A dear friend of mine and his wife bought new vehicles recently. He bought a car that suited his needs as a sound technician – utility, durability and economy. The fact that he got all the bells and whistles on it doesn’t hurt either. His lovely wife was blessed with a sexy, white convertible coupe.
One nice early spring day, he chose to drive his wife’s car and I was to ride with him. He mentioned that he had wanted to drive her car for some time and that he was going to drop the top. Sounded like a plan. We prepared to leave and our manly instincts reacted at the same exact time, saying: “We are NOT going to be two guys riding around in a convertible!” We discussed it for about five minutes and decided that we had best take his car.
As we drove to our destination (relieved that we took a car with four doors and a roof), we joked over how we could have explained our situation. I said: “Maybe if it were in a Bentley or a Lambo…….nah!” He responded by saying: “No matter what type of convertible it is, two guys never look right with the top down…” He went on to say that the status of the car would only delay the inevitable judgment we’d receive. We finally concluded that the idea of a man in a two-seater isn’t so bad, but the thought of two guys squeezed into one is a little less tolerant in our current culture. The problem is only exacerbated by the addition of a retractable roof.
Why? Roger Moore rode around in a two-seat Volvo and became the poster boy for Aston Martin, seldom with another man in the passenger’s seat, but nonetheless always considered a man’s man.
Cars like the MG, Triumph, Volkswagen Karmaan and Pontiac Fiero were always supposed to be sophisticated boy’s toys. Admittedly, they look even sexier with a female climbing out of them. This makes cars like the Porsche Boxster and Lotus Elise a bit of a quandary. They are perfect masculine cars for the track, but I can’t give Joe a ride home from Laguna Seca unless we keep out helmets on. Another strange thing is that a slew of new supercars are always debuted in Monaco geared toward the wealthy male. All of them two-seater and many convertibles.
Did the industry try to warn us about the changes in social tolerance? Was the Targa Top supposed to be an answer to the changing times? Was the T-Top a stylish way to own a convertible without really having one? Were they supposed to preserve masculinity while giving open-air freedom?
There is no more visceral feeling that to have the wind whistling by at well over the legal limit (whoops, did I say that?) in a car with a million miles of headroom. You want to share that with your best buddy, but the crass, judgmental ol’ coot in the Ford Granada next to you will give you the side eye. One thing is for sure; summer is approaching and driving around with the top up will begin to look lame. If you have a gun and don’t ever shoot it, you are missing out on 90% of the fun of having it. Same thing with convertibles (metal or cloth), if you don’t drop the top, just buy a sunroof!
Maybe our perception was wrong. Maybe convertiblism isn’t gender-specific. Maybe the exposing of the interior is instinctive. In collector car circles, the adage “When the top goes down the price goes up” could be applied to women (that was naughty, Mr. Cribbs). The whole manly-men-don’t-drive-little-sports-cars thing is a recent development, and a completely ridiculous one at that. Many racing championships were won in two-seaters – convertibles at that. Many famous products were sold as a result of the man pulling up in his European spyder or cabriolet in the commercial. G.I.’s returning home from the bowels of mortal combat scooped up anything that was lighter than the 10-ton vehicles they were use to lumbering around in. Why can’t a rugged guy be seen in a 2-seat Alfa and maybe take a friend to the hardware store on the way?
This reading is just the result of a conversation between two men who love cars. That love will override any preconceived notions on a cool summer evening in the balmy nights of July later this year. We WILL go for that ride with the top down – but I’m driving.