22 Vintage Convertibles That Will Blow Your Hair Back
Base Price New: $5,846
Average Used Price: $28,500
When the Chevrolet Corvette first appeared in showrooms, it was only available as a convertible. Those early models can sell for more than $50,000 or more on the collectors market. Hardtop models appeared in 1963 with the second-generation 'Vette, and T-tops became an option with the third-generation model (1968-80). The 1974 Stingray convertible was available with a choice of three V-8 engines, and the base model is still relatively easy to find because GM produced so many of them, and you can find some fixers for $15,000 or less.
Base Price New: $6,067
Average Used Price: $32,400
The Continental is one of Lincoln's most enduring namesakes and has been produced off and on (mostly on) since the 1939 model year. But it's the fourth generation designed by Elwood Engel, one of Detroit's most notable designers, that collectors covet most. With its famous "suicide" rear-hinged back doors, an available 462-cubic-inch V-8, a power convertible top, tilt steering wheel, the Continental was a marvel of engineering in its day. Values for the '61 convertible have spiked in the past years, with mint versions selling for $100,000.
Base Price New: $2,440
Average Used Price: $14,200
With its air-cooled, rear-mounted slant-six engine, Chevy's Corvair was a minor marvel of engineering and one of the first "compact" cars to be produced by the Big Three. The convertible appeared for the 1962 model year, and the Monza version was one of the first cars to come with a turbocharged engine as an option. The second-generation Corvair had the misfortune of arriving in 1965 around the same time that Ralph Nader published "Unsafe At Any Speed." The book, which labeled the car a "one-car accident," torpedoed sales, even though independent studies later exonerated the Corvair's safety record. Values have dipped in recent years for this car.
Base Price New: $2,611
Average Used Price: $66,400
The Bel Air namesake survived through a number of different iterations in the 30 years that General Motors produced it. But it's the second-generation model, produced for the 1955-57 model years, that are the true classics. GM's marketing department called this V-8-powered beast "the Hot One" in ads, and reviewers at the time praised it for its handling and acceleration (0-60 in 12.9 seconds, according to Popular Mechanics). Collectors can pay nearly $100,000 for a mint-condition model, and values are holding steady.
Base Price New: $4,500
Average Used Price: $9,500
When car buffs argue over the best British roadster, it usually comes down to MGBs and Triumphs. Like its rival, the Spitfire was designed to be a lightweight, low-cost convertible. The first models were also very underpowered: Its four-cylinder engine produced all of 63 horsepower. Over the years, the Spitfire received modest design changes, even if it remained underpowered. Today, Spitfires are very inexpensive and fairly easy to find parts for. You can find a mint-condition '77 Spitfire for less than $20,000.
Base Price New: $15,724
Average Used Price: $6,350
For many collectors, a Ford Mustang is THE classic muscle car, hardtop or convertible. A first-generation Mustang, built from 1965 to '73, can cost $30,000 to $50,000 in top condition, but you can find newer models for far less. Ford revived the Mustang convertible in 1983 after nearly a decade out of production, and the fourth-generation 1987 GT model featured a 200-horsepower V-8 and aggressive styling. It's an affordable choice for first-time collectors and fans of '80s muscle cars, but prices are beginning to rise.
Base Price New: $7,950
Average Used Price: $11,700
Before the Mazda Miata, there were English roadsters like the MG MGB. The basic design didn't change much over the nearly two decades this four-cylinder car was produced, (although the chrome bumpers of pre-1975 models are more attractive than the rubber bumper of later years). Relatively lightweight with a low center of gravity, MGBs were a blast to drive on twisty roads, even if their mechanical reliability was atrocious. Resale values have been fairly steady.
Base Price New: $21,264
Average Used Price: $14,350
The British weren't the only ones producing classic roadsters in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. Italian automakers produced a number of classic convertibles, including the collector-favorite Alfa Romeo Spider. With a body designed by Pininfarina, the Spider became an instant classic, and its body style remained largely unchanged throughout the production lifecycle. Collectors can pay $50,000 or more for an older model with chrome bumpers and the classic triangular Alfa grille. Spiders from the early '90s aren't quite as flashy, but are easier to find and much cheaper.
Base Price New: $3,755
Average Used Price: $17,200
Porsche purists long looked down on this mid-engine two-seater because it was designed and built in conjunction with Volkswagen as an entry-level sports car. Most of these vehicles were powered by anemic four-cylinder engines, but some models had a flat-six that could do 0 to 60 in under 9 seconds. A targa-top roadster rather than a true convertible, these petite Porsches have spiked in value in the past couple years.
Base Price New: $31,286
Average Used Price: $9,100
The Eldorado holds a place of honor among American convertibles. Classic hardtops and convertibles in the 1950s and '60s, they were Cadillac's flagship vehicles, selling for a premium. The 1976 Eldorado was the last convertible made in the U.S. (including about 200 "Bicentennial Edition" vehicles). General Motors returned to the convertible market in 1984 with an Eldorado Biarritz and its sibling, the Buick Riviera. A '57 droptop can sell for $100,000 or more today, but mid-'80s convertibles are affordable and relatively easy to find.
Base Price New: $2,724
Average Used Price: $14,450
Studebaker was already on shaky financial ground when it unveiled the compact Lark hardtop and convertible in the hope that it would revive company fortunes. Although it sold well initially, the Lark — and Studebaker — couldn't compete with the Big Three automakers, and the company folded in 1966. Available with a six-cylinder or V-8 engine and a choice of transmissions, the Lark was a speedy, sharp convertible. Today, 1962 models are the most common and their value has held steady.
Base Price New: $13,800
Average Used Price: $5,375
Mazda's two-seat convertible single-handedly revived the roadster in the 1990s, following in a long tradition of European classics like the MG MGB and Alfa Romeo Spider. Nearly 30 years after the first Miatas appeared in the U.S., Mazda is still producing them, though they're far more substantial than the first generation of cars, which was produced until 2005. Classic '90s Miatas with the pop-up headlights are becoming harder to find, but a model from the early 2000s can be had for as little as $3,000 for one in fair condition.
Base Price New: $32,600
Average Used Price: $11,225
Another 1990s Japanese revival roadster, the Honda S2000 is a high-revving, rear-wheel-drive convertible that Honda produced to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2000. Models built before 2004 have a 2-liter, four-cylinder engine that produces a whopping 240 horsepower, and a redline at 9,000 rpm, making these favorite of street racers who often modify them. And don't forget about Honda's legendary reliability. Collectors take note: These convertibles have begun to skyrocket in value.
Base Price New: $59,900
Average Used Price: $11,000
The Boxster was Porsche's first true roadster since the legendary 550 (James Dean owned one of those), and their first mid-engine car. The first generation of these six-cylinder convertibles, produced until 2004, revived Porsche's flagging fortunes and is a cheaper alternative to other models from the same era. The '04 model, for example, could do 0 to 60 in just 5.7 seconds and had a top speed of 169 mph. One caveat: Older Boxsters are prone to intermediate shaft bearing failure, a pricey repair. After dipping in value over the past few years, prices are beginning to rise again.
Base Price New: $23,585
Average Used Price: $4,725
This four-cylinder, mid-engine sports car began life as roadster with T-tops in the '80s, then became a full-fledged convertible with the introduction of the third-generation Spyder model for the 2000 model year. Like Honda's S2000, the MR2 was a relatively lightweight, well-balanced roadster that was quick, agile, and a heck of a lot of fun to drive. Although pre-2000 models are more sought after by collectors, the convertible MR2 is still a good value.
Produced: 1949-79, 2001-Present
Base Price New: $6,800
Average Used Price: $13,300
Volkswagen's original Beetle was already one of the most iconic cars of all time by the time the last convertible landed in showrooms in 1979. When the company revived the name for the 2001 model year, they made sure the design paid homage to its past. The new Beetle convertibles are fun, but it's the classic Bugs that really turn collectors' heads. Because VW produced so many Beetles over the years, these convertibles are still fairly easy to find (so are replacement parts), and they're a great first car for wannabe collectors who enjoy doing their own maintenance and restoration.
Produced: 1955-97, 2002-05
Base Price New: $35,390
Average Used Price: $10,850
The 1950s, for some the golden age of convertibles, were also the Thunderbird's glory years. The V-8 powered two-seater was bigger than Chevy's Corvette convertible and marketed as a luxury car, not a sports car. The T-Bird gained rear seats for the '58 model year redesign, and by 1967, Ford had eliminated the convertible as an option. The 1957 model, considered by many enthusiasts to be one of the finest cars of the era, can sell for as much as $80,000 for one in mint condition. For the 2002 model year, Ford revived the T-Bird as a throwback convertible styled to look like the original two-seater, a much cheaper option for collectors.
Base Price New: $55,300
Average Used Price: $12,650
The SL roadster has gone through a number of iterations since the first ones appeared in the mid-1950s. In fact, it's one of the longest-lived nameplates of any automaker. The boxy R107 model (1972-89) is the best value for collectors. These V-8 luxury droptops have declined in value during the past few years, especially the 560SL models built from the mid- to late 1980s. You can find older models like the 450SL and 380SL in good condition for about $25,000 or less.
Base Price New: $2,990
Average Used Price: $80,900
Considered the daddy of American muscle cars, the GTO defined the era with its legendary 389-cubic-inch V-8 engine (a 421-horsepower model was optional) and aggressive performance (the '65 coupe could do 0-60 in under 6 seconds). Although the convertible sold reasonably well in its first iteration, by the time the second-generation model appeared in 1968, sales began to plummet dramatically. Today, GTOs are highly prized by collectors, with even fixers going for $30,000.
Base Price New: $36,320
Average Used Price: $3,450
BMW's 325 series has been in production since 1975, growing bigger and more powerful with every new generation. A convertible option joined the lineup in 1985 as part of the second generation (1982-94), and this boxy coupe remains an icon of the yuppie era, appearing in films like "Defending Your Life" and "Reality Bites." These six-cylinder coupes have held their value fairly steadily and are an affordable luxury convertible option. Like other German cars, BMWs can run forever, but repairs can be costly.
Base Price New: $6,406
Average Used Price: $16,700
The Scout is another oddball convertible, a four-wheel-drive proto-SUV built by a company best known for farm equipment. When it first appeared in the early 1960s as hardtop truck, four-wheel-drive vehicles were unheard of, aside from the Jeep CJ. Soft tops or removable hardtops became options for the 1966 Scout 800 model year, which had the boxier form that later SUVs would adopt. Removable hardtops and convertibles would continue to be an option on Scouts and Scout IIs until the lines were discontinued in 1980. Values are slowly increasing for these early SUVs.
Base Price New: $13,974)
Average Used Price: $2,350
When Chrysler unveiled the LeBaron in 1982, it was the first new convertible to be produced since the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado. The boxy four-cylinder LeBaron wasn't especially sexy or fast — it was essentially a K-car with the top lopped off — but it caused a stir among car buffs. The next-generation LeBaron, introduced 1987, was much more attractive with its aerodynamic design and turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 engines. Not a true collectors' car and unlikely to increase in value, the LeBaron still represents a landmark in convertible history and is a bargain.
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