I was thinking of a song by Jim Croce where he talks about some guy driving a “drop down Cadillac.” He was, of course, talking about a convertible and the drop down roof or top, and that is the subject of our article this morning.
The convertible roof is known by several names: drop-head coupe, cabriolet, retractable roof, soft top, rag top, and others. They can be solid or made from cloth or vinyl. They can lift off or they can be retractable and disappear into the trunk of your vehicle. Whatever they are called and however they are attached, they are cool to look at and a lovely ride on a nice summer day.
On the flip side, soft tops, or convertible roofs, are unsafe, easily broken into, and suffer deterioration and shrinkage often, as well as sun damage. Often they also offer poor visibility out of the rear window because that window is plastic, and they definitely have poor structural stability.
So it’s a trade off for sure but still, man oh man, they are so fun. Today we are going to talk about two specific convertible roofs, namely the Tonneau and the Detachable Hardtops.
The tonneau roof is a folding textile convertible top. It folds into the rear of the car either by hand or by use of a mechanism or motor. These tops are almost always made of vinyl, and there is also a tonneau cover to protect the storage compartment when the top is up. The covers usually attach using snaps.
Some convertibles like the Chrysler LeBaron use a sleeve and groove system to anchor the cover. Some, like the Cadillac Eldorado, have a two-part detachable, rigid tonneau that is strong enough to support a person. It is often called a parade boot.
The Mercedes SL has a manually operated self-storing rigid tonneau cover, and the Porsche Boxster and Toyota MR2 have Z-fold tops. Then we have those that have a electro-hydraulic roof mechanism like the ones used on the Mercedes SL, the old Ford Thunderbird, Volvo C70, and Chrysler Sebring.
Finally, some cars have detachable hard tops which are usually attached with snaps or clips and completely lift off and are stored somewhere else while driving the car.
If you have one of the soft tops, chances are excellent that you will need a replacement after a couple of years. That is just the price you pay for having one. Remember that you can always find soft tops at your local salvage yard where replacement parts are inexpensive and always come with a warranty for your protection.