The Rebirth of the Convertible
It may not seem like it today, but there was a time when no automaker made a convertible. In the 1970s, the Federal Government decided that convertibles were not safe. In 1976, General Motors announced that Cadillac Eldorado would be the last convertible to roll of the of the assembly line. After decades of making convertibles, the drop top came to a stop.
In general, the 1970s were dreadful years for car manufacturers. From gas wars to compact cars, the cars from the 1970s have not reached the same collectability levels as cars from the earlier decades. But, if there was one car that collectors had to have, it was that 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible. The car was 19 feet long, weighed more than 2.5 tons, and averaged 12 miles per gallon. If it was sold today, it would cost $40,000.
The behemoth that was the Eldorado is not the reason that manufacturers ceased producing convertibles. General Motors stopped making them because of the fear that the federal government would enact laws about safety and roll-over crashes. They also stopped making them because everyone was buying small, compact cars – especially Japanese ones.
For those who love convertibles, the end did not last. The glamorous 1980s saw the rebirth of the car, which eventually turned into one more way for the the preppy people of the day to cement their status. The trendsetters drove Volkswagen Cabriolets, Pontiac Sunbirds, and topless BMWs and the people still stuck in their compact fuel sippers looked on in awe.
Fortunately, the convertible became more accessible and affordable as time passed. The Pontiac Sunbird became one of the most popular convertibles because of its affordability. The Mazda Miata brought back the days of the British roadster, but with a reliable engine under the hood. Eventually, even Ford delivered a Mustang convertible, harkening back to the glory days of the muscle car era.
Convertibles offer what no other car does: complete and utter freedom. While any car can take passengers from A to B, going in a convertible offers the experience of carefree days and bright sunshine. When you ride in a convertible, you can’t worry about the way your hair looks or the volume of your stereo. You could be in the latest model or the oldest piece of junk, but if the top comes down, you are riding in style. Thank you, Federal Government, for not taking away the convertible.