A Beginners Guide to the Types of Convertible Tops
The word “convertible” comes from the root word “convert,” simply referring to a car with a roof that is changeable. However, any automotive enthusiast would tell you that there’s much more to a convertible than simply that. There are, in fact, many types of convertible tops based on their material and the way they are removed. Here’s a quick, simple guide on the different types of convertible tops.
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The biggest distinction between types of convertible tops is if it’s a hardtop or soft top.
Hardtop convertible roofs are made of sturdy, rigid material — typically metal that’s the same color as the car body. They provide better protection against harsh weather (including cold temperatures) and security from thieves.
- Detachable hardtops function as a single piece that can be removed entirely from the car and stored elsewhere. These used to be popular in sports cars in the latter half of the twentieth century but faded out during the 1990s.
- Retractable hardtops are multi-piece units that rely on mechanical systems to collapse and store them in the back of the car. They’re costly to fix and purchase but are the most convenient and attractive when they work.
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Soft-top convertible roofs are made of pliable, fabric-like material that can extend and retract without taking up much storage space or necessarily relying on an automated mechanical system. Fabric-based soft-top covers only last about 3-6 years (depending on upkeep) and are easy to cut through. But, they also match the aesthetic of convertibles and aren’t horrendous to replace.
They’re offered in a variety of material combinations of plies, inlay, and lining. These often involve:
- Polyester or vinyl: good for durability and are most popular
- Rubber: good for protection and ease of cleaning
- Cotton or canvas: good for visual elegance
You’ll also find detachable soft-top roofs on some off-road vehicles, such as bikini tops that consist of fabric stretched and strapped over a utility vehicle’s frame — though detachable hardtops are becoming more widespread on SUVs for year-round practicality.
Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a Hyundai Veloster Turbo (which recently replaced his 1995 Saturn SC-2). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.