Top Gear’s Top 9: weird and wonderful folding roofs
With summer in full swing, here’s TG’s memory lane look at bizarre sunseeking cars
Peugeot 402 Eclipse
Thought the 206CC was the first Peugeot to wear a disappearing hard-top? Non, mes amis. As far back as 1931 this bulky and cumbersome mechanism was patented for the gorgeous pre-war 402. The roof didn’t fold – it simply lifted itself into the (huge) boot in one giant section.
It wowed the public… but no-one really went out and bought one.Advertisement - Page continues below
Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner
Undeterred by the prewar Peugeot's failure to really catch on in a big way, Ford had another crack at the one-piece foldaway roof between 1957 and 1959, producing almost 50,000 examples.
The Hide-Away Hardtop, as it was marketed, relied on seven electric motors… and ate up all the boot space.
Porsche 718 Spyder RS
For the most extreme Boxster, Porsche redesigned the roof to make it 7.6kg lighter, and changed its mounting points because of the new pesky intake pods.
You can extend the diet further by leaving the separate ‘weather deflector’ rear window at home and just going out with the ‘bimini top’ fitted – an idea inspired by the sunshades on pleasure cruisers you might see in Monaco. But you might look like a bit of a prat in Maidenhead.Advertisement - Page continues below
Citroen C3 Pluriel
Heading back to 2003 now, when Citroen decided to reinvent the supermini with a retractable fabric top, and roof rails you could unclip altogether, then leave at home. Again, great on the riviera, but not so hot in Rotherham.
Despite this, it somehow lasted on sale until 2010. As Noughties as a Motorola Razr, this. But harder to fold away.
Ferrari 575 Superamerica
Perhaps the simplest roof arrangement possible: a glass bubble that flips through almost 180 degrees and rests upside down like a giant bowl. So yes, if it fills with dust or moisture then you raise the roof, it dumps a lot of grot over you, your passenger, and your V12 supercar’s interior.
The Renault Wind copied it, with a tonneau cover to stop the dirt-bath.
Honda CRX del Sol
Honda’s twee MX-5 rival had a bizarre idea: why not post the roof into a sort of pizza box slot and then lower it into the rear deck? Well, if anyone could make it reliable, it’s Honda.
Still, when the S2000 came along the company decided a semi-electric soft-top was smarter after all, so the Del Sol’s roof remains a unique ‘solution’ to the al fresco car problem.
Porsche 991 Targa
The 911 Targa was originally invented as a loophole when word got out the hugely lucrative US market might ban convertibles due to rollover injury risk.
Said legislation never came to pass and modern crash protection and pop-up roll hoops mean cabrios are still very much with us, but Porsche kept the Targa too, along with its majestic (and extremely heavy) fabric-and-glass tango.Advertisement - Page continues below
Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport
The world’s fastest convertible was supplied with two clip-in roof panels that didn’t fit in the nose. So, for emergencies, there was an oblong umbrella that slotted its staff into a cupholder-style recess between the seats.
With the emergency roof in place, top speed was limited from 252mph to, uh, 80mph. So if you want to embarrass a Veyron in a spot of roll-on motorway acceleration, just wait for its driver to put the brolly up.
Newport Convertible Engineering Range Rover
Some cars aren’t supposed to be convertibles, the full-size Range Rover among them. But that doesn’t stop the ‘coachbuilding’ likes of Newport Convertible Engineering, who have decapitated the likes of a Tesla Model S, Jaguar XJ and even a Ford F-150 in their time.
The roof method is an enigma. The roof frames are left in place, so presumably the folding canvas fits just-so around all those vital seals. We’re sure the crash test certification is due aaaaany day now. Ahem.Advertisement - Page continues below