A ride in a stylish open-air convertible symbolizes freedom.
It’s a beautiful summer evening, the convertible top is down, the sun is setting in the distance, and the fresh air is invigorating. A favorite song is blasting on the radio, and everything is warm and perfect. “Life is good,” and nothing can ruin the experience. Except, of course, when the free-flowing hair becomes a tangled mess confirming that short hair has its benefits!
Cruising with the top down is a summer tradition in the U.S.
However, the convertible has experienced some extreme highs and lows during more than a hundred years of automotive history, from pervasiveness at the beginning of the car industry to nearly disappearing in the 1970s.
Early cars built without tops evolved from the open horse and carriage. Closed vehicles were first manufactured in 1910, and in 1922 convertible modifications appeared with the first retractable hardtop system.
In 1927, several convertibles were introduced by manufacturers like Lincoln, Cadillac, Buick, and Chrysler.
In 1929, the Great Depression caused a decline in sales of the sporty convertible.
The 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible revived the convertible trim. Sales doubled in 1961 and increased by 20% in 1962.
Today’s convertible comes in all sizes, shapes, makes, and models. For the home mechanic, purchasing a new convertible may not be the best option, because of price, desired style, or just the need for a creative outlet. Hence, the homemade convertible…and the results are mixed.
Here are twenty-five homemade convertibles that make absolutely no sense.
This homemade convertible conversion not only includes an open top, but it also features a pickup truck bed used as a chicken coop.
Some consider pine or cedar shavings to be the best materials for chicken nest boxes. They dry quickly and provide substantial padding for eggs (two are visible in the back of this vehicle). They also smell fresh and woodsy, but difficult to sense in a moving vehicle. Straw is the chicken coop material of choice in this convertible.
One has to wonder how the owner keeps the chickens in the open-air car while driving through town or more likely through the countryside.
Coachbuilder Baur from Stuttgart, Germany has been building BMW convertible conversions since the 1930s. Currently, the body and assembly works for IVM Automotive, the company enjoys an excellent reputation for quality and does prototype work for many manufacturers such as Ford, Audi, and Porsche.
The Baur family obtained a patent for the design of a luxury automobile folding top at about the time BMW was building their first car.
This BMV convertible conversion is not a Baur, however. The chop-top convertible without a vent window still needs a lot of work, enough to discourage the owner, who has put the vehicle up for sale.
People think of the limo as a luxurious form of transportation synonymous with extravagance and class. According to Teddy’s Private Car Service with offices in Connecticut and New York, these are the top five reasons customers hire limos.
Convenience: They don’t need to worry about the destination or parking.
Comfort: The limo provides privacy and is ideal for large parties.
Timely and Cost Effective: Limos are punctual, operating at precise times, making the service cost effective.
The Experience: A limo offers a stress-free ride with a touch of glamor.
Although a ride in this limo may be convenient and cost-effective, the open-air trip is anything but private, a bit stressful with the wind in the face, and not very glamorous.
When mom loads up the minivan with her kids, her neighbor’s kids, the family dog and all the toys for the trip to school, the grocery store or a youth sporting event, she needs to feel secure. Mom gets that security when all her passengers are strapped into their seats with the windows rolled up and the entertainment system blasting the latest attention-grabbing Lego movie.
So, what purpose does a convertible minivan serve? Mom has enough stress without worrying about the gang seated in the back, launching objects at passing cars or scampering out of the minivan at every stoplight. If she is pulling her hair out with worry, at least a wind-blown tangled hairdo won’t matter.
The owner of this hot rod, a confusing homemade composite of several brands, claims it drives like a race car. Perhaps a race car from the early 1900s. The 4-cylinder Mitsubishi engine with 4-speed transmission must have a difficult time pushing the aerodynamic disaster through the air.
The rear airfoil would suggest that the vehicle can reach speeds in the corners that require some downforce to keep the rear wheels on the pavement. However, airflow over the car with the top down or with the soft top up must be sufficiently turbulent to render the airfoil completely ineffective.
Despite its racing car deficiencies, the vehicle is fascinating and no doubt it attracts attention from everyone who sees it.
While this hand-hammered convertible sports car was built using the design and technology of 1950s sports cars, it makes no sense for an owner who wants at least some modern features.
This Frankfurt Flyer 004 built in 2016, is a two-seater mid-engine special made from a Volkswagen chassis and surplus aircraft aluminum. The Porsche 356 engine produces about 120 horsepower and features oversized 356-sourced finned drum brakes.
A few pieces of trim and some padding have recently been added to the seats of this bare-bones car, so the driver is no longer required to sit directly on aluminum buckets. The Mobil oil Pegasus decal on the rear quarter is a nice touch.
Back in the 1930s, homemade convertibles emphasized function over form. This three-wheeled vehicle was made with steel body pieces held together with exposed rivets. The single cylinder engine is mounted outside of the car and connected by gear and chain only to the left-rear wheel.
Galvanized water pipes surround the vehicle providing some protection in collisions. The cloth convertible top has a quick mount feature; the single seated driver merely reaches behind him and pulls the support frame over his head and attaches it to the windshield frame.
It is hard to believe this round-nose mini convertible could exceed 30 mph but who needs speed from such a stylish vehicle?
A Manhattan resident drives to work in his homemade electric vehicle made of old car parts.
The electric car enthusiast installed a 72-Volt forklift motor into a discarded VW chassis creating a zero emissions, convertible, urban electric vehicle. The maximum speed is 55 mph with a limited range of about 30 miles on a battery charge. To extend the range, he says, “I just carry a 50-foot extension cord in a storage box on board. I frequent restaurants and cafes that have parking in front or nearby and ‘top off’ charge at various waypoints.”
The car features a canvas top with plastic windows, but the ride must be freezing cold during those harsh New York winters. Although his vehicle lacks nearly all the features found in a Tesla, it also lacks the high price tag.
This radically shortened shoebox started as a 1949 Ford sedan, but now sits on a Chevy S10 frame and is powered by a small block Chevy V8.
Equipped with disc brakes, blinker lights, gages with a center-mounted tachometer, it boasts a new exhaust system. The tires are too big for the rear which causes them to scrape the fenders occasionally. The convertible top is in decent shape, but there are no side windows. A recent paint job was highlighted by pinstriping on the sides and trunk.
Although this shortened roadster convertible is captivating, the handling characteristics must make the vehicle a risk to drive, and with no windows, it is unquestionably an unpleasant ride in the rain.
The soft top fits nicely over the roll bar on this first-generation, burnt orange Defender from Pennsylvania. There is plenty of room in the back for the beach chairs, although the spare tire eats up some space. The small shelf in the back is an excellent spot to place a large ice-cold drink (shown in the photo) while unloading the cargo on a hot summer day.
The only reason this convertible, not available from the factory, might not make sense is the production of the Range Rover Evoque convertible with the current generation. Why convert an old model when a new one is available? Cost, perhaps?
Although this Studebaker Convertible conversion is much more attractive than any car made by the original manufacturer (like the ’49 Studebaker with a jet front-end right out of a 1940s comic book), it has some anomalies.
The vehicle, which looks like a combination convertible and pickup truck, has doors that are too big for the body. The rear cargo area has a sloping bed which significantly reduces the usable space. Perhaps the angle is intentional, designed to reduce drag when the tailgate is open.
For the most part, the bodywork is well done. The exception is the chopped off front windshield pillars that appear to have been stuffed with white body putty to block rainwater.
The Volkswagen Microbus Type 2 produced from 1950 to 1967 came with an air-cooled flat-four-cylinder 1,131-cc engine mounted in the rear that produced 24 bhp. In 1953 it was upgraded to a 1,192-cc engine producing 30 bhp.
The Microbus was available from the factory in several forms including a Panel van, a delivery van without side windows or rear seats, Samba-Bus, a van with skylight windows and cloth sunroof, and Flatbed pickup truck.
However, it wasn’t available as a convertible.
This Microbus convertible conversion is ideal for a sunny day but has no window pillars or other means of supporting a soft top. The rack in back above the engine allows hauling some cargo, but the weak-looking structure is limited to only a few lightweight items.
This pickup truck may be one of the worst examples of a convertible conversion. The back of the cab has been removed exposing it to the cargo area, but the cab roof remains intact. The cover looks more like a plastic bag than leather tonneau. It must create an extremely irritating noise flapping the wind at any speed exceeding 5 mph.
The flared wheel wells look like they were handcrafted using a body repair compound, but they were neither sanded nor painted. The tailgate does not close correctly, and the spare tire support looks like an aftermarket or homemade device that bolts on to the outside of the fender.
The convertible is a trim well adapted to a sports car. What is better than driving a mountain road, flying around every curve and breathing the fresh air with the top down in a high-performance vehicle? Perhaps a drive through the countryside in a convertible sedan with the top removed, and a 360-degree unobstructed view of everything is even better.
But a convertible conversion on a luxury SUV?
While this Escalade appears to have lost some rear cargo space, the open roof now permits loading very tall objects, like a refrigerator or a basketball backboard with hoop, twelve-foot pole, and base.
This Chevy dually with its roof entirely removed and its windshield chopped, may lack some rigidity without a roll bar added. The monster convertible is powered by a 454 cubic inch engine with plenty of power to roll the lighter weight dually.
Although it appears from this photo that the convertible top sweeps back toward the rear of the truck attaching to the back of the cab, providing very little headroom, the dually has another soft top.
Most pickup truck buyers select a Dually for its hauling and towing capacity. Perhaps the owner of this truck plans to install several rows of seats and haul a group of sightseers through the countryside in his open-air vehicle.
There is nothing like a drive along the coast on a warm summer day in a convertible with the fresh ocean breeze and an unhindered view of the beach.
While this roadster seems ideal for the trip, it has some features that make it more suitable for driving on the sand or a dirt path than the coastal road. No fenders covering the oversized wheels is a sure way to attract the attention of the local police.
However, the wide whitewall tires, “moonie-style” hub caps, and shiny green paint suggest the owner has no intention of doing any off-roading with this roadster.
Although the 1989 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible is not a homemade conversion (Dodge offered a factory version from a subcontractor), we include it on this list because the trim doesn’t make much sense.
Although the vehicle is attractive and was offered in 4x4 and 4x2 versions, with a standard five-speed manual transmission, fog lamps, and padded roll bar, the manually operated soft-top looks awkward dangling over the cargo area.
When first released, Dodge experienced some success with the Dakota Convertible, selling 2,842 trucks. However, the demand plummeted and just 909 units made in 1990 and 8 units in 1991.
Prospective buyers figured out pickups are better for hauling cargo than a Sunday afternoon ride in the countryside with the top down.
Batteries used in electric cars are heavy. A Tesla Model S weighs from 4,647 to 4,941 lbs and a Model X, 5,185 to 5,531 lbs.
Although Tesla has made significant improvements in density (about 5% per year) and efficiency, batteries still contribute a substantial portion to a vehicle’s total weight.
This homemade two-seater electric vehicle weighs a mere 1250 lbs with a 96V 100Ah LiFePO4 battery pack and a 50 HP AC motor that generates 90 ft-lb of torque.
However, this electric car is missing some (a lot really) of the features found in a Tesla; most notable is a top. The front windshield looks like an afterthought, and there are no pillars to support a soft top.
The original Batmobile was based on a 1955 Lincoln Futura, built entirely by hand in Turin, Italy at the cost of $250,000, but was never put into production.
The unique vehicle included a Bing-Bong Warning Bell, Bat-Light Flasher, Batscope with a display screen on the dash, radar-like Antenna with parabolic reflector outside and cockpit controls, among many other modern technology features.
None of these features are found on this Ford Escort Batman convertible conversion. The two cars have one characteristic in common; both have an open-air passenger compartment, and neither one has a top to cover it.
However, the value of the two Batmobiles is slightly different. The homemade version is worth $5,000… maybe. The original Batmobile sold at auction a few years ago for $4.6 million.
The driver and passengers of this 1962 Cadillac convertible must leap over the sides to get in and out of the vehicle, given that there are no doors in the front or rear. Fortunately, the vehicle has been lowered, making the challenge just a bit easier.
Once inside, the riders can enjoy the fresh air and wind in the face that only a convertible can provide (unless, of course, they are cruising in the city and breathing the exhaust of thousands of other pollution-creating vehicles). They can also enjoy some music during the ride, generated by a sound system featuring speakers mounted where the doors should be, and a massive speaker located between the seats of the last row.
One look at this Hyundai Trike conversion begs the question: Why chop off the back of a four-wheeled vehicle with a trunk, cargo space, and rear passenger compartment to add a single rear wheel?
The performance must be severely affected by the three-wheel configuration. Cornering could be risky with virtually no traction in back to hold the turns. With no doors and no apparent seat belts or shoulder straps, there is nothing to keep the driver and passenger from rolling out of the car.
This modified Hyundai makes no sense, but the flames on the fenders and the checkered flag on the hood look cool.
Musician, songwriter, and disc jockey, Jiles Perry Richardson Jr. was called “The Big Bopper.” He was best known for his compositions in the 1950s, "Chantilly Lace" and "White Lightning."
Why the nickname is painted on the tail of this 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible limo is a complete mystery.
Perhaps it is just part of the promotional advertising for the Hollywood Malt and Burger Famous Food. Most likely, this limo spends more time parked in front of the restaurant than on the open road, and the fake Santa Clause probably remains seated in the back all year long.
Maybe the Big Bopper once stopped here for a burger during a concert tour.
Since its inception in 1927, Volvo has led the automobile industry in vehicle safety. The company has been at the forefront self-regulation even before many government safety regulations were implemented and has continually introduced innovative technology. For example, in 2003, the Volvo integrated the Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS) into its S40 and V50 models. The system processes information allowing drivers to navigate through heavy traffic, and it automatically adjusts when the situation has improved.
Volvo also builds their cars with pillar and roofs designed to withstand a rollover. When the home mechanic modifies the original sedan by removing the roof and installing a soft top, these safety features are no longer present. Perhaps a hardtop convertible would be a better option.
Automobile laws vary by state in the U.S., but in Washington, the RCW 46.37.410 law reads as follows:
“All motor vehicles operated on the public highways of this state shall be equipped with a front windshield manufactured of safety glazing materials for use in motor vehicles…except…on such vehicles not so equipped…the operators of such vehicles shall wear glasses, goggles, or face shields…”
The owner of this convertible conversion completely removed the front windshield but left the windshield wipers in place. With nothing to support a rear-view mirror, the owner installed a metal stand to hold it in place.
The helmet with visor sitting on the dash must be worn to comply with the law requiring face shields if no windshield is present.
A Ute is an abbreviation for "utility" or "coupé utility," used in New Zealand and Australia to describe vehicles with a tray behind the passenger compartment. The tray is missing from this vehicle.
Judging from the damage done to the front left fender and the collapsed rear section of this Subaru Forester, the vehicle was involved in an accident. Rather than restore the body and other components to their original condition, the owner decided to create a convertible.
The design lacks a few features. While the Forester is open to the air, there is no cover for rainy days. Rear seats are missing, and although the taillights have been rewired, the tailgate no longer opens.
Sources: oddimotive.com, jalopnik.com, autoweek.com, buyautoinsurance.com