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Topless utes arrive just in time for summer
By MARK VAUGHN
AutoWeek | Published 05/29/07, 10:05 am et
Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia, California, has been chopping the tops off perfectly good cars since 1983. Now, as summer looms in the Northern Hemisphere, they’ve taken to chopping the tops off sport/utility vehicles, too, including the Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Hummer H3.
The premise of a convertible SUV should raise hundreds of red flags for anyone who has ever heard the phrase “torsional rigidity.” We’ve seen homemade cabriolets where the windshields cracked after three blocks of driving because what is left of the frame twists like a pair of plastic salad tongs. But Newport does a solid engineering job on every project, and the SUVs are no exception. With welded-in reinforcement around the window frames and behind the back seats, as well as roll hoops welded into all the right places, both FJ and H3 are stiff enough that you won’t have to worry about anything breaking on them.
The unibody FJ felt much stiffer than the H3, but even the H3 seemed sound over speed bumps and across rain gutters.
The power tops are hydraulically actuated via a single button, with the final latch done by hand at the windshield header. Both SUVs keep their stock doors front and rear, so the tops seal more efficiently.
Unlike the last time we drove one of Newport’s convertible conversions—a Chrysler 300C that stopped working in mid-retraction when a fuse blew (“Chrysler 300C Cabriolet,” AW, Nov. 22, 2004)—the only problem we had this time was a tiny visor mount that popped out.
“Don’t write about that,” said executive vice president Matthew Kahnamelli. Don’t worry, we won’t. You needn’t worry, either, since there is a three-year warranty.
Dealer cost for a conversion is about $10,000 for the FJ and $19,000 for the H3. To see if there’s an authorized Newport Convertible dealer in your area, go to www. newportconvertible.com.