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DWIGHT GOODEN’S BMW 850i KOENIG WIDE-BODY
du Pont REGISTRY
March 1995
This is a special car! To be specific it is a one-of-a-kind BMW 850i with a Koenig wide-body conversion, modified suspension, sound system, exhaust, and “sensitized” engine. It’s also the only convertible in North America (or the world for that matter). Obviously it’s bright red with an all black interior and black cloth top.
The car is the crown jewel in a growing car collection owned by Dwight Gooden, who has an eye for cars just like his eye for the strike zone.
The BMW “Pocket-Rocket” is the result of extensive modification surgery performed by Marlon Gremli and his team at German Autohaus in Tampa, Florida. These folks are as good at what they do as Doc Gooden is at pitching. They have to be. Doc wants his cars just right (and German Autohaus has worked on all of them).
Here’s the specs on the BMW and the rest of Doc’s “auto-team”.
BMW 850i – 13 piece Koenig wide-body kit; convertible top by Newport Convertible Emgineering in California; trunk spoiler by AC Schnitzer; Connolly leather interior; custom color instrumentation; 3 piece OZ 17″ racing wheels with Bridgestone 315 35-17 and 285 35-17 tires; horsepower boost via a Dinan chip; Remus (German) exhaust; MK Motorsports suspension; Alpine AM/FM tape CD, Rockford-Fosgate Amplifier; MB Quart and JL Audio speaker systems; CODE alarm.
Mercedes-Benz S500 Coupe – Black/black. Lorinser wheels, modified suspension and exhaust; super sound system – Pioneer AM/FM tape CD, etc; custom burled walnut interior trim. (Doc’s bad weather car.)
Bentley Mulsanne – Black/black. Chrome wheels and super sound system – Alpine AM/FM tape CD, etc. Traditional formal elegance for four. (Doc’s important occasion car.)
Mercedes-Benz E320 Cabriolet – Spruce green/tan. Lorinser ground effects, suspension, exhaust and 17″ wheels; upgraded stereo by Alpine with MB Quart and JL Audio speaker systems. (Top up or down, this four seater is for Doc and the Mrs.)
Chevrolet Suburban – Black/tan. Special chrome wheels (no Lorinser’s!); upgraded wood interior trim package; sounds by Pioneer. Just what every family needs.
1964 Chevrolet Impala Convertible. A ground up white on white 100 point killer restoration job. The year is important (that’s when Doc was born) and the model’s important (his dad had one). It’ll be completed by late spring ’95.
Something tells me that these six “striking” automobiles are just the beginning. Doc’s used to playing with eight other team-mates. Speaking of which … When baseball gets its act together, look for #16 on the mound. Keep your eye on his fast ball … it’s just like his car – FAST!

ConvertiBeetle bare toppen i USA
OMBYGNING: To californiske firmaer overhaler VW med en cabriolet-version af Beetle
KørGodt
November 2014 by Jens Velling

Omfavn den, kør den? Omfavn den, kør den? Sådan lyder det drillende sporgsmål i en af de mange reklamer, der siden marts har været med til at fyre op under en af amerikanernes gamle flammer, Folkevognsboblen.
Amerikanerne selv taler henført om deres mangeårige love-affair med den simple, pålidelige og billige bil. I tresserne og halvfjerdserne satte den en hel generation af unge på hjul. Nu er den her igen. Navnet er New Beetle, motoren ligger foran, og prisen er steget dramatisk. Det betyder ingenting. Amerikanerne både omfavner og kører bilen i noget der minder om ungdomsforelskelse, part to.
Volkswagen har svært ved at følge med efterspørgslen. Helt slemt er det i det solbeskinnede Californien, hvor kunderne kimer forhandlerne ned for at høre, hvornår Beetlen kommer som cabriolet. Den slags ekstravagante ønsker er der ikke tid til at efterkomme på verdens foreløbig eneste Beetle-fabrik i Puebla, Mexico. Selv om VW overvejer at bygge endnu en fabrik, vil der gå mindst tre år, før tyskerne er klar til at sende en topløs Beetle på markedet.
For en forelsket amerikaner med varme dollars i inderlommen er det lang tid at vente på fuldbyrdet kærlighed. Derfor har to californiske karrosserifirmaer startet deres egen produktion af de såkaldte ConvertiBeetles.
– Vi var færdige med den første prototype i juni. I dag er vi oppe på at lave 25 biler om måneden, fortæller Al Zadeh, ingeniør og præsident for det ene af firmaerne, Newport Convertible Engineering i Los Angeles.
10.000 dollars
Topløse Beetler er det største hit lige nu for Al Zadehs firma, der de sidste 16 år har klippet taget af luksusbiler som Lexus, Mercedes og BMW for meget velhavende kunder, der er villige til at betale tusindvis af dollars for at eje en helt unik bil.
En ConvertiBeetle er også mest for de velbeslåede. En ny Beetle koster i USA fra 16.000 dollars eller godt 100.000 danske kroner. Al Zadeh tager 10.000 dollars for at udskifte metaltaget med en foldbar kanvastop. Det svarer til en merpris på over 60.000 kroner.
– Men så har vi også foretaget så mange afstivninger af karrosseriet, at vores topløse Beetle er endnu stivere end fabriksversionen med tag på, forklarer en tydelig stolt Al Zadeh.
Afstivningen består blandt andet af stivere i bagagerummet, i forrudens vinduesramme og et helt edderkoppespind af metalror under bilens bund.
– Afstivningen under bunden ermin egen opfindelse. Ud over at den forhindrer de typiske fleksninger som mange åbne biler lider af, når de kører over ujævnheder, øger den også sikkerheden ved påkørsel fra siden, forklarer Al Zadeh. Han sammenligner virkningen med Volvos SIPS system, der fordeler kollisionskræfterne til hele bilen. Al Zadeh har dog ikke crash-testet ConvertiBeettlen, men den er godkendt af de amerikanske myndigheder.
Newport Convertible Engineering har så stor succes med ombygningen, at firmaet bliver nødt til at flytte til større lokaler. I løbet af af næste år skal der ansættes 50 nye medarbejdere så produktionen kan øges til op mod 100 topløse Beetler om måneden.
Nogle af dem skal til Europa.
– Jeg har netop indgået en aftale med en europæisk distributør. Frem til nytår regner jeg med at levere mellem 100 og 200 ombyggede Beetler – de fleste til Tyskland, fortæller Al Zadeh.
Luksus-problemer
Newport Convertible Engineering har fået yderligere vind i kalechen, efter at CNN bragte en historie om en af firmaets kunder: Vickie Boyd, en kvinde fra Los Angeles, der havde et problem, som kun er et problem for rige amerikanere: Da hun gik i skole, havde hun en Folkevognsboble med stoftag. Den blev siden skiftet ud med en åben Mercedes. Men sådan én går der ti af på dusinet i Los Angeles’s velfriserede forstæder. Så da Vickie Boyd hørte om muligheden for at få en specialbygget Beetle med kaleche, var hun ikke i tvivl: Ud med Benz’en, ind med Beetlen. Som Vickie Boyd forklarede på CNN: Den er så utroligt sød – I just love it! Alle spørger mig, hvor jeg købte den – ingen spurgte til min Mercedes.

Beetle-mania spawns a customizing frenzy
USA Today
November 9, 2014 By Chris Woodyard

The convertible top and custom wheels and tires that Vickie Boyd added to her Volkswagen New Beetle aren’t enough.
“I’m going to paint some butterflies on it. It will be even cuter,” declares the self-described “old hippie girl” from Laguna Beach, Calif.
From neckties to rear spoilers, the uproarious success of Volkswagen’s New Beetle has spawned a huge market for aftermarket products.
Beetle fanaticism is boosting the $24.7 billion parts market. “It all adds up,” says Al Gaspar, CEO of the Automotive Parts and Accessories Association.
Customizers are popping up to mass produce convertible versions of New Beetle, which VW itself isn’t planning for at least two years. And mail-order parts firms are springing up to cater to the fanaticism that surrounds the curvy car. Bug-based businesses have “probably brought products to market faster than any car I’ve seen,” says Bruce Simurda, editor of Hot VWs magazine. “They’re doing everything – paint, graphics, interiors, engines, suspensions.”
One New Beetle parts seller, Rocky Mountain Motorworks in Woodland Park, Colo., put out a 24-page catalog of New Beetle accessories last summer. “It’s a growing part of the business,” says Greg Patterson, marketing director.
Another accessories seller, Randy Carlson, got the idea for his business after seeing the reaction to the leather interior, custom wheels, custom exhaust, souped-up engine and aluminum bud vase in his own New Beetle.
After being wowed at how folks ogled his customized bug on a coast-to-coast trip, Carlson sys, “I spent the first couple weeks of June trying to get as many items as I could related to the New Beetle.”
Now his store, TVA of California in Brea, Calif., stocks items such as a roof rack ($399.95), an “I’m baaack!” Beetle T-shirt ($14.95) and the aluminum vase ($65).
“The emotional tie people have to this car,” Carlson says is “more than any other car on the road.”
Volkswagen is watching the aftermarket grow, mostly with appreciation.
“We love the support, but we want it be factory-approved equipment, not just garbage that goes on the car,” says Steve Stalnaker, a VW operations support specialist who sports a factory-approved New Beetle necktie straight out of the automaker’s catalog.
Stalnaker says most of the unauthorized aftermarket items he has seen have been well done. They look good, but he worries about safety.
The New Beetle is the safest small car ever tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an industry-financed research group. That’s because its design routes crash energy around the vulnerable passenger compartment to other parts of the car. It is not clear how removing the roof affects its ability to withstand a crash.
In addition, cutting off the roof weakens the body. But modifiers say they address that by reinforcing the chassis before removing the roof.
Despite those concerns, converters expect business to boom. Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia has completed 14 New Beetles so far, including a blue one for a Jordanian prince. President Al Zadeh plans to open a new factory by January with at least 55 workers to do 50 or more VWs in assembly-line fashion a month. That would add $^ million in annual revenue, quadrupling his annual sales.
Competitor Richard Straman of R. Straman Co. in Newport Beach, Calif., has done six New Beetle convertibles. He plans to convert up to 2,000Bugs a year.
Both converters charge about $10,000 for a manual ragtop, on a car that lists for $16,850. Straman’s version retains the rear side windows; Zadeh’s version removes them.
Boyd opted for a convertible from Zadeh. She was so thrilled at the prospect that she traded in a $100,000 Mercedes to buy yellow convertible Beetle. She says her husband was “so freaked out” at the prospect.
Now, the Beetle convertible is such a crowd pleaser “I can hardly get out of the parking lot. They’re saying to me, ‘Where did you get it?’ “
Even after the painted flowers, Boyd says her customizing won’t be done. Next comes the personalized license plate: BUGZTER.

Die Offenbarung
Auto Zeitung
December 11, 1998 by Georg Kacher
Für 17 000 Mark baut eine US-Firma den New Beetle zum Cabriolet um. Das Resultat überzeugt in fast allen Punkten.
Die Steigerungsform von Käfer heißt heute nicht mehr 1303, sondern Käfer Cabrio. Der offene Fünfsitzer ist und bleibt das ultimative Krabbeltier. Deshalb war es nur eine Frage de Zeit, bis sich jemand ein Herz fassen und den Blechhelm des New Beetle durch eine Stoffkapuze ersetzen würde. Dieser Jemand heißt Al Zadeh, seines Zeichens Geschäfrsführer bei Newport Convertible Engineering (NCE).
„Wir sind seit 15 Jahren im Geschäft und haben uns auf Cabriolet-Umbauten spezialisiert,“ erklärt der im Iran geborene Ingenieur. „Die Kunst besteht aber nicht darin, einem Auto das Dach abzutrennen, sondern die Karosserie gezielt und sinnvoll zu verstärken.“
NCE rückt dem New Beetle an zwei Fronten zu Leibe. Zum einen verbinden die Auto-Operateure die hinteren Radhäuser durch eine sechs Zentimeter starke Domstrebe miteinander. Zum zweiten verschweißen sie die Plattform mit einem Geäst aus Quer-, Längs- und Diagonalträgern. „Das sorgt für optimale Verwindungssteifigkeit und zusätzlichen Seitenaufprallschutz,“ dozeirt Al Zadeh. Darüber hinaus wird die Karosseriestruktur durch einen verstärkten Frontscheibenrahmen und eine stabile Verdeckwanne verfestigt.
Die Verdeckkonstruction – bezogen mit aus Deutchland importiertem Stoff – ist manuell zu öffnen und zu schließen. Für 2550 Mark Aufpreis gibt’s versenkbare Fenster hinten, für 5100 Mark eine vollelektrische Betätigung für das Dach und alle vier Seitenscheiben. Das hier abgebildete Klapptop wich inzwischen einer verbesserten Konstruktion mit dreiteiligem Panorama-Heckfenster. Der Cabrio-Umbau kostet derzeit rund 17 000 Mark – plus Auto. Doch das muß nicht unbedingt das letzte Wort sein, denn die Firma NCE bezieht im Januar ein neues Werk in Costa Mesa, wo mit steigender Produktion – bis Mitte ’99 von 50 auf 100 Autos pro Monat – die Preise sinken dürften.
Der Vertrieb läuf über SVC in Newport Beach/USA, Telefon (001-949) 722-7100.
Obwohl das von uns chauffierte New Beetle Cabrio noch aus der ersten Serie stammte, war die Karosserie durch so gut wie nichts zu erschüttern. Selbst auf sehr schlechten Straßen blieb der Aufbau ruhing und in sich gefestigt. Sogar an neuralgischen Punkten wie dem Armaturenbrett, den Rahmen der Seitenfenster und den Türen hielt sich das Eigenleben des Blechgehäuses in engen und zumeist lautlosen Grenzen. Der offene Käfer lag stets satt auf der Straße und zeigte sich immun gegen hohe Querund Längsbeschleunigungen.
Ein Sonderlob gebührt der Detailverarbeitung. Führungsschienen und Dichtungen: exakt zugeschnitten und perfekt eingepaßt. Alle Flächen, an denen Trennschleifer und Blechschere zugange waren: sauber verspachtelt und lackiert. Das Dach: leicht zu bedienen – Verriegelungsmechanik übrigens vom Mazda MX-5 -, das Anknöpfen der elastischen Persenning ein Kinderspiel. Und der im Vergleich zum Heckklappen-Beetle nur geringfügig kleinere Kofferraum ist selbst bei geöffnetem Dach mühelos zugänglich.
Kritik verdienen der große – wenngleich inzwischen etwas verkleinerte – tote Sichtwinkel bei geschlossenem Verdeck und die zu niedrigen vorderen Gurtumlenkpunkte. Doch mich Ausnahme dieser kleinen Schwächen ist das NCE-Cabriolet auf Anhieb so gut gelungen, daß sich VW mit dem Beetle-Umbau ab Werk ruhig noch ein paar Jahre Zeit lassen darf …

auto, motor und sport

Die Sonne bringt es an den Tag

auto, motor und sport
December 30, 2014 by Clauspeter Becker

Den kleinen Schwärmen von VW New Beetle aus Mexiko können bald auch Beetle Convertibles aus den USA folgen. Unter Kaliforniens Sonne war auto motor und sport mit einem der ersten unterwegs.
Der Pacific Coast Highway trennt in Newport Beach fein säuberlich die Elemente. Auf der einen Seite liegen die Boote und die Yachten, auf der anderen erstreckt sich die exclusivste Automeile des südlichen Kaliforniens.
Da gibt es außer allen noblen Marken das Speeway-Café mit einem Stock-Car auf dem Dach. Und irgendwo dazwischen liegt vor dem Cigar Shop, dem Pilgerort der Schikkeria, Peter C. Camerons Firma Special Vehicle Concepts.
Auch dieser Cameron war bisher mehr den titanischen Projekten zugetan. Den Platz an der teuren Pulsader des extrovertierten Autobazars verdiente er bislang mit gewalttätigen Sport Utility Vehicles.
Seine Verpflanzung eines Eaton Roots-Kompressors auf die Ansaugbrücke des V8 hat schon fast 100 Range Rover zu, wie Cameron versichert, 400 PS verholfen. Auch fesche Klassiker wie den Dino im Showroom oder vor der Tür den Ferrari 412 mit dem nicht so ganz korrekt applizierten Cabrio-verdeck handelt der smarte Peter gern.
Aber mit nichts von alledem hat Camerons Company die Hälse der vorübercruisenden Auto-Freaks so nachhaltig verdreht wie mit den Convertibles auf Basis des VW New Beetle. Das silberne Cabrio zählt mittlerweile zu den Fixsternen des Pacific Coast Highway, und Camerons Geschäfte gehen gut damit.
Aber er hat nichts dagegen, daß sein Handel noch etwas besser läuft. Auf die Frage nach Fototermin und Probefahrt schiebt er den Schlüssel augenblicklich über den Schreibtisch.
Der erste Fahreindruck läßt sich im Süden Kaliforniens nicht einfach mit der Tatsache beschreiben, daß man hier in einem offenen Golf sitzt, dessen Proportionen leicht verschoben sind. Die Fahrt im Beetle ist hier immerzu das Bad in einer freundlichen Menge. Dem geschlossenen Käfer streichelt das Publikum das runde Dach mit seiner Sympathie. Der offenen Version schütten begeisterte Passanten die volle Zuneigung ins Cockpit. Ein wenig südlich in Laguna Beach, wo sich die Schönen und die Reichen pausenlos zu gefallen trachten, verstärkt sich der Genuß von heftiger Bewunderung.
Im Umgang mit der auch im Dezember noch wohltemperierten pazifischen Luft ist das Beetle Convertible besonders begabt. Die weit nach vorn gerückte Windschutzscheibe und die beträchtliche Größe des Dekolletés machen den Beetle zu einer der turbulentesten offenen Stellen unter dem Cabrio-Himmel. Da ziet und wirbelt es rein wie in einen echten Klassiker, wie in ein Käfer Cabrio von früher oder schlimmer.
In seiner Beziehung zu den Winden ist das Beetle Convertible weit mehr noch retro als das Coupé, wie Amerikaner die geschlossene Version gern nennen. Wahrscheinlich ist sogar der Tornado, der hier bei Tempo 120 einbricht, nichts für die Windschott-Generation.
Den Offen-Fahrer stellt dieses Cabrio vor eine harte Prüfung. Genießer, die den Wirbelwind beschaulich mehr auf Nebenstraßen suchen, bekommen ganz gewiß das richtige Menü.
Die Haltungsnoten für das Betragen auch auf schlechten Straßen sind bei diesem Beetle ausgezeichnet. Auch grobe Wellen machen es nicht zum Klappriolet, Verwindungen sind nur dezent zu spüren.
Dies schöne Maß an Festigkeit verdankt die Karosserie der Newport Convertible Engineering Inc. in Placentia. Al Zadeh, der darauf besteht, Perser zu sein und nicht Iraner, ist Präsident des Unternehmens, das man getrost als furchtlose Aufschneiderei bezeichnen kann.
Vor Zadehs Flex ist kein Coupé und keine Limousine sicher. In Arbeit ist dort gerade eine S-Klasse, die als viertüriges Cabrio für die Falkenjagd in die Arabischen Emirate geliefert wird.
Zadehs verwegene Eröffnungen gelingen, weil er grundsätzlich der Bodengruppe solide Versteifungen einzieht. Vierkantrohr stärkt hier nich nur die Längsträger und die Biegefestigkeit, kreuzförmige Querverstrebungen und hinten eine Domstrebe widersetzen sich auch der Torsion. Die sehr stabile Wesensart festigt gute Veranlagungen, das Cabrio läßt sich wie Beetle, Golf und Co ganz ohne Risiko und Nebenwirkung schnell und sportlich fahren.
Das Verdeck, das hier im Klima rund um Newport Beach meist unauffällig wie ein kleiner Tagesrucksack auf dem Heck rumliegt, verleugnet seinen kalifornischen Ursprung nicht. Es ist ein Dach für eine Gegend, in der es Song-Texten zufolge nie zu regnen scheint.
Mr. Zadeh hat da zwar ein leichtes Futter eingezogen, aber den teuren Aufwand versenkbarer Seitenscheiben hat er sich und seiner Kundschaft konsequent erspart. Geschlossen ist dies Cabrio schon eine Herausforderung an die geschmackliche Toleranz.
Denn die sehr breit mit Segeltuch getakelte C-Säule ist kaum ein Stilmittel landläufiger Eleganz, und aller Sicht in schräg einmündende Straßen steht der Stoff zwangsläufig sehr im Wege. Das stört auch Peter Cameron, der nun den Serienmodellen kleine Dreiecksfenster neben der Rückscheibe verordnet hat – wie im Stoffdach des Mercedes SL. Es rückt die Anmutung des Cabrios durchaus ganz vorteilhaft in Richtung Roadster.
Der weitere Verzicht auf elektrische Dienstleistungsmaschinen fürs komfortable Öffnen oder Schließen des Stoffdachs mag angesichts der amerikanischen Herkunft verwundern, doch eine sonderliche Mühe ist der Zeltbau nicht. Das Gestänge ist leichtgängig, die Schnappverschlüsse vom Mazda MX-5 schließen mit gewohnter Perfektion.
Das Dach bleibt auch bei höherem Tempo flattefrei. Allein der Test der Waschanlagenfestigkeit scheiterte am feinen Stil der Gegend: In Newport Beach auf der Automeile wird grundsätzlich von mexikanischer Hand gewaschen.
Der effektive Preis eines Beetle Convertible sellt alle Begeisterten vor eine kostspielige Entscheidung. Ein Beetle kostet laut Liste in den USA 17 000 Dollar. Doch Peter Cameron warnt gleich: „Unter 19 000 ist kaum etwas zu machen, die Händler dürfen fordern, was sie kriegen.“ Der Umbau wird mit 12 000 Dollar berechnet. Unterm Strich stehen also mindestens 31 000 Dollar. Mit Fracht, Zoll und Steuer werden daraus 60 000 Mark.
Da ist man dann mit seinem handgeschnitzten Obenohne-Käferlein in der Region der Sechszylinder-Cabrios von Audi, BMW und Chrysler. Aber vielleicht werden wir Camerons spendablen Kunden einmal dankbar sein – wenn sie so viele Convertibles gekauft haben, daß der große VW-Feldherr Ferdinand Piëch das Geschäft mit dem offenen Beetle lieber selbst macht.
Denn soviel ist sicher: Der Golf mag der praktischere Familienwagen als der Beetle sein, aber wenn es um emotionelle und offene Autos geht, dann ist der Beetle klar die Nummer eins vor dem braven Golf.

MOTOR TREND
December 1998 by John Pearley Huffman

Volkswagen has already shown a prototype convertible version of its market-quaking New Beetle. So it’s not surprising to see aftermarket companies trumping the factory by decapitating Beetle before VW can get around to producing its own chop tops. The first one to reach MT’s attention comes from Special Vehicle Concepts.
Designed by Newport Convertible Engineering, the Beetle drop top is much more than a frivolous hacksaw attack. Beneath the floor pan, the structure is reinforced with a large X-frame, while steel beams are also added just behind rear seat, under the dash, and along the doorsills. The seatbelts get repositioned upper anchor points, and a manual canvas top is installed. The top itself stacks neatly when folded back, with its edge mimicking the curvature of the Beetle’s newly hinged trunk lid. The extensive reinforcement is substantial enough so that the doors slam with as much authority as any roofed Beetle’s.
Because the canvas top replaces not only the roof but the rear and side windows, and its rear window is a smaller plastic unit, outward visibility is compromised. But that’s what they make side view mirrors for, isn’t it? If you’ve got $11,995 lying about and a Beetle whose steel lid is wholly unsatisfactory, contact Newport Convertible Engineering.

MOTOR TREND
July 1995 by John Pearley Huffman

It takes more than a romantic weekend with a hacksaw to build a convertible.
First, a fable.
Because Datsun didn’t build ’74 B-210 convertibles, open-air fanatic and B-210 owner Jay Hutchinson rectified Datsun’s oversight in one weekend of furious hacksawing. Jay more or less sanded the edges flat and finished the car in lime Rust-Oleum, then spent the summer and fall of’85 cruising “The Frog” through the beach-side student ghetto of Isla Vista, California. But Jay runs 6 foot 3 inches and 280 pounds, and The Frog soon drooped at the door sills. By that ThanksgivMOTOR TREND
ing, Jay had to spot-weld the doors closed, after lifting the car’s center with borrowed hydraulic jacks, or they wouldn’t shut at all. By Christmas, the door welds had broken, the interior’s putrid puddles were breeding algae, and the electrical system had failed. A-1 Import Auto Wrecking gave Jay $5 for the hulk. The moral? It’s easy to hack the roof off a car; it’s hard to build a good convertible.
Want an SC 400 droptop? Don’t ask Lexus. A retractable Mark VIII? Lincoln stocks no such critter. And while there are many private converters around the world who’ll scuttle your car’s top for a price, few are actually talented enough to produce useable convertibles.
Among the latter is Newport Convertible Engineering INC, in California, (714-848-0011), which makes convertibles out of everything from Cadillac Eldorados to Acura NSXs. The company’s chief designer and engineer, Al H Zadeh, outlined for us the process (which usually takes from four to five weeks) of turning a coupe or sedan into a convertible complete with power top and hard boot cover.
Foremost is “restructuring the body” to recover lost rigidity. According to Zadeh, in most cases this involves tying together the chassis with 2×2-inch steel box tubing along the rocker areas connecting to the highest point possible at the front and rear ends of the car. After that strengthening, the cut lines are determined (with an eye for style), and the car is decapitated using air saws and die grinders. The vehicle is then road-tested to see if more bracing is needed, after which the top is built. Surprisingly, Zadeh claims that engineering a folding top is a straight-forward process; it’s devising an aerodynamic, aesthetic line that’s the challenge, because clumsy airflow leads directly to high noise levels.
Zadeh’s most challenging conversion is also among his most satisfying: the convertible Acura NSX. Due to space limitations, the canvas top’s flop is manual, but the bracing is all-aluminum, just like the rest of the sportster. Zadeh is particularly proud of how well the top’s design integrates with the mid-engine car’s original body lines.

Does removing the top double the fun?
european Car
February 1, 2015
On the road for more than a year now, Volkswagen’s New Beetle no longer draws gaping stares from slack-jawed onlookers. It’s not from its lack of technical prowess or impeccable road manners, but it’s the simple fact that there are more and more of them on the streets everyday.
Hell, it’s a great car all by itself. Buy one. Be happy.
Since its conception, convertible design studies have been spied in various states of trim. But, as Dr. Piech bluntly stated, “A convertible iteration of the New Beetle is not a high priority for us. Certainly, we could build it, but our New Beetle production line is running at maximum capacity right now; we have more important items on our agenda.”
Enter the aftermarket tuners, an industry that’s been both blessing and bane to the O.E. manufacturers. For every genius like Steve Dinan or Art Lingenfelter, there are those selling snake oil products with results that ultimately “de-tune your suspension for maximum inefficiency” or “reduce your engine’s dangerous horsepower.” Like a double-edged sword, cottage industry fabricators are looked upon with mixed emotions.
Newport Convertible Engineering (NCE, curiously located in Placentia, Calif.) is one of the better guys in the world of customizing. In business for more than 16 years, it’s focused its efforts on convertible conversions for Ferraris, BMWs, Lincoln MK VIIIs and Bentleys. NCE recently took on the formidable task of removing the lid from a New Beetle, and the results left this editor more than a little impressed.
Half expecting the New Beetle to snap mid-frame during an exceptionally hard corner, the car instead held a tight line with nary a creak or moan coming from the cowl section. Uneven pavement (e.g. railroad tracks) presented little problem for steering feedback; it remained tight and responsive. Lesser convertibles have a tendency to “corkscrew” during chassis loading. Not so here. The NCE New Beetle exhibited the tightness I’d expect from a factory-built unit.
“We’ve done a significant amount of strengthening to the body,” explained NCE’s Al Zadeh, a engineer from USC. “The New Beetle is actually very well made; even with the top removed it’s still very stiff. But we insisted on adding a significant amount of reinforcement to its structure for good driving characteristics.” All told, the New Beetle gained about 100 lb of steel reinforcement – structures placed in a box section in the rear and front, and an elaborate ladder-type frame underneath the floor pan. Moreover, NCE added beefy side impact beams beneath the lower rocker panels for additional security. The trunk section was also cross-braced between the shock towers – but not at the expense of trunk capacity. Looking at the weld seams revealed close attention to bead uniformity; a lot of work went into the subframe.
Bob Kozen, a retired engineer from Chrysler’s prototype and experimental division, commented on the NCE conversion. “It seems to have done everything right,” said Kozen. “The load-bearing sections are very well enforced – this makes it exceptionally rugged and tough. NCE has done its homework.”
While I admired the handling of the NCE New Beetle, the top styling could benefit from a little more development. Fabricated from triple-layered canvas, the top provides a moderate amount of sound deadening and is secured with clasps from the Mazda Miata. Sealing around the windows is not bad and could be best described as a Miata-like fit. The downside to NCE’s top is its lack of rear passenger side windows; the effect with the top up is like sitting in a cave. Moreover, the folding mechanism is manually operated, and, while it’s not exceptionally heavy, it does take a some effort to raise and lower it. The convertible’s frame intrudes slightly into the rear armrests, but rear passenger room is entirely intact. These are not mortal sins, however, and I can even live with the plastic rear window, but as they say: “Things are only going to get better.”
While NCE is responsible for actually converting the New Beetles to ragtops, Special Vehicle Concepts in Newport Beach and Convert-a-Beetle in Scottsdale, Ariz., are in charge of sales and marketing. SVC can also equip New Beetles (convertible or otherwise) with a host of go-fast goodies, including remapped computers, upgraded exhausts, sport suspensions, hi-po brakes, custom head work – you name it and SVC can make it happen. Plan on giving NCE $12,000 for a convertible conversion –and don’t forget to bring a New Beetle with you. In three weeks, you’ll be the envy of the New Beetle elite.

VW is still not ready to let Bug go topless
The Washington Times
Dec 5, 2014 by Henny Hemmes

Just a year after its introduction, the new Volkswagen Beetle loosens the tongues. Drive with the public’s favorite car through a busy street, park in front of the post office or cruise on Sunset Boulevard. No doubt you hear a lot of compliments. The Bug is still cool.
But it can even be cooler as Volkswagen itself showed the world a year after the introduction of the Concept 1, the predecessor of the new Beetle, when the German company showed a prototype of the convertible.
You would think that VW already announced their plans to build a topless Beetle. But no: There are no plans for a convertible, according to the official statement. Which, however, is no guarantee that Volkswagen boss Ferdinand Piech did not give his okay and employees are already champing at the bit.
To be honest, I believe it is still a bit early for a factory convertible. As long as the market is still asking for Beetles with a roof, there is no need yet to give it a new impulse by introducing a convertible. In the meantime, the first competitor in the field showed what could be done. Where else than in sunny California?
It really is not very strange that people living in a nice climate set themselves to build convertibles.
One such company is Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia. I didn’t need guessing where they are located in the small industrial area. A blue Beetle with a soft-top was parked in front of the door.
“We have been building convertibles for more than 15 years now,” says NCE president Al Zadeh. In the workshop are a decapitated Mercedes-Benz, a Chrysler LeBaron and a Lincoln Mark VII. Additionally, four brand new Bugs which all are in various states of construction, are parked nearby.
Chopping off the roof of a car is not difficult. It is much more important to know where and how to reinforce the car for reliable stiffness. Underneath the car there is an X-shaped frame of tubular hollow steel welded to the floor pan. A heavy steel bracket is connecting the rear wheelwells over the tops of the shock absorbers. Doorsills, B-pillars, windows and the windshield frame are reinforced and the hinges of the trunk lid are stronger than the originals.
So when you look into an undressed Beetle and you see all the steel plates, it’s not hard to guess that this car won’t be crushed like a cookie jar in the first small crash.
Of course, the extra safety is not all that counts. It’s especially down to the driving and that has everything to do with the stiffness of the car. Notwithstanding all the reinforcements, I stepped behind the wheel with a considerable amount of reserve.
My first test with a convertible is always the same: I park the car with one front wheel on the sidewalk to see if the door still closes well. Then I do the same with a rear wheel. Clunk, is the solid sound and the door closes as it should. The NCE Beetle has passed its first test.
The open Beetle corners hard and has good stability. There is virtually no rattle or shake. Not from the dashboard, nor from the doors. Even the softtop lies quietly folded behind me. The top isn’t even secured by a boot. The blue one for the test car still had to be finished.
Because the windshield of the new Beetle is so high, there is not much wind on my neck. When the top is closed you do not really have the impression that you are driving a convertible. There still is a lot of space over your head.
The cabrio top is handmade by NCE of heavy German canvas, with a foam inner lining and a headliner. There are different roof styles, with or without rear side windows. For manually operated roof Newport Convertible Engineering charges $9,500. For another $1,500you can have a power roof.
But easy opening and closing of the latches makes that a real luxury.
Since mi-1998 NCE has built more than 30 Beetle Convertibles, of which 15 have been exported. One car was bought by a son of the late King Hussein of Jordan, who gave it to his father as a present when he came to the States for medical treatment.
NCE plans to build 500 to 1,000 convertibles a year and is considering a joint venture with a German company for distribution in Europe.

Meikevertje

AutoWeek
March 1999 Author: Henny Hemmes

De New Beetle is in Amerika een regelrecht succes. Geen wonder dat er bosjes mensen zijn die niet kunnen wachten tot Volkswagen zelf met een cabrio-versie van de Bug uitkomt. In zonning Californi? weten ze dar wel raad mee: zaag het dak eraf en je hebt een, zeg maar, meikevertje!
Bijna een jaar na de introductie op de Amerikaanse markt maakt de New Beetle daar nog steeds de tongen los. Rij met de publiekslieveling over een parkeerplaats, stop voor het postkantoor, of flaneer door de stad. Steevast hoor je niets dan complimentjes. De bug is nog steeds cool. Maar het kan n?g koeler. Zoals Volkswagen zelf een jaar na de lancering van de Concept 1- de voorloper van de nieuwe Beetle – aantoonde met een prototype van een cabrio-versie. Ook bij het zien van dat model gingen velen uit hun dak. Je zou dus denken dat VW spoedig na de introductie z’n plannen op tafel legt voor de bouw van een topless Kever. Maar nee: “Er zijn geen plannen voor een cabrio,” luidt de offici?le lezing. Hoewel dat natuurlijk geen garantie is dat Volkswagen-baas Pi?ch toch al niet zijn fiat heeft gegeven en er achter de schermen al druk wordt gezaagd.
Eerlijk gezegd geloven we zelf dat het misschien nog wat vroeg is voor een fabrieks-cabrio. Pas als de markt verzadigd is en het model een nieuwe impuls moet hebben, kan Volkwagen alsnog overwegen een open versie uit te brengen.
Intussen heeft de eerste kaper zich al op de kust laten zien. En waar anders dan in sunshine state Californi??
Onthoofden kan iedereen …
‘t mag geen wonder heten dat mensen in zonnige oorden zich toeleggen up het ombouwen van dichte auto’s tot convertibles.
Newport Convertible Engineering is zo’n bedrijf. We hoeven op het industriegebied van Placentia (ja, écht, zo heet het daar) niet eens te zoeken naar de werkplaats: een donkerblauwe Beetle met zachte kap staat als een stalen visitekaartje voor de deur geparkeerd.
“Wij bouwen al vijftien jaar auto’s om tot convertibles,” vertelt directeur Al Zadeh. Binnen staan een onthoofde Mercedes-Benz E230, een Chrysler LeBaron en een Lincoln Mark VIII. Maar ook vier spik-splinternieuwe Beetles, die stuk voor stuk in een bepaalde fase van af- en opbouw verkeren.
Zadeh: “Het dak eraf zagen is geen kunst, maar de verstevigingen op de juiste plaatsen in de carrosserie aanbrengen om een verantwoorde stijfheid te bewerkstelligen, dáár draait het om.”
De New Beetle wordt dan ook door NCE op een aantal plaatsen extra verstevigd.
Onder de onthoofde auto wordt standaard een X-vormig frame van holle stalen buizen tegen de bodemplaat gelast.
Een 6 mm dikke stalen bint verbindt de wielkasten achter van links naar rechts ter hoogte van de bovenkant van de schokdempers. De dorpels en de B-stijlen zijn verstevigd, terwijl ook de voorruitstijl onder handen is genomen. De veiligheidsgordels zijn niet verplaatst; alleen de bovenste bevestiging is verlaagd op de kop van de B-stijl. De achterklep is voorzien van sterkere scharnieren. Kortom, als je in zo’n ontklede Beetle kijkt en je ziet al die stalen platen, kun je je voorstellen dat deze auto niet meteen bij de eerste de beste botsing als een verfrommeld koekblik uit de strijd komt.
De één-wiel-op-de-stoeptest
Die extra veiligheid is natuurlijk niet het engine dat telt. Het gaat vooral ook om goede rijkwaliteiten en die hebben alles te maken met de stijfheid van de auto. Wij stapten ondanks al het extra staal met een flinke portie gereserveerdheid achter het stuur van de open Beetle. Nu is de eerste test steevast om zo’n cabrio eerst met een voorwiel op de stoep te parkeren en te kijken of het portier nog goed sluit.
Vervolgens doe je hetzelfde met een achterwiel op de stoep. Kloink, klinkt het degelijk en het portier sluit keurig. De NCE Beetle is geslaagd voor de eerste test. Het rijden zelf is al even vertrouwenwekkend. De auto gaat gehoorzaam de bochten door en voelt mooi stabiel aan. Ook tijdens het remmen blijft de Beetle cabrio stabiel en in het juiste spoor. Verden hoor je absoluut geen rammels in het dashboard of de deuren en ook het frame van de zachte kap ligt zonder een kik te geven achter ons opgevouwen. De kap is trouwens nog niet eens netjes opgeborgen onder de losse afdekking. Die cover voor onze ‘test-auto’ moest nog worden voorzien van drukknopen en kon dus niet worden bevestigd. Omdat de voorruit van de New Beetle zo hoog is, heb je tijdens het open rijden niet veel last van wind in je nek. Is de kap dicht, dan heb je door dat hoge dak niet echt de indruk dat je in een cabriolet rijdt; er is nog steeds veel ruimte boven je hoofd. De zachte kap wordt bij NCE zelf met de hand gemaakt van drie lagen: ’n buitenkap van (Duitse) canvas, een schuimrubber tussenlaag en een laag die de binnenbekleding vormt. De kap wordt op wens van de klant met of zonder zijruitjes gemaakt, waarbij er nog ‘gespeeld’ kan worden met de grotte van die zijruiten. Voor een verbouwing van de New Beetle tot zonnekever moet je bij Newport Convertible Engineering 9500 dollar (omgerekend zo’n 19.000 gulden) neertellen. Wie een elektrisch bediende kap wil hebben, is nog eens 3000 extra dollars kwijt. Wij vinden dat het ont- en vergrendelen van de kap zo gemakkelijk gaat, dat je die laatste drieduizend beter in je zak kunt huden.
Koniklijke cabrio
NCE heeft sinds juni 1998 al zo’n dertig Beetle Convertibles gebouwd, waarvan 15 voor klanten in Duitsland en Spanje. Eén auto is afgeleverd aan een zoon van koning Hussein van Jordanië, die de auto aan zijn vader cadeau heeft gegeven toen deze in de herfst voor herstel naar Amerika kwam. Helaas heeft de autominnende koning er niet lang van kunnen genieten …
NCE is van plan om 500 tot 1000 cabrio’s per jaar te gaan bouwen en is in onder-handeling met een Duits bedrijf over een samenwerkingsverband voor de distributie in Europa. De TÜV vormt daarbij geen beletsel meer, want de NCE-cabrio’s hebben de keuring van deze Duitse keurings-instantie intussen doorstaan.
Nu maar kijken of Volkswagen over ’n jaar of wat alsnog met een antwoord

Kaparglädje
eknTikens värld, Finland
March 31, 1999 Carl Legelius

Volkswagen håller på cabrioletversionen av Beetle ytterligare ett par år. Det har öppnat möjligheter för kapglada entreprenörer
Trots att det bara är några plusgrader i luften fäller vi den stora suffletten direkt. Inte bara för att vara bland de första att köra öppet i nya Beetle. Det är nästan ett måste för att vi ska se något ut.
Trots att en konceptversion av Beetle cabriolet visades redan för fem år sedan, kommer ingen produktionsbil förrän om tidigast ett och ett halvt, kanske två år.
Alla vill dock inte vänta så länge och det har flera entreprenörer tagit fasta på och kan redan nu leverera en Beetle med fällbart tak.
En av dessa firmor heter Newport Convertible Engineering (NCE). Den ligger i Kalifornien och har byggt cabbar sedan 1984 och har just nu omkring 30 olika modeller på programmet.
Ungefär 100 000 kronor tar NCE för att förvandla en vanlig trist Beetle till en cab med drag och untstrålning. En summa som visat sig lätt att motivera i Kalifornien.
Nu befinner vi os tyvärr inte där utan i norra Tyskland, i byn Espelkamp. Den kalla februarivinden letar sig in överallt men vi framhärdar.
Karossen flexar och vrider sig en hel del på dåligt underlag, precis som i många fyrsitsiga cabrioleter, även fabriksbyggda. NCE har givetvis lagt till en hel del förstärkningar för att kompensera avsaknaden av plåttaket.
Runt hela sittbrunnen sitter förstärkningar och i det redan kraftigt förminskade bagageutrymmet hämmar ett fyrkantsrör mellan hjulhusen ytterligare lastmöjligheterna.
Trots alla förstärkningar och tung sufflet är Beetle i cabrioletutförande nästan
100 kg lättare än plåttaksversionen.
ågra bakre sidorutor finns inte och det bidrar till draget i nacken som uppstår redan i mycket låga farter.
Efter någon timme ger vi oss slutligen för vädret och fäller upp suffletten. Den är tung att lyfta men när den väl är i läge är den enkel att snäppa fast med spännhandtagen som känns igen från Mazda Miata.
Med suffletten fälld kan NCE-Beetlen lura de flesta – den ser nästan fabriksbyggd ut. Men så fort taket är uppe tas man ur den villfarelsen. Suffletten ser ut som en alldeles för stor sportkeps med öronlappar som placerats ovanpå bilen.
Suffletten i sig känns välgjord och håller det värsta vindbruset stången. Fast lika bra som i fabriksbyggda cabrioleter är det inte. När jag sedan ska hissa upp sidorutorna följer tätninglisterna med, inte särskilt förtroendeingivande …
Ulf Holler på Autohaus Bidenharn som tar in NCE-Beetlen till Tyskland, berättar att man fått efterjustera suffletten en hel del för att stoppa vattenläckage och vindbrus.
– Jag antar att vi tyskar har andra krav på precision än amerikanarna, säger han och berättar att han även beställt en Beetle cab från NCE:s konkurrent R Straman, även det Kalifornienbaserat.
– Straman-cabben har bakre sidorutor som dessutom går att veva ner, säger Ulf men han tror inte att hantverket är bättre.
Man får helt enkelt acceptera att resultatet inte blir fulländat, menar Ulf och berättar att han redan sålt en handfull Beetle-cabrioleter, bland annat till flera hyrbilsföretag.
Den som tålmodigt väntar till nästa höst får en Beetle cabriolet byggd av VW-ägda Karmann som ligger i Osnabrück, bara ett stenkast från Espelkamp där vi befinner oss nu.
Bättre vridstyvhet, snyggare sufflett och troligen även ett lägre pris.
Det finns bara en nackdel: Man blir inte först.

VW TUNER

YOU CAN GO BEETLE TOPLESS THANKS TO NCE
Top Option
VW TUNER WATER-COOLED PERFORMANCE MAGAZINE
1/24/15 by Tom S. Guide

Nothing compares to the sensation of driving a convertible. Add the excitement of piloting Volkswagen’s retro-style New Beetle and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a top-down water-cooled good time. One problem though, VW doesn’t offer a convertible for its shapely new Vee-Dub. As a solution, Newport Convertible Engineering (NCE) picked up where the German engineers left off in Beetle options by offering Volkswagen owners the opportunity to go topless.
VW Tuner recently visited the NCE design facility in Placentia, California, for an inside look at what’s involved in NCE’s convertible conversion for the ever-popular water-cooled Beetle.
To start the NCE convertible conversion, the new Bug is first stripped of its upholstery and glass. Next, under-car reinforcements are made via rocker-panel bracing prior to the roof skin being permanently removed. With the restrictive roof eliminated, NCE performs additional reinforcements inside the Beetle to structurally connect the B and C pillars. NCE then reattaches the modified rear hatch, which then servers as a decklid for trunk access. Next, all rough edges are fitted with prefabricated sill caps that seal the top to the car when the convertible top is up and cosmetically complete the package when the top is down. The convertible mechanism is installed together with the canvas top. Completing the convertible conversion process, NCE reinstalls the interior along with modified rear quarter-panels for a factory-like finished product.
NCE says the Beetle convertible conversion takes only three weeks to complete and carries a price tag of $6,995 on top of the price of the car4. When finished, you’ll be able to cruise topless in your New Beetle. Now that’s what the VW Tuner staff considers a water-cooled good time!

MILLIONAIRE

Custom Convertible
California company puts safety up front in redesigning ragtops
Nov 2014 by Joel Zuckerman

Most of us can’t help admiring a convertible. Whether it’s a muscled up Mustang, a sleek Spyder or a pristine Porsche, we all sit up and take notice.
Al Zadeh notices convertibles also, but not for the same reasons the rest of us do. The USC-trained engineer has been fascinated with open-air chariots since he owned a somewhat problematic MGB in his youth. He has spent his working life transforming standard coupes and sedans into custom convertibles, making them safer and more structurally sound in the process.
Zadeh is the founder and president of Newport Convertible Engineering, a quint-essentially California company. For 20 years, Zadeh and his crew of engineers have literally been ripping the roofs off luxury vehicles and replacing them with one-touch, fully powered convertible tops.
“My engineering background allows me to look at a standard sedan, whose structural integrity is directly tied to the roof, and to remove that roof, transforming the vehicle into a one-of-a-kind convertible,” explains Zadeh. “What’s amazing is that not only do we not compromise the safety and integrity of the vehicle structure, we actually enhance it.”
Zadeh cast his critical eye on the aforementioned MGB while still in college. “I wasn’t particularly pleased with the way that car performed as a convertible,” he recalls. “There was too much wind noise, water leakage, and a lack of stability. I came to the realization that there were plenty of improvements that could be made to convertible bodies so they would perform more efficiently, safely, and practically.”
Zadeh employs about 20 junior and senior engineers at to plants in Placentia, CA. The technicians there have experience with many different vehicle types, but the majority of conversions are done on Mercedes-Benz S Class and CL Class four-door coupes. In round figures, these vehicles generally cost about $100,000 new; the custom conversion, which takes anywhere from six to 12 weeks, will add as much as $40,000 to the price.
Zadeh estimates that 80 percent of the autos his company transform are brand new, while 20 percent will have some miles accumulated, but rarely more than 30,000. Besides Mercedes, other popular four-door conversions include the Cadillac STS, Jaguar, Lexus LS and GS400, and the BMW 740IL. Two-door conversions are more common than four-door, and the BMW 840, Acura NSX, Rolls Royce, and Lexus are among the most requested.
Basic conversions begin at $17,500, and even the lower prices include one-touch, full power operation, with remote control capability. Although it would be a stretch to consider it as appealing to a mass audience, Newport Convertible Engineering has also converted approximately 100 brand new Volkswagen Beetles since their reintroduction in 1998. These manually-operated convertible tops add only about $7,000 to the Beetle’s sticker price of up to $23,000, so it’s possible to enjoy a custom Newport conversion for as little as $30,000, assuming one finds the circular shaped Beetle attractive.
Zadeh counts celebrities, political heavyweights, and movie stars among his clientele, but the vehicle can become movie stars in their own right. Several years ago, Paramount Pictures commissioned a conversion of a 1954 DeSoto, which got significant screen time in the comedy I.Q., with Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins, and Walter Matthau as Albert Einstein.
Zadehs business is also international: Jordan’s king Hussein, the Kuwaiti chief of intelligence, and the president of South Korea have all been customers.
While it’s the bells and whistles of the conversion that attract all the interest, the company president remains preoccupied with the nuts and bolts.
“My concern is how to reinforce and restructure the body of the auto after the top is removed,” he explains. “The tortional rigidity and load bearings mustn’t be compromised in the conversion process.”
Zadeh has been adding side impact protection to his vehicles since day one, a practice that safety conscious automakers Saab and Volvo have only introduced in recent years.
“Instead of a car collapsing into a V – with both the front and back end coming together after a powerful collision – our side impact protection distributes the force throughout the entire length of the vehicle’s body, resulting in vastly increased safety for both driver and passengers,” claims Zadeh.
In addition to the unique eye appeal and the safety features, Newport Convertible Engineering continues to attract new business because many people want to provide input the creative process.
“We are considered a boutique shop in the automotive industry, and our customers want vehicles that are totally new and innovative,” Zadeh says. “Many of them have great ideas, but they might be impractical regarding structural integrity, or perhaps compromise their safety. We can help them turn their dreams to reality, and, in the process, provide them with a vehicle that’s safe, stylish, and singular. It’s a great feeling because, in the end, everybody comes out a winner.”

The Orange County Register

The conversion to convertibles is on cutting edge
The Orange County Register
December 31, 2015 By Chris Knap

From an unassuming little industrial parka stone’s throw from the Orange Freeway, Al Zadeh is building the quintessential California car experience for drivers from Alaska to Abu Dhabi.
We’re talking about the breezy, eucalyptus-scented, moonlight-glow on-the-water kind of feeling you get when you pick up your Mercedes SL from the valet at Las Brisas, drop the top and purr down Pacific Coast Highway.
Lesser-financed mortals may know it s the post-surf-session buzz you feel when you stash your stick in the passenger footwell of the Karmann Ghia and blast off down the coast toward Bolsa Chica, a pink glow spreading behind the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Whichever.
“Everybody always thinks that Californians drive convertibles,” says Zadeh, president and chief designer at Newport Convertible Engineering.
For the past 15 years, Zadeh and his craftsmen have made convertibles out of high-end coupes like the Mercedes SEC, the Acura NSW and the BMW 850 – none of which come from the factory as a drop-top.
These days a downscale coupe – VW’s New Beetle – has got business booming.
Walk in the back door of Newport Convertible Engineering and the scene is startling: Workers armed with power hacksaws and high-speed grinders are ripping the roofs off a 1998 Mercedes S320 (for Kuwait’s chief of intelligence), a 1998 New Beetle (for chairman of Disney Consumer Products) and a 1998 Cadillac Deville (for the president of South Korea).
It was frustration with the top on a ‘70s-era MGB that led Zadeh to design his first convertible, back when he was still in engineering school at the University of Southern California.
After graduation, he bought a Nissan 300ZX and cut the roof off. Then came a Porsche 928, and a business was born.
Zadeh’s craftsmen start by raising the car on a lift, then cross-bracing the under carriage with welded tubular steel. After the top is cut off, additional braces are welded to the floor pan. Then a power top is hand-built.
This fall NCE teamed up with Special Vehicle Concepts of Newport Beach and ConvertiBeetle Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., to market New Beetle convertibles.
“It’s just taking off,” says SVC’s Peter Cameron. He says he’s delivered 30 NCE New Beetles and has orders for another 170, including 120 from a rental agency in Germany.
The sale price of a NCE New Beetle is generally about $30,000 – nearly twice the price of the base car. With special wheels, trim and engine option, you can spend $40,000.
R. Straman Co., an exotic sports car restorer in Newport who turns Ferrari Daytonas and
Testarossas into convertibles, is also converting New Beetle.
Richard Straman’s conversion includes power rear quarter windows that give the car more of a factory look than Zadeh’s roadster-style tops. Straman’s done 10 Beetles so far and has orders for 50 more. He charges $10,000 for a manual top conversion and $12,000for a power top.
“There is wild enthusiasm for it,” Straman says.
I took a spin in one of Zadeh’s New Beetles to see what all the fuss is about.
Because of the forward placement of the windshield, dropping the top on the converti-Beetle gives more of a wide-open feel than the typical roadster.
Despite all the bracing there’s still a bit of door-post shake, and blasts over 60 mph are bound to give you a bad hair day. But for buzzing down PCH at 50 mph it’s just about perfect.
“Who in the world normally takes a coupe and makes it into a convertible?” asks Barton Boyd, a Disney exec who had a Beetle convertibilized as a birthday present for his wife.
“Vicky years ago had an old-fashioned Beetle convertible. We went and looked at the (New Beetle) and she just happened to fall in love with it.
“It absolutely without question is one of those silly impulse things.”
But if you’ve got to have that California feeling, it just may be worth it.

The Orange County Register

August 4, 2001   By  Elizabeth Aguilera

A cut-above cruiser

What has four doors, a roll bar and a glorious view of the sky? It isn’t the stock PT Cruiser that rolls off the Chrysler assembly line, that’s for sure. Try a convertible Cruiser.
It’s been whacked, hacked and transformed into a convertible, suited more for hauling a surfboard than lugging a baby buggy.
Convertible PT Cruisers are rolling out of Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia this week.
The small company is shipping converted Cruisers to dealerships from Arizona to New Jersey, said Al Zadeh, president and a chief engineer.
So far, the company, with about 10 employees, has made 20 convertible Cruisers and hopes to do hundreds more by the end of the year.
It takes three weeks to “re-image” a Cruiser, an option not offered by Chrysler.
The cars are usually sent to Zadeh by dealers who want to offer chop-tops.
The convertible Cruisers will go for $6,900 to $9,000 more than stock models.
The conversion process is involved. Workers reinforce the chassis by adding inch-square steel bars along each vehicle’s 14-foot underside and to the body between the front and back doors. The front windshield is reinforced, and a roll bar is installed for greater safety and stability.
The conversion adds close to 100 ponds to the car, which weighs 3,123 pounds.
For almost two decades, Zadeh has masterminded the crop-top look for high-end vehicles, including the Mercedes SEC, BMW 850 and Acura NSX, as well as Cadillacs, Ferraris and Rolls Royces.
Last year, the company custom-converted about 65 cars for $20,000 to $40,000 each.
Zadeh’s business was born out of his dissatisfaction with his own MGB when he was a student at the University of Southern California engineering school.
Later, he converted his Nissan 300ZX and then a Porsche 928.
Two years ago, Zadeh garnered accolades and a mountain of orders for his convertible VW Beetle.
He was going to open a second facility and was armed with thousands of requests for converted Beetles when Volkswagen North America began voiding warranties on his productions, he said.
Zadeh and another local Beetle converter, R. Straman Co., are suing Volkswagen N.A for $150 million.
This time, he wants to work with the manufacturer, he said.
A deal between Zadeh and Chrysler would catapult him into mass production and keep the Cruiser from losing truck certification, said George Peterson, president of AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin, an industry consulting firm.
The Cruiser keeps Chrysler’s truck fuel-efficiency ratings on the low side, he said.
Chrysler has been showing off its own two-door PT Cruiser concept convertible at auto shows, but it’s part of a styling study and the manufacturer is not releasing any information about plans, said Sjoerd Dijkstra, Chrysler spokesman.
“The reason we are doing this study is because of this type of thing,” Dijkstra said. “We expected after-market outfits to start doing things to the PT Cruiser because it lends itself to personalization.”
Convertibles, according to Peterson, are very expensive to manufacture in high volume.
The biggest vehicle converter, American Sunroof Corp. in Michigan, works with some of the major manufacturers to produce convertibles, Peterson said. Chrysler does all its convertibles in-house, Dijkstra said.
Zadeh is holding out hope.
“This is a fun automobile,” he said. “When it came out, I looked at the different design and saw a fun surfer car. I looked at the lines and it seemed like it would be a fun car for a convertible.”

CAR AND DRIVER

Dec 2015 by John Pearley Huffman

Whacking the roof off a vehicle is easy – all it takes is the will and a cutting torch. Making a decent convertible out of a machine that wasn’t originally designed to be one is a far more daunting task.
Al Zadeh has been guillotining roofs off everything from VWs to Ferraris over the past 20 years at his Newport Convertible Engineering (NCE) shop in Placentia, California. Some of his conversions are naturals (the big Mercedes CL), and some surprisingly attractive (a Chevy Monte Carlo).
Making a convertible of the Chrysler PT Cruiser, which is intrinsically so ill-suited to a conversion. After all, the PT Cruiser is a $17,000 unibody Chrysler with four doors and a rear hatch. The real challenge wasn’t beefing up the Cruiser’s structure – Zadeh has done similar projects dozens of times – it was engineering a top that was aesthetically pleasing.
NCE’s Cruiser is a cohesive design. Top up, the roofline doesn’t rise as dramatically toward the back as on the unaltered Cruiser, and the rear window is more steeply raked, but it’s still a PT. Top down, the car looks like a late-30’s Ford pha¸ton with the B-pillar recalling Franklin Roosevelt’s “Sunshine Special” presidential Lincoln.
The fully lined top is built in-house by NCE by sewing German-made canvas to a steel frame. It’s a hefty piece that must be muscled into place (power operation is a $3,000 option) and clamps to the windshield header with Mazda Miata latches. Top up, visibility is comparable to stock since the plastic rear window is large and nearly undistorted. When down, the top stacks beyond the trailing edge of the sheetmetal. And that stack is tall enough so that the driver might see a light bar coming up from behind in his rearview mirror.
The NCE-added reinforcing structure between the rear wheel wells is coated in fuzzy carpeting. However, the Cruiser’s flat load floor remains, and the foreshortened rear hatch opens hydraulically and shuts solidly. And NCE does warrant its work to match Chrysler’s three-year/36,000-mile coverage that continues to apply to the rest of the vehicle.
NCE reinforces the Cruiser’s structure with box-steel ladderlike structures along each rocker, tied together with welded crossmembers. Curb weight is virtually unchanged. Our 3260-pound test car was 41 pounds lighter than our last PT Cruiser automatic. Therefore, no changes to the suspension or drivetrain are required. With just 150 horsepower available from the DOHC 2.1-liter four and a four-speed automatic shifting, acceleration is modest and almost no different from stock.
Top up, there’s wind noise where the C-pillar and the top join, but it’s otherwise tight. The most noticeable noise is, in fact, the Neon-typical boom from the intake rather than any presumed air leakage, squeaks, or rattles. Cowl shake is at about 1996 Chrysler Sebring levels – the PT is composed over bumps and railroad tracks. Steering response, suspension compliance, and braking all seem unaffected by the conversion.
It’s a novelty like the Wienermobile. It’s a decent aftermarket convertible.
It’s also a novelty that runs $9900 over the unmodified car’s price – about twice what, say, Toyota asks for a convertible Camry Solara over a hardtop version. But whereas Toyota will sell thousands of Solaras, NCE has shipped about 45 PT convertibles as this is written to the 10 or so Chrysler dealers who’ve signed up to get them. And although a Solara gets no attention at all, a convertible PT Cruiser attracts crowds.

Vehicle type: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door convertible
Price as tested: $27,490 (base price*: $27,490)
Engine type: DOHC 16-valve 4-in-line, iron block an aluminum head, Chrysler SBEC III engine-control system with port fuel injection

Displacement 148 cu in, 2429cc
Power (SAE net) 150 bhp @ 5500 rpm
Torque (SAE net) 162 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 4-speed automatic with lockup converter
Wheelbase 103.0 in
Length 168.8 in
Curb weight 3260 lb
Zero to 60 mph 10.9 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph 10.8 sec
Standing ¼-mile 18.2 sec @ 75 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph 196 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad 0.77 g
EPA fuel economy, city driving 20 mpg
* base price includes all performance-enchancing options.

CAR AND DRIVER

January 1999 by Barry Winfield

Four-door convertibles are extinct, right? Wrong.
Newport Convertible Engineering will chop the top off just about anything.
Al Zadeh’s long-running affair with convertibles began nearly 20 years ago. While at the University of Southern California pursuing a Petroleum-engineering degree, Zadeh’s personal cars were always convertibles. Now he runs his own conversion company, Newport Convertible Engineering, in Placentia, California, where he lops the metal tops off anything you care to bring him.
Take this BMW 740iL, for example. It’s a long-wheelbase car with four doors, and the German automaker did not design it to go topless, but neither the car’s Floridian owner nor Al Zadeh let that stop them. And now, $22,000 and innumerable worker-hours later, the Bimmer wears a new toupee – a power top.
Cutting the roof off any sedan severely compromises its rigidity. To brace the 740iL’s unibody, NCE welds a maze of two-by-two-inch square-section hollow tubing underneath the floorpan. Tubes run the length of the rocker sills – laterally from one rocker to the other and diagonally from the ends of the rockers to the center. The reinforcements reduce ground clearance by an inch or so, but they look strong.
Two-by-one-inch tubes extend vertically to the highest point in the cowl structure in front and to the shock towers in the rear, tying these to the underbody frame. Finally, Zadeh adds a “trunk bridge” – a tubular arch running between the mainframe members. It’s visible in the trunk, but it intrudes minimally on luggage space.
Removing the roof produces other problems. The 740iL’s door glass runs in window frames. Cutting the frames off would leave the windows unsupported, but leaving the window frames in their entirety would look extremely dorky. So NCE removes just the upper rail of the front window frame and everything but the B-pillar upright on the rear window frame.
When the doors are shut, with the top either up or down, this arrangement looks okay. Open a front door and you’re treated to the peculiar sight of two frame uprights ending in grommeted stumps. It isn’t particularly stylish.
A “basket handle” hoop runs over the car between the B-pillars, providing a brace for the body, a support for the top, and a handy place to fit a dome light and two map-reading lights. Sawing off the roof (and rear window) also removes the integrated radio antenna, so the BMW now wears a conventional mast antenna mounted in the rear quarter-panel.
Rear-seat space suffers, too, in this conversion. The articulating top structure and the hydraulic rams consume so much space that the outboard bolsters of the bucketed seats are completely removed. Occupants are therefore displaced inboard where they must ride a hump. We think a more artful solution would have been to remove the center armrest and squeeze the two bucket seats together.
With its top up, the BMW has a profile similar to that of the stock sedan, although the C-pillar area is now huge and the plastic rear window is smaller than the original backlight. The windshield header has a one-inch channel to accept the top’s leading edge. It is clipped in place by two overcentering clamps and fits flush. This helps cut noise and top lift, both of which seemed quite tolerable during a brief test drive.
In fact, the BMW retains a lot of the composure and tranquility it had when it wore a steel top. The folded top stacks up about six to eight inches above the trunk, but the snap-on boot covers it tidily. On the move, the car exhibits some cowl shake over bumps, but no more than most factory convertibles do. The only question remaining is how well the car will hold together over time.
Zadeh is confident. He does a lot of conversions- about 65 in ’97, including a Lincoln Mark VIII, a Mercedes S-class and an E-class coupe, and a Lexus LS400. He hoped to finish off ’98 with 100. From body reinforcement through mechanism design and fabrication to canvas top-making tasks, every aspect of the work is handled in-house by Zadeh’s 15-member team.
Our BMW went directly from the showroom to NCE with fewer than100 miles on it. For its owner, that’s almost like buying a new, factory-made convertible. To us, it seems like a remarkable leap of faith.

What blindspot? Toyota FJ Cruiser Convertible
Jan 31 2015 by John Neff
Filed under: Aftermarket, SEMA, SUVs, Toyota

We came across Newport Convertible Engineering at the SEMA show a couple of weeks ago, and the company’s FJ Cruiser Convertible immediately caught our eye. Not only does this $10,000 conversion give FJ Cruiser owners a power-operated soft top in place of the standard steel roof, but it also eliminates the FJ’s giant C-pillar that creates a huge blindspot for the driver and makes back seat passengers feel claustrophobic. Of course, the sight lines are still pretty bad with the top up on the FJ Cruiser Convertible, but we would hope after spending 10 large on such a conversion that you’d want the top down as often as possible. You’re also forced to sacrifice some cargo space, as the soft top’s roofline slopes down immediately after the roll cage’s cross bar located just behind the rear seats. It almost looks like a four-door coupe.
Newport also has experience shaving the domes off of such cars as the Scion xB, Dodge Charger, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac Escalade, HUMMER H3 and Ford Excursion.

AUTO WEEK

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.

AutoWeek  11/17/04 By MARK VAUGHN

The only known cure for a post-Specialty Equipment Market Association soiree hangover is to talk about SEMA for as long as possible. That’s why we drove to Newport Convertible Engineering Inc. in Placentia, California, to pilot a stylin’ white Chrysler 300C convertible that was out in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center during the SEMA show.
NCE started making Datsun Zs into convertibles in 1983 and has chopped the tops off more than 1000 cars since. NCE’s latest is this cabrio, converted for about $12,500. NCE strengthens the A- and B-pillars and rocker panels, and adds a basket roll-hoop as well as reinforcement behind the rear seat. The company did it right, as a short drive over Placentia’s toughest speed bumps produced no shimmies.
The top consists of five layers; in descending order: German canvas, rubber, German canvas, foam, nice headliner material. Top up, the ride is quiet as a production convertible, minus a hint of wind noise behind the driver’s left ear. The hydraulically/electrically operated top functions smoothly with one button, and the headliner releases with two latches. A fuse blew when we had the car, but NCE assured us that does not normally happen and blamed the stress of SEMA. Oh, don’t we know about the stress of SEMA.
You can have your Chrysler dealer send a 300C to NCE to have the work done or bring in your own car. See for more information.

Never Short on excitement
Acura boosts the fun quotient of its supercar with a removable top
AutoWeek
March 6-12, 1995 by Mark Vaughn

There are those who make the argument that the Acura NSX is the greatest super-car ever made. When price is factored in, they’re probably right. Here is a sleek, low, two-seater that performs exactly as well as it looks. Only a handful of cars give the same feel for the road you get piloting this aluminum monocoque gingerly through a mountain pass or around a narrow racetrack. Communication with the driver is not loud and clear, it’s just clear, perfectly clear.
The NSX was that way when it first came out and it remains that way today. Except for the 1995 model’s new open top and semi-automatic transmission, the only other big change in the five years the car has been out is in the number of people who buy it.
In the late 1980s, when the NSX was under development, the time was perfect for a super car. The economy was peaking and fat cats were lighting their cigars with disposable income. There was a whole dangerous pile of people in the marketplace with too much money – more than there had been since August of 1929. And they were trying to outspend each other on everything. They bought overpriced French impressionist art, overpriced golf resorts, artificially inflated real estate, fine wines between which they could distinguish no difference, and garagefuls of great cars they didn’t know enough to drive, much less appreciate.
It was also the height of the sports car market, particularly since the sport/ute craze hadn’t hit yet, so there was nothing to chew into the super car and sports car segments.
Into this frenzied seller’s market drove the NSX – the first domesticated super car. It looked outrageous but was so well-designed even the most klutzy commodities speculator could drive it well. It was engineered like nothing else, and it offered a new level of performance. Because of the high incomes and the relatively low price (relative to Ferraris), it was available to people who never would have thought they could afford such a car.
For about half the price of a Ferrari you could get titanium connecting rods and an aluminum monocoque, and you could actually drive the car like you knew what you were doing.
But the party was just about over by the time Acura arrived. Predicting sales of 3000 per year, the division launched the NSX into the face of a freshly minted 10 percent luxury tax on cars coasting more than $30,000 and a small war in the Persian Gulf. There was enough initial demand for sales to peak at nearly 2000 in 1991. The numbers quickly dropped off to 533 last year, victims of a value – and style-conscious market that has now embraced high-line sport/utilities.
Now comes the big question: Can a new targa top and a SportShift semi-automatic transmission save the NSX?
These two features may not seem revolutionary for the next iteration of this supercar, but they are what the market wants. Acura’s research shows that when people think of sports cars they think of a red car with an open top. And so Acura has added an open top, with the goal being to sell 1000 NSXs a year, again.
As you might expect, the chassis on the NSX-T is reinforced throughout to compensate for the structural loss of the roof panel. The area around the cabin was either made from thicker aluminum or with more layers of it molded together. The door sills received extensive shoring up, along with the A- and B-pillars, the top edge of the windshield, the dashboard cross member and basically everything else that surrounds the passengers.
The top itself, like the rest of the monocoque, fenders, hood and deck lid, is made of aluminum. It weighs less than 19 pounds including its liner and insulation, which makes it easy for one person to remove and stow, even if that person is a weakling. Two quick-release levers bring the sunshine to your face and the wind over your ears. Storage for the top is provided in a typically efficient Acura manner, under the shelf above the engine. There is no interference with rear vision and no way to tell the top is even there.
With the targa roof in place, it’s easy to forget that the car isn’t a hardtop. Except for the extra seams where the targa fits in place, the NSX-T looks exactly like the NSX non-T. Once underway, with the targa roof stowed under the engine cover, you don’t get quite the same sense you might in a cabriolet (see sidebar) but the open-air feeling is definitely there.
To go along with the quasi-cabriolet, there is a quasi-stick shift. In addition to the current five-speed manual, the 1995 NSX will have a four-speed semi-automatic transmission called SportShift, which will replace the current four-speed automatic. SportShift uses a column-mounted flipper. Its function is similar to the button on the wheel of Tiptronic Porches, allowing the driver to shift gears up or down without removing a hand from the wheel. It is engaged by moving the console-mounted shifter into the “M” position. An indicator on the instrument panel reminds you what gear you’re in. Computer controls prevent you from downshifting too far and overrevving, and match engine to transmission speed, thus making the downshifts smoother. Computer chips also quickly lock the torque converter in second, third and fourth for reduced slippage. Finally, a new “torque reactive” limited-slip differential uses a multi-plate clutch and helical-type planetary gears to produce 10 percent faster exits from corners by limiting the spin of the inside rear wheel.
The same computer controls the new drive-by-wire system, which eliminates the traditional throttle cable.
On the road – in our case the “road” was Laguna Seca – the NSC-T with five-speed manual transmission feels much the same as the 1994 NSX. It would, because the suspension, brakes and 3.0-liter VTEC V6 engine are unchanged.
Around Laguna Seca we’re instantly reminded that this is one of the world’s truly great cars, not just because of its capabilities on the circuit, but because it allows almost anyone to feel like a racing hero. The rev limiter, traction control, ABS and 215/45ZR-16s frond and 245/40ZR-17s rear make the NSX practically foolproof to drive. All a driver has to do is get the lines and braking points right; the actual control of the throttle and brake is done by computer. Mash each of the pedals at the appropriate times, and the car will make the most of it. After several laps around Laguna Seca flipping the SportShift up and down between second and third, all we needed to think about was the proper line and the best braking points.
Acura says the SportShift transmission is 0.2 seconds quicker in both 0-60 mph and quarter mile times than the old automatic. Those numbers sound right but it is not as quick in actually shifting the gears as Porsche’s Tiptronic. Gear changes in the SportShift take what seems like over half a second, and this can be disconcerting at first.
On the track, you have to anticipate the lag, much as you used to have to do with early turbocharged cars.
Earlier in the day we had driven a SportShift-equipped NSX on a beautifully empty Pacific Coast Highway, south of Carmel. Downshifting on that road was difficult to master at first. On that run with the new transmission, gear changes seemed to take forever. When we flipped the lever down going into a corner, it wouldn’t downshift until about halfway through the turn. It was a long, slow change. It felt twice as long as the Tiptronic and maybe a third as quick as the old automatic did when it was shifted manually.
Once we realized how long it took to go into gear we timed to corners better. Later, around Laguna Seca, the shifter was a lot easier to use effectively.
A SportShift-equipped NSX would probably be handy if you had only one car and had to commute to work in traffic every day. Then you could have adequate fun on the weekends while being a little more comfortable during the week. But who among the financial elite of NSX owner has only one car? Given the money, a five-speed manual NSX-T for the weekends and a nice Legend sedan during the week would make a fine stable.
Acura plans to eventually sell 10 o 15 percent SportShift automatics, as opposed to the 5 percent automatics it sells now. The SportShift will appeal to “aficionados” vs. “enthusiasts,” one spokesman said. Talk about overdefining your niches! Maybe he just meant there would be more women buyers, but was afraid of being accused of sexism.
Acura hopes the SportShift will help NSX sales, but the targa top will do lion’s share of the recovery work. Acura plans to move 80 to 85 percent of its NSXs with the removable roof.
The new NSX-T will be available this month. Prices have not been released yet but in addition to a new model-year markup of maybe 3 percent across the board, you can expect to pay from $2,000 to $5,000 more for the T. Apart from the model-year price increase, there should be no separate increase for the SportShift transmission. The current NSX base price is $75,000 for a five-speed and $79,000 for an automatic.
“Is the NSX profitable now?” we asked.
“We really love driving the NSX,” answered executive vice president Rich Thomas.
“Will the NSX be profitable at 1000 sales a year?” we asked.
“We’d really love driving the NSX at 1000 sales a year,” he replied.
We really love it either way.

A topless, turbo NSX
Teaming up to make an exoticar even more exotic
By Steve Statham

Most “tuner cars” spring from the vision of one person and are the product of one shop, but sometimes competing visions can be combined to great effect. Recently, Bell Engineering in San Antonio, Texas, maker of turbo kits, and Newport Car Conversions Inc., in Norwalk, Calif., which specializes in convertible conversions, worked together for a customer who wanted both for his Acura NSX.
Newport’s efforts are the most visible. The company has been doing convertible conversions for nearly 11 years, and NSX fits right in with the prestige cars on which the company built its reputation. “People have really responded well,” says Newport’s Mathew Kahn, who estimates his company is converting 20 to 25 NSXs a year. To do the job, Newport needs the car for about four weeks. The convertible top consists of a targa roof section and a rear piece made from canvas. The roof and canvas fit in the trunk, while the overhead top support bar folds up neatly under a fiberglass boot. The chassis, naturally, is reinforced.
Even though Acura has an NSX with factory targa top waiting in the wings, Kahn figures that few NSX owners will trade in their still-newish cars on an expensive new targa model, but they might be enticed to pop for his targa conversion at $14,500.
Invisible externally, but certainly noticeable from behind the wheel is Bell’s twin-turbo conversion. Corky bell has been creating turbo kits for 20 years, the last three under the Bell Engineering name. So far, the company has sold12 of the $7,850 NSX twin-turbo kits. CARB certification is pending for the NSX system, but since the turbos and intercoolers are located aft of the catalytic converters and no emission controls have been disconnected, the company anticipates few problems with legality.
During our brief ride-and-drive we found the thrust from the turbos intoxicating, not to mention license-threatening. The power delivery was smooth, with no hiccups or glitches, and there was only a slight shushing sound to let us know the turbos were in use. The convertible top seemed well-made and was reasonably quiet at speed, but headroom will be tight for a six-footer. Still, there’s little arguing with the visual, and visceral, impact this car makes. Perhaps two tuners are better than one.

The Dallas Morning News
Saturday, 1/31/205
New GM diesel forcks requiring big ivestment General Motors Corp. willur $100 million into its engine plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., to make a new diesel engine for light-dutycks. The automaker will produce the 4.5-liter V-8 enginer its North American pick up trucks and Hummer H2 sportility vehicles built after 2009. “GM is transforming its product portfolio to reduce fuel consumption and emissions,nd the 4.5-liter V-8 diesel is an integral part of that tansformation,” says John Buttermore, GM’s vice president of global power train manufacturing. Production of the engines to begin in 2009.
37,000 workers to leave Ford as part of restructuring. So far, 27,000 hourly workers have taken buyout or early retirement offers and separated from Ford Motor Co., the automaker says. Another 10,000orkers have agreed to the offers, for a total of 37,000, but have not yet left. Under its restructuring plan, Ford has until September to phase in theartures as it closes plants. Ford says approximately half of the 27,000ho have already left did not qualify for retirement benefits, which will slash the company’s long-term retiree health-care liabilities. About 8,000 workers left last year and 19,000 have exited so far this year, Ford representatives say.
Isuzu could end up supplying Toyota diesel engines Toyota Motor Corp. is negotiating with Japanese partner Isuzu to developsel engines for small cars destined for Europe. According to the Detroit News, Isuzu will set up a plant in northern Japan for low emissionse engines and produce 200,000 engines per year. Demand for low-emissions diesel vehicles is growing, especially in Europe, because of concerns over global warming. By collaborating with Isuzu, toyota can hope to save development costs for “green” diesel engines, the newspaper reports.
Prius redo could be held up due to battery issues Toyota Motor Corp. might postpone the launch of the third-generation Prius gas/electric hybrid model by six months—to spring 2009—
Japanese industrial daily newspaper Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun reports.
According to the newspaper, Toyota is delaying the launch to ensur quality after it decided to forego replacing the nickel-metal hydride battery used in the hybrid gas/electric system with a lithium-ion battery
for the first version of the upcoming model. Toyota and battery partner Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. are developing a lithium-ion batteryhat many expected would find its way into the next Prius. The newspaper reports that those plans were also delayed due to safety concerns. Toyota is boosting production of the Prius by 40 percent in 2007 by 280,000 units. Toyota sold 186,000 Prius sedans in 2006 and 313,000 hybrids gas/electric vehicles in total. The company also sells hybrid versions of the Camry sedan and Highlander sport-utility vehicle. On a related note, Hertz Global Holdings Inc. says that it planned to buy 3,400 Prius cars for $68 million, or $20,000 per vehicle.

Both SUVs keep their stock doors front and rear, so the tops seal more efficiently. Dealer cost for a conversion is about 12,000 for the FJ and $19,000 for the H3. or additional information, visit. newportconvertible.com
Company’s topless SUVs are just the thing for summer son Stein Wheel base Communications. There were many stories in the man’s head. After all those years, and memories and cars, there were stories upon stories.
They were racked up like miles on an odometer. The storie showed where he had been and who he had become.
Mostly, though, they helped show how Robert E. “Pete” Petersen had a knack for bringing everything together. They helped show why one of the most successful publishingt repreneurs in the history of the car-magazine business was so good at what he did.
As founder of the company that produced Hot Rod, Motor Trend, Car Craft and many other enthusiast magazine titles, Mr.Petersen was a storyteller. And he made sure his magazines toldreat stories. “An American icon,” Dick Messer, director of the Petersen car museuy Mark Vaughn AutoWeek Newport Convertible Engineering in Placentia, Calif., has been chopping the tops of perfectly good cars since 1983. Now, with summer upon the Northern Hemisphere, they’ve taken to chopping the tops off SUVs, including the Toyota FJ Cruiser and the Hummer H3. the premise of a convertible SUV should raise hundreds of red flags for anyone ho has ever heard the phrase “torsional igidity.” We’ve seen home made cabriolet shere the windshields cracked after three locks of driving because what is left of the frame twists like a pair of plastic salad tongs. But Newport does a solid engineering on every project, and the SUVs are not exception. With welded-in reinforcement round 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 he H3, but even the H3 seemed sound over speed bumps and across water drains. he power tops are hydraulically tuated via a single button, with the final latch done by hand at the windshield header.

SEMA eNews, Vol. 10, No. 24 – Jan 31, 2015
CONVERTIBLE SUVS ARE BACK!
As summer approaches, consumers are buying vehicles that reflect their outdoor-loving lifestyles, and the purchase of convertible SUVs is growing in popularity among many of these drivers. SEMA-member Newport Convertible Engineering, a Placentia, California-based custom shop, has been taking the tops off of new FJ Cruisers and Hummer H3s for its customers for some time now, which the company says is a growing trend.
They make convertibles out of luxury and non-luxury and SUVs for one reason: “There is a tremendous growing demand for SUV convertibles much like when we introduced our sedan convertible at the time,” comments Matthew Kahnamelli of Newport Convertible Engineering.
Some of the sedans for which the company transforms into convertible include the Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS. But Kahnamelli notes that although his company has been making convertibles out of Ford Expedition and Range Rovers SUVs over the past few years, since the introduction of the FJ and H3, “the convertible market for these vehicles has gone through the roof,” he says. The company proudly displayed one of its FJ Cruiser convertibles at the 2006 SEMA Show, as shown in the picture below.
The H3 shown above also shows how Newport Convertible Engineering is making its customers the unique custom SUVs they want in order to differentiate themselves from others on the road. Kahnamelli indicates that typical customers for convertible SUVs are affluent individuals, from doctors to businesswomen, who want the functionality of an SUV with the fun of a convertible.
The convertible tops on these SUVs are hydraulically actuated with the latch closed by hand at the windshield header. Structural rigidity is maintained with some enhancements that increase the stiffness of the SUVs. Because Newport Convertible Engineering incorporates welded-in reinforcement around the window frames and behind the back seats, as well as roll hoops welded into all the right places, every vehicle sold comes with its original warranty intact, as well as an additional three-year warranty on the convertible top.
The dealer cost for a conversion is about $10,000 for the FJ Cruiser and $19,000 for the Hummer H3, and the company says that consumers are continuing to pay this in order to get a topless SUV that is unlike most others on the road.

Source: SEMA Research & Information Center

Toyota Prius convertible: Don’t see that every day!
Jan 31 2015 by Jeremy Korzeniewski

We would surely welcome a convertible Prius to Toyota’s official list of offerings, but we doubt it would end up looking much like this one. Custom ordered by someone who goes by the handle ‘exproducer’ on Prius Chat, the Waveline Blue sedan has had its roof professionally removed, raising the cost of the Prius from about $28 grand to $46 grand. That’s a lot of dough, to be sure. Four-door convertibles are quite rare, and they rarely look as good as their sportier two-door cousins. In this case, beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. The owner loves their car, which is, of course, all that really matters. Still, the general consensus, even among Prius owners, seems to be that this particular Prius lost more than just its roof in this conversion. Whatever your opinions on the looks (we would prefer the window-frames removed), the work that went into this particular custom was very well done. On an efficiency note, the owner claims that their Prius convertible managed to pick up four miles per gallon while driving with the top up, and a loss of just two miles per gallon with it down.

Company that specializes in taking a lot off the top
Turns in Al Zadeh’s career path led him to establish a business converting hardtops.

Los Angeles Times – Los Angeles, Calif.
By John O’Dell Jan 31, 2015
(Copyright (c) 2006 Los Angeles Times)
Al Zadeh once hoped to be a doctor, fixing people’s broken bodies and restoring their dreams. Now he’s fulfilling dreams and performing reconstructive surgeries — on cars, not people.
His first career plan crashed when Zadeh discovered in anatomy lab “that I had a big problem with blood and stuff.” The USC engineering school graduate makes convertibles out of cars the original manufacturers never intended to go topless.
Zadeh has become something of a trendsetter. His company, Newport Convertible Engineering, was making cloth-top New Beetles in 1998, almost two years before Volkswagen came out with its own topless bug. He designed and built the first Chrysler Crossfire convertible and was selling convertible models of the PT Cruiser in 2002, well before Chrysler did its own production version in 2004.
Zadeh’s latest model is a convertible version of Toyota Motor Corp.’s new FJ Cruiser: a rugged ragtop he says is still capable of tough off-road activity when not cruising the coast.
Newport Convertible — an enterprise whose name evokes Southern California’s golden beaches and white-capped waves — actually operates out of a concrete tilt-up industrial building in the decidedly inland Orange County city of Placentia.
The name is part of the mystique that creates opportunity for the business.
“There’s a desire among many of us to have something unique. And a convertible, especially a model that the carmakers aren’t mass- producing, is something special,” said Jim Hossack, an industry analyst at market research firm AutoPacific Inc. in Tustin. “If you have money, a convertible like that is a great way to make a statement.”
With 15 employees and $3 million in annual revenue, by Zadeh’s account, Newport Convertible is to all outward signs a profitable business.
He has been fascinated with the idea of building elaborate mechanisms that could perform human tasks, and do them better.
After realizing that his dream of being a doctor wasn’t feasible, he turned to USC’s engineering school. There, after studying biomedical and mechanical engineering, he finished with a degree in petroleum engineering.
His plan, he said, was to make his millions early, then set up his own business and turn his talents to other pursuits.
But Zadeh graduated in 1981 just as the industry entered a period of intense competition and falling oil prices, during which petroleum companies trimmed hundreds of thousands of jobs from their payrolls. His job as an exploration engineer was one of them.
“I got laid off in 1983, so I took my savings and thought, ‘What else do I want to do?’ ”
At the time, Zadeh drove a small MG convertible and had grown frustrated with the British sports car and the “horrible design of the top.”
“It leaked everywhere, all the time,” he said. “I wanted to work with cars, and I decided that I could use my engineering background to design a better convertible top.”
To earn money while teaching himself how to do so, Zadeh sold and installed auto body customizing parts. He named the business A&F Automotive — for Al and Fariba, a sister who helped him out from time to time.
By 1986, Long Beach-based A&F was out of the custom body parts business and concentrating on doing convertible conversions.
Zadeh’s brother-in-law Matthew Kahnamelli had moved to the U.S. after finishing college in England and became a co-owner and the company’s business and marketing manager. The company changed its name in 1995 when it moved to Placentia.
It took six months to design and build the first convertible, Zadeh said. And it wasn’t an MG but a conversion of a Nissan 240Z sports coupe. Others followed — initially one-of-a-kind models built on spec, including convertibles made from hardtop Zs as well as Volvo, Lexus, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz models.
Kahnamelli began advertising the company’s work in specialty magazines, such as the Dupont Registry and Robb Report, that are aimed at wealthy auto enthusiasts. Newport Convertible started building to order for people who wanted something a bit different from what their neighbors were driving.
“That’s a market that’s big enough to keep them going a long time,” said Roy Adler, a car enthusiast and Pepperdine University marketing professor who specializes in consumer psychology.
By the late 1990s, Zadeh had started converting popular production cars, deciding that the future lay in having established auto dealers sell his work rather than depending on individual customers to come in with customizing requests.
Chris Collins, manager and co-owner of the recently opened Urban Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in Foothill Ranch, said he had already sold one of Zadeh’s convertible Chrysler 300s and had just signed on to sell Newport Convertible’s Dodge Charger version as well.
“The quality of their work is great,” he said, “and these kinds of cars really bring people in.”
The cars typically run $10,000 to $15,000 above the regular hardtop version’s sticker price, though one notable job penciled out at $250,000. (That was to turn a Mercedes Benz S-Class sedan into a wheelchair-friendly two-door convertible.)
Making a convertible out of a hardtop involves much more than chopping off the steel roof and designing a folding mechanism for the cloth top. Removing the steel top robs a car of a tremendous amount of structural rigidity that must be restored before the resulting soft-top can be deemed drivable.
“We did a lot of learning on the job about that,” Zadeh said. “I was able to use my engineering training, and I used some of the same methods that are used to make bridges structurally sound.”
In reviews of Newport Convertibles’ work, enthusiast magazines including Car and Driver and Motor Trend have found the cars to be the equal of factory-built convertibles in rigidity and roadworthiness.
Zadeh’s latest inspiration was to replace the steel top of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser sport utility vehicle with a one-touch, automated canvas convertible roof. The prototype was unveiled in November at the Specialty Equipment Market Assn. trade show in Las Vegas and drew lots of attention at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show.
The project earned Zadeh the opportunity to pitch his design and engineering services to Toyota Motor Sales USA, the Torrance-based U.S. arm of the Japanese automotive giant.
A Toyota spokesman said the company had not pursued things further. But Zadeh said he remained hopeful that the electronically controlled convertible system he developed for the FJ Cruiser would help move his business into its next stage.
“I’d like, ultimately, to stop building specialty cars in small numbers and to become a design and engineering consultant working with all the automotive companies to help them develop convertible models,” he said.
Automakers tend to be leery of convertibles: They are difficult to engineer, are expensive to make and sell in small numbers in a business that needs big volume to make development costs pay off.
That, Zadeh said, is where he can step in.
It’s a big dream, but Zadeh, who preaches the glories of American capitalism and opportunity, says dreams are necessary to succeed in business.
“When you don’t have goals, if you are only satisfied with what you are doing, then you get stale,” he said
Zadeh cautions, though, that entrepreneurs must learn to pace their dreams.
Zadeh’s business has been moving steadily forward ever since.
And if the Toyota deal doesn’t happen?

Custom Car Shops Beat VW to Top
2 Southland Firms Fill Consumer Demand for Convertible Beetles
Los Angeles Times – Los Angeles, Calif.
Oct 8, 1998 By John O Dell

Southern California is home to a huge and versatile automotive aftermarket industry that often designs and produces dress-up and performance-improving add-ons for new vehicles before the car makers even funnel their new models into dealer showrooms.
The Dodge Viper, the Plymouth Prowler and the convertible Toyotas, Nissans and Ford Mustangs that sprang forth in the late 1980s can trace their bloodlines to Southern California’s custom car shops. These and other vehicles eventually became production models from the slower-off-the-mark high-volume manufacturers in Detroit, Europe and Japan.
Now come the convertible Beetles: soft-top versions of Volkswagen’s hot-selling New Beetle.
Two competing Orange County auto customizers have just hit the market with the world’s first convertible New Beetles after substantially re-engineering the car to stiffen the body. It took just six months from the March introduction of the new VW Bug for the convertible models to hit the streets.
Industry insiders say that even with price tags that boost VW’s base price for a hard-top Bug by about 60%, the firms should be able to sell all they can make, given their admittedly limited capacities. Together, they expect to build fewer than 1,000 a year, converting less than 2% of the 50,000 New Beetles that Volkswagen plans to sells in the U.S. each year.
“There’s a lot of demand for a convertible,” says Miles Brandon, owner of Capistrano Volkswagen Inc. in San Juan Capistrano. “We’ve got customers asking us to take advance orders even though it will be a few years before Volkswagen comes out with one.”
The official version for VW’s delay is that the company doesn’t need a convertible yet because it still can’t satisfy demand for the New Beetle with its hard-top models. All of the Bugs are made at a single factory, in Puebla, Mexico, that is running at capacity, VW officials say. New production lines would have to be built to begin making convertibles.
But assembling convertibles is far more complex than building hard tops, and VW is reportedly reluctant to begin making soft-top Bugs because of quality-control problems with its hard tops. Addition of a convertible line isn’t likely, dealers and other sources say, until VW can resolve production glitches that require many of the cars coming off the line in Puebla to be reworked before being released into the retail pipeline.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen customers have been gobbling up the company’s Cabrio, a convertible version of the Golf. Cabrio sales are up about 70% this year and account for almost 10% of the 76,000 vehicles VW has sold in the U.S. through September. The Cabrio typically costs about $4,500 more than the Golf, a 24% premium that is typical of factory-built convertibles.
But there still is a big demand for a topless Bug, and the two Southern California conversion firms have grabbed the opportunity to profit from VW’s delay.
The aftermarket convertibles by Newport Convertible Engineering Inc. of Anaheim will sell for at least $10,000 above VW dealers’ prices for a regular Bug.
With 1999 Beetles typically selling for $16,000 to $21,000, depending on options and dealer profit margins, that puts the convertibles in the $26,000-to-$33,000 range.
Although both are convertibles, the battling Bugs have as many differences as similarities, Newport Convertible has opted for solid canvas, eliminating rear side windows and counting on the large rear window to lighten things in the back seat.
The converters used different approaches to stiffening the Beetle’s frame and body to compensate for removal of the rigid hard top.
Both companies provide warranties on their work, Straman for a year and Newport for two years. The warranties cover the tops and top mechanisms as well as structural rigidity.
The alterations won’t affect VW’s factory warranties on powertrain, suspension, emission and electrical systems.
He says he will market the Beetle convertibles through a network of VW dealers as well as take orders directly from customers. He started sales in late September, almost a month after Newport Convertible launched its marketing effort, and says he has sold three cars and is processing orders for “several dozen more.”
Al Zadeh, founder and president of Newport Convertible, says he expects his volume to hit 50 a month. Newport has specialized in “one-off” conversions of luxury coupes and sedans. Zadeh said the company, which he started in 1983 shortly after graduating from USC with a degree in engineering, has been averaging about 75 custom conversions a year.
He said his company received more than 100 inquiries from an ad in a recent issue of the Robb Report, a lifestyle magazine aimed at the well-to-do. The company has also picked up several clients referred by area VW dealers.
Pete Cameron, owner of Special Vehicle Concepts Inc. in Newport Beach and one of two worldwide distributors for Newport Convertible (the other is ConvertiBeetle Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz.), said he has sold a dozen converted Beetles in the last month.
One buyer is Vickie Boyd, a Laguna Beach resident who picked up her yellow convertible Monday and says she’s been driving it around the beach town ever since. “I just love it–it’s so incredibly cute,” says Boyd, who got rid of an expensive Mercedes-Benz roadster to make room for the Beetle.
“I had a yellow convertible {Bug} when I was in school, and when I saw the new ones I started asking if VW was going to make a convertible.”
Boyd says she was told repeatedly that the factory wasn’t going to have one for some time, so she started asking about custom conversions and last month was referred to Cameron by McKenna Volkswagen in Huntington Beach.
“Everybody I see asks me where I got it,” Boyd says. “Nobody asked me about my Mercedes.”
PHOTO: Al Zadeh, above, president of Newport Convertible Engineering Inc. in Anaheim, says his company has received more than 100 inquiries about transforming hard-top Beetles.; PHOTOGRAPHER: KARI RENE HALL / Los Angeles Times; PHOTO: At left, Robert Ramirez of Newport fastens a soft top onto a Bug.; PHOTOGRAPHER: KARI RENE HALL / Los Angeles Times; PHOTO: A ragtop Beetle converted by R. Straman Co. attracts attention at a Newport Beach car show Sunday.; PHOTOGRAPHER: GERALDINE WILKINS-KASINGA / Los Angeles Times
Credit: TIMES STAFF WRITER
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.

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