History of Convertible

Bentley Convertibles
May 19, 2012
Vanquish Convertible
May 19, 2012

Convertible

History
1922 Ben P. Ellerbeck conceived the first practical retractable hardtop system in 1922 – a manually operated system on a Hudson coupe that allowed unimpeded use of the rumble seat even with the top down[30] – but never saw production.[31]
Peugeot Éclipse Décapotable Background: the Georges Paulin patented automatic folding roof in action
1935 Peugeot introduced the first production, power-operated retractable hardtop in 1935, the 402 Éclipse Décapotable,[14] designed and patented by Georges Paulin.[14] The French coachbuilder, Marcel Pourtout, custom-built other examples of Paulins designs on a larger Peugeot chassis as well.[14] The first Eclipse 402s offered a power-retractable top, but in 1936 was replaced by a manually operated version on a stretched chassis, built in limited numbers until World War II.
1941 Chrysler presents the retractable hardtop concept car, the Chrysler Thunderbolt.[30]
1953 Ford Motor Company spent an estimated US$2 million (US$17,373,134 in 2012 dollars[32]) to engineer a Continental Mark II with a servo-operated retractable roof. The project was headed by Ben Smith, a 30-year-old draftsman.[33] The concept was rejected for cost and marketing reasons.[30]
1955 Brothers Ed and Jim Gaylord showed their first prototype at the 1955 Paris motor show,[34] but the car failed to reach production.
1957 Ford introduced the Skyliner in the United States. A total of 48,394 were built from 1957 to 1959.[30] The retractable top was noted for its complexity and usually decent reliability[35][36] in the pre-transistor era. Its mechanism contained 10 power relays, 10 limit switches, four lock motors, three drive motors, eight circuit breakers, as well as 610 feet (190 m) of electrical wire,[30] and could raise the or lower the top in about 40 seconds. The Skyliner was a halo car with little luggage space (i.e., practicality), and cost twice that of a baseline Ford sedan.
1989 Toyota introduced a modern retractable hardtop, the MZ20 Soarer Aerocabin. The car featured an electric folding hardtop and was a marketed as a 2-seater with a cargo area behind the front seats. Production was 500 units.
1995 The Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder convertible by ASC was marketed in the U.S.[31] The design was further popularized by such cars as the 1996 Mercedes-Benz SLK.[14] and 2001 Peugeot 206 CC.
2006 Peugeot presented the a concept four-door retractable hardtop convertible, the Peugeot 407 Macarena.[10] Produced by French coachbuilding specialist Heuliez, the Macarena’s top can be folded in about 30 seconds.[10] It has a reinforcing beam behind the front seats which incorporates LCD screens into the crossmember for the rear passengers.

History in the United States
Until the 1910 introduction by Cadillac of the United States’ first closed-body car, the convertible was the primary body style. US automakers manufactured a broad range of models during the 1950s and 1960s – from economical compact-sized models such as the Rambler American and the Studebaker Lark to the more expensive models such as the Packard Caribbean, Oldsmobile 98, and Imperial by Chrysler.
Threatened rollover safety regulations in the mid-1970s led to diminished popularity by the 1970s. In 1976 Cadillac marketed the Eldorado as “The last convertible in America”. During this period of very low convertible production, T-tops became a popular alternative.
Elsewhere globally, convertible production continued throughout this era with models such as the Mercedes SL, the VW Beetle Cabriolet, the VW Golf Cabriolet, and the Jaguar E-type.
In the 1980s convertibles such as the Chrysler LeBaron and Saab 900 revived the body style in the United States – followed by models such as the Mazda Miata, Porsche Boxster, Audi TT and later retractable hardtop models.

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