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”. Because 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. During 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.
However, 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. These 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. On 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. These 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.
I know I can’t.