Convertibles Sun, Wind, and Speed

By Michael Benson

Mason Crest

Mason Crest 450 Parkway Drive, Suite D Broomall, PA 19008 www.masoncrest.com

© 2018 by Mason Crest, an imprint of National Highlights, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the publisher.

Printed and bound in the United States of America.

Series ISBN: 978-1-4222-3963-6 Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4222-3964-3 EBook ISBN: 978-1-4222-7816-1

First printing 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2

Additional text by Bob Woods.

Cover photograph by Porsche Media Images.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file with the publisher.

C onvert i bles D ream C ars M usc le C ars SUV s V olkswagen CAR S 4 EVERYONE


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A s far as automobiles go, “ragtops” are the ultimate in romance. Convertibles are the closest real life gets to a magic carpet ride. For many drivers during the second half of the twentieth century, the thrill of driving wasn’t complete without the sun on their necks and the wind in their hair. As an outgrowth of the post-World War II West-Coast chic, the convertible—which had been around as long as there had been cars— became the ultimate symbol of the laid-back, California “beautiful person” lifestyle. Many American men and women found that their favorite fantasy involved a straight stretch of open road and a hot car with the top down. Since 1945, Detroit’s car manufacturers, as well as car companies all around the world, have been keeping those fantasies alive by producing cars that are so sleek, so sexy, that they belong in a world of make-believe. Hollywood has certainly done its fair share to further glamorize the open-top automobile in countless movies and television programs. On a more practical note, convertibles were never produced in great numbers, making them valuable commodities to car collectors! This book focuses on these fantasy automobiles, magic carpets reserved exclusively for life’s best moments.


The Rolls Royce Phantom I was a formal town car built between 1925 and 1929. It had a 6-cylinder, 7,695-cubic- centimeter engine and rode on a 144-inch wheelbase.



The 1932 Imperial Sedan was among the first Chryslers to have fully flex­ ible rubber engine mountings (called “floating power”), an automatic clutch, and free wheels.

One of Chrysler’s best, the 1931 Imperial Roadster had a chassis frame made of 8-inch- deep pressed steel, further strengthened by six cross mem­ bers. Engine vibra­ tion was almost completely elimi­ nated by a nine- bearing crankshaft, counterweighted at eight points.



Fred and August Duesenberg had built four Indianapolis 500 winners before engineering the 1933 Duesenberg SJ Roadster for road use by the general public. As you can see, it’s a lot more than a Sunday-goin’-to-church car.

FOLLOWING PAGE: The 1931 Duesenberg J Boattail Speedster lived up to its nickname when supercharged up to 320 horsepower. The car’s actual name—the one given to it by its builder, Walter Murphy of Pasadena, California—was the Disappearing Top Torpedo Convertible Coupe.



A synchromesh gearbox and vacuum-servo brakes were featured on this 1933 Packard V-12 Coupe.




T he term “convertible,” meaning a car that could convert itself from enclosed to open- topped, was not standardized in the auto industry until 1928. Before that, cars with removable tops were known as roadsters, runabouts, or touring cars. Convertible was formally adopted in 1928, however, by the Society of Automotive Engineers. The year 1929 brought to the United States the stock-market crash and the Great Depression, which would spread around the world. Ironically, since the only folks who could afford a car were the incredibly rich, these harsh economic times gave birth to the era of the ultra-luxurious touring car. Packard Twelve Such a touring car was the Packard Twelve convertible of 1933, which had a massive 7,300-cubic-centimeter, 12-cylinder, centrifugal-pump, water-cooled engine. It had syncromesh gears, semi-elliptic leaf-spring suspension on rigid axles, mechanical drum brakes on all wheels, and a maximum speed of 100 miles per hour. So it had muscle, all right—long before anyone ever thought to call it that—but the thing that made it art was its convertible roof, designed by Count Alexis de Akro Sakroffsky. That roof transformed the vehicle into a limousine. All of Packard’s cars during this time were marvelous. The 1934 Packard convertible was designated a “classic” by the Classic Car Club of America (CCCA). Mint-condition convertibles manufactured by Packard in 1934 have sold for as much as $120,000 in today’s collectors’ market. But Packard merged with Studebaker in 1954, and the name was last used on a car four years later. Other cars of the 1930s that typified the gorgeous convertibles of the era were the rag- top editions of the 1934 Pontiac Series 603 Cabriolet, the 1937 Ford DeLuxe Convertible Sedan, the 1937 Packard Super 8 Convertible Coupe, the 1940 Buick Roadmaster Convertible Sedan, and the 1940 Ford Deluxe Convertible Coupe. The War For the most part, the manufacturing of civilian production automobiles came to a halt during World War II, as the world’s car factories were almost all being used for the war effort. Some “1942” convertibles were built in the United States during the weeks before




The 1940 Ford Convertible came with a new and improved steering column.

The 1939 Ford Deluxe Convertible had a V-8 engine and was one of the first Fords to have hydraulic brakes.

The 1937 Packard 8 Convertible had an 8-cylinder engine, as its name would imply, and was among the first Packards to have hydraulic brakes and independent front suspension.

The 1934 Custom Packard had the trademark V-shaped radiator and a 12-cylinder engine that displaced seven liters.



and after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into the war. The 1942 Cadillac Dual Cowl Phaeton was one of the most unusual cars ever built. The dual cowls of its name referred to windshields. The back seat had its own windshield, mounted behind the front seat. The car had many features which were not, as of yet, available to the public, including automatic trans­ mission and power windows. Another 1942 model was the DeSoto Convertible, made by the Chrysler Corporation. It could be had with an optional four-speed semi-automatic transmission.

The 1940 Packard Darrin Victoria was designed by H “Dutch” Darrin, a Parisian car-builder who frequently did side jobs for car compa­ nies in Detroit. This old- money car used the standard Packard grille, bumpers, and lights, with an elongated and lowered hood. It had a 127-inch wheelbase and used engines ranging in size from 282 to 356 cubic inches of displacement. Prices ranged from $3,819 to $4,593.

The 1936 Cord 810 Convertible Phaeton—produced at Auburn’s second factory in Connersville, Indiana—made quite a splash at its debut at the National Automobile Show at the Grand Central Palace in New York City in November of 1935. Some still call it the greatest car ever made.

Ah, classic architecture! The 1937 BMW Cabriolet was made by the Bay- erische-Motoren-Werke of Munich, Germany, and helped lay the foundation

for the famous BMW sports cars to come.


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