A Short History of the Convertible

The open-top car is considered one of the greatest innovations in automotive history. This, however, isn’t quite true. In fact, the first automobiles were all open-topped. A prime example is Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricyle, which, like virtually every motor vehicle of the time, followed the design of horse-drawn carriages. In those days, if you were driving and wanted to get out of the weather, you either fashioned some sort of makeshift cover or parked under a tree. This did nothing to make the automobile more practical for everyday Americans. PHOTOS: See more of Henry Ford's Quadricyle here In 1905, Cadillac began offering closed-car vehicles as an option. They were a huge hit among drivers of the time, who were tired of eating dust and flies while cruising along at 25 MPH. By 1910 Cadillac made the design standard, and it seemed that the days of the open-top car were over.

A Short History of the Convertible

But no sooner did motorists gain shelter from the elements than they grew bored with it, and the first true convertibles emerged in the 1920s. The early models were cold and drafty and had unreliable, hard to operate roofs. This changed in 1934, with the introduction of Peugeot’s 601 Eclipse line, which featured a retractable hardtop roof. This was followed in 1939 by Plymouth, which in that year introduced the first motor-controlled tops. In the 1950s, Rambler introduced a Nash convertible with door frames and B-pillars that stayed in place even as the roof top retracted. This allowed for greater structural integrity and eliminated the rattling and other problems associated with earlier convertibles. PHOTOS: Browse thousands of convertible car galleries here In the 1970s, worries about the government introducing strict new rollover standards nearly drove the final nail in the convertible’s coffin. But those fears proved unfounded, and by the mid-80s the ragtop was enjoying a revival of interest among American drivers. Today, innovations like sliding glass roofs are taking the open-top car in directions never dreamt of in the early years of motoring. The convertible’s future, like its design, is wide open and racing towards the future. For more stories like this follow Boldride on Twitter!

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