizer). In anticipation of this step, I try to run my gas as low as possible before I perform this action. Follow the recommended dosage on the container, and then add an ounce more. It can’t hurt.


Now go bundle up, drop the top, and take your convertible for one last cruise. image of view of autumn drive from convertibleAt minimum, get the operating temperature up to normal and keep it there a few minutes. This little maneuver will burn off the moisture in the exhaust and engine, help to circulate the stabilizer, and spread that new oil though the engine.


Once back home you should inflate the tires to 5 lbs. over the recommended pressure. This will help to avoid flat spots, although keep in mind, that bias ply tires flat spot quicker than radials, and high profile tires before low profile.


After you have the car nestled in its winter corner you can now disconnect the negative image of disconnecting convertible batterybattery terminal and then connect a battery tender to the car’s battery (click here for battery tender). Or you can completely remove the battery and store it in a warmer, dryer climate. Just don’t store the battery directly on concrete as this shortens the battery’s useful life.


I also recommend stuffing a bright colored rag into the end of the exhaust Easier to see in the spring), sealing the carb tightly with a plastic bag, and putting a box of D-con in the car and 2 underneath it (use care here if you have small children who might get into this). I do this yearly and come spring, the D-con boxes are always empty, but I never seen dead mice, their droppings, or evidence of chewing anywhere near the car.


One of the biggest problems you will face when storing your droptop is moisture. To help combat this issue inside the cars internals, many people recommend ‘fogging’ their vehicles engine. This procedure does nothing for the moisture that will be lurking outside the vehicle. Personally, I have never performed this step on anything I place in storage. What I do to combat moisture issues is to put a large box fan and a safe space heater in the storage area. I set this combo up before the daily high temperatures are going to be above freezing. This seems to work for me as the cars look good come spring, including all the chrome.


The last thing to take into account is the possibility of accidental damage to your convertible during storage. I know people will pass by the car, including me, and anytime someone passes it; there is the chance of a bump or a scrape. The risk rises if kids will be going in and out of the area because, well…. they’re kids. image of car cover on convertibleTo help avoid accidental disaster, cover your ragtop with a good quality cover (click here for car covers). Then place a few furniture pads over the areas most likely to see damage. I also strategically place some shock absorbing boxes and plastic garbage cans around the convertible.


It doesn’t matter if you own a custom convertible, a work in progress, a new arrival from the local Ford dealer, image of yellow Ford Mustang convertibleor a custom convertible truck, if it will spend any time in storage, your cherished ragtop will benefit from proper storage techniques.


Now if you excuse me, because I already have my toys in hibernation, I’m going to make proper use of this dreary November day and take a nap.

To Buy or Not to Buy


I grew up around cool wheels. Motorcycles, old cars, custom convertibles, muscle cars, even custom convertible trucks. So consequently, I am hooked for life on these big-boy-toys. And except for a few years of turning my back on such things, I have always had a toy of some sort, often times a ragtop.


image of 1967 Corvette convertible

Like many of you, the period where I first started to raise my family gave way to the more important things in life and I went toyless (kidding, buy a sense of humor). But after a decade or so of such an unfulfilled life, the bug to own a cool convertible once again began to take hold. However, being older and wiser and trying to make more mature decisions (mostly to impress my wife) I found myself doing the old ‘pros versus cons’ on convertible ownership.


Since maybe some of you reading this post might be going through the same ‘should-I-buy-or-should-I-not’ tug-of-war, I decided we could all benefit by reevaluating these pros and cons.


First, the cons.


  • Convertibles are heavier.  It’s a known fact that if you remove the top of a car, you lose some of the strength and integrity in the process. image of 1967 Pontiac Gran Prix convertibleTo compensate for the loss, the frames and some body panels of convertibles are reinforced. Plus the added weight of the canvas, top frame and hydraulic system need to be included. Extra weight means reduced MPG. Personally, half the time I drive my ragtop for pleasure so this is a con I don’t even count.


  • Rollover.  There is definitely an image of a 1967 Pontiac Gran Prix convertibleadvantage to having a steel roof over your head when cascading down the side of a ravine. My person remedy to this issue is to avoid a rollover at all costs. If you don’t think you can do this, add a rollbar or buy a Jeep.




  • Convertibles are prone to leak.  So are toddlers but I got a couple anyway. Truthfully, I seem to fight leakage all the time in my Chrysler convertible. But let’s face it; a movable top made of cloth is bound to have a higher chance of leaking than a stationary steel roof. It comes with the territory. I’m sure this has been true though out the history of the convertible. Avoid rain if possible. Or do like I do, when I must park a beloved ragtop outside for some reason, I throw a car cover over it.


  • Extra care. Unless you are doing a convertible related repair such as installing a new top cylinder, replacing a pump, or fixing failed tension cables, I don’t believe a convertible has much higher care needs than most cars. OK, maybe a little extra top care, but the time commitment isn’t huge. I think the extra care comes from the fact that our convertibles are a huge sense of pride to us, more so than your average driver, so you choose to garnish more care on it.


  • Convertibles cost more.  This con is a hard one to argue against because, it’s basically true. The price of a new Corvette is about 10% higher than a comparable coupe. image of 2014 corvette convertibleThis is true for most manufacturers. Then you have to account that ragtops have more components than eventually need attention. Tops need replacing, and pumps, switches, and motors eventually need servicing. These are not costs shared with a sedan or coupe.



The pros;


  • Status symbol.  People look at convertible owners with just a little touch of envy. picture of a 1935 custom Duesenberg convertibleEven those who would never drop a top because it might mess up their hair wishes they were carefree enough to enjoy it. Don’t believe me? Ask most people what kind of dream car they would own if money was not an object. Most will list a convertible.


  • Increased value. Higher initial cost = lower production numbers = a more rare and desirable car. Because of this simple formula, a convertible car generally image of ed 1957 Chevy convertiblejpgincreases in value much quicker than most other models. If you doubt me, compare a ’57 Chevy convertible with its equally popular hardtop. Or any year Ford Mustang convertible and coupe. Same thing with most year Corvettes, Enough said.


  • The top down feelings.  There is a special feeling one gets when tooling around in their convertible, especially when the lid is lowered. This feeling is a ‘feels-good-to-be-alive’ feeling, a feeling of total elevation.image of 2 people enjoying a convertible ride It doesn’t make us superior to our fellow man but, for the time that sun is on our face and wind is in our hair, we feel superior. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling you get when you and a significant other are cruising a tree lined back road during the height of the autumn season. That need to turn up the music because the wind rushing by your face is drowning it out. The warmth of the sun baking on your face. Even the simple thrill of being able to turn your head and get an unobstructed view of whatever is around you. All these things, and more, make you feel invigorated mentally, physically, spiritually, and even sexually. You just can’t beat that.



So if you already own a ragtop, don’t stop enjoying it. If you are on the fence struggling with the pros and cons about purchasing a convertible, get off the fence because…..

image of lady enjoying the sun in her convertible

I don’t think there really are any cons.

Convertible Top Replacement


One of the cons that were mentioned in the article ‘To buy or Not to Buy was the extra cost associated with convertible cars. image of Torn convertible topUnless you are a hardtop convertible owner, by far the biggest cost that comes with ragtop ownership will be replacing the convertible top when is has torn, shrunk, or aged beyond repair.


Convertible top replacement is not rocket science, and although there are do-it-yourself kits available for the most common models like the Ford Mustang or Chrysler LeBaron, this writer recommends letting a professional handle the installation. However, going that route doesn’t let you off the hook having a solid understanding of the terms and basic steps of a new convertible top installation. This general knowledge will go a long way when searching out the right shop to handle the job. Keep in mind, this article only covers the actual convertible top and not the replacement of the mechanical pump or hydraulic cylinders that raise or lower the lid.


The following covers a few of the things to keep in mind when getting prepared to replace that soft top.


  • Rear window. These are either glass or plastic. The glass is more expensive, but it holds up better and looks a hell of a lot classier. Plastic yellows over time and, except for the first week after installation, always seems to look wrinkled. Personally, unless I was doing a 100% restoration, I would never have plastic in my ragtop.


  • Padding kit. This padding protects the actual canvas top from getting pinched and damaged as the top is raised and lowered. If your pads are worn, plan for replacement.


  • Tension cables.  Usually, these cables run along side of the top, under the canvas, and their job is to keep a tight seal against the side windows. They also play a role in the smoothness of how you droptops’ lid will raise and lower. Generally, you won’t have to replace these cables during a convertible top replacement unless they are broken or one side lifts and lowers slower or more erratically than the other.


  • Tack strips. Almost all convertible tops are held to the convertible frame via tack strips. In cars of the 70’s and older, these strips were made of a cardboard type material which had a tendency to hold water and cause rust damage to the convertible top frame. Occasionally, the damage is severe enough to warrant frame repair or replacement. New cars use a vinyl/rubber strip which is a much better product. The old strips can be upgraded to the rubber strips but it is time consuming and therefore slightly costly.


  • Water troughs and well liners.  Did you ever wonder where the rain water goes as it rolls off the roof of your convertible? By looking at the car, you would think some of it has to work its way inside, right? When working properly, the combination of water troughs and well liners diverts unwanted water away from the trunk and floor pans of your ragtop. However, over time, both of these items deteriorate and breakdown, losing their ability to do their job. Unless your convertible will spend the rest of its life indoors, make sure these items are in good working order during your next convertible top installation.


  • The top itself.  Most convertible tops are either some kind of canvas or vinyl material. Canvas is much more durable than vinyl. Out of the canvas tops, Stayfast canvas is probably one of the most popular. Stayfast is a 3 composite fabric with an outer fabric lining, an inner rubber lining, and an interior cotton lining. It is more costly, but unless the car is continually garaged and out of the sun and weather, it is recommended to skip the vinyl and go with a canvas. If you want another top material choice, look into German Canvas, Sonnedecke, or Sailcoth.


The other choice you must make with your top is what color to use. Most convertible replacement tops seem to come in black, white, or some form of tan.

But there is a large spectrum of custom convertible top colors out there. image of Lowrider 1956 Chevy convertibleYou can get blues, purple, grays, reds, or greens, many in a variety of hues. And a custom color change is one of the easier ways to give your ragtop a personal and distinctive touch.


As I stated earlier in this article, the do-it-yourselfer can purchase a complete kit to help them install a new top every step of the way. If this is the route you choose, give yourself a long week end and, if possible, try to incorporate the help of a friend.  image of lead sled convertibleAnd keep in mind, if you are building a custom convertible car or converting a truck to a ragtop, I would let the professional tackle this job if you are at all uncomfortable with this task.


Hopefully after reading this article you are a little better informed and no matter which route you decide to take when replacing your convertible top, you’ll feel better having a solid understanding of the components and pitfalls involved.