Journal: Best Cars for a Summer Weekend at the Coast

Best Cars for a Summer Weekend at the Coast

By Brett Evans
May 16, 2014
25 comments

Mr. Dennis Simanaitis once said that a convertible top can excuse a multitude of automotive sins, and we Petrolisti are inclined to agree.

A stowed convertible roof makes any driving experience that much better. Intake and exhaust sounds pipe directly into the interior. The slight backdraft of exhaust engages the smell receptors along with the scent of sunscreen and seafoam. Rays of sun pour in warming you and seagulls can be heard in the distance. These are experiences that can only be had in convertibles, and with icy winter finally far behind, we’d like to present some of our favorite convertibles for a weekend at the beach and just about any budget.

LESS THAN 10K

Winner: Mercedes SL

The R107 was more popular than any SL-Class generation before or since. As such, nice examples can be had for pennies on the Gullwing dollar, with prices falling between $7,000 and $15,000 for low-mileage, well-maintained cars.

Look for a 1972 or early-1973 model if you want to avoid the large rubber bumpers, but if you don’t care, any SL will be a good, reasonably reliable choice. The early 4.5-liter V8 450SL was a well-balanced driving experience, but there was also a somewhat economical 380SL and a mighty 560SL available later in the production cycle.

With a huge trunk, cozy seats, and a choice of three torquey V8s, the R107 SL-Class makes for an amazing road trip vehicle, but honestly, the car is good at just about anything.

ALTERNATES

Fiat 124 Spider 

The Fiat 124 Spider (later Fiat 2000 and Pininfarina 2000) may have trailed the MGB to market by several years, but its 1.4-liter twin-cam motor made as much horsepower as the MGB’s 1.8-liter, and from 1969 on, the Fiat sported five speeds in its transmission to the Brit’s four. It’s a stereotype for a reason: this Italian has soul!

Datsun Fairlady Roadster 

Called the Fairlady in its home market (a lovely name, if you ask us), the Datsun Roadster was first available in the United States in 1963 with a 1.5-liter four producing 85 horses. It’s a bit more primitive than its competition, but it’s a lovely thing to behold and far less common.

LESS THAN 50K

Winner: Ford Mustang

Really, though, you knew a Mustang was going to be on this list.

With a base price just above $2,300, it was an instant success in 1964, racking up nearly half a million sales in its first nine months. (Fun fact: one clever restaurateur in Manhattan claimed that his hotcakes were selling like Mustangs).

The first-generation Mustang’s long hood and short trunk belie its humble origins as the Ford Falcon’s fraternal twin, and it’s available with smooth, if underpowered, inline sixes or a burly V8s, both available with two-, three-, or four-speed transmissions. It’s arguably the most legendary vehicle of the 1960s, and it’s perfect for summer.

The Mustang makes for a lovely cruiser, either in town or on the open road, but a few easy and cheap modifications help it become a bona fide performance vehicle. Sure, they’re common, but for good reason: they’re just so great.

ALTERNATES

Alfa Romeo Spider 

Produced from 1966-1969, the boat-tail Alfa Romeo Spider is simply beautiful. While later Spiders are still attractive and unique with their chopped-off Kamm tails, the first Spiders were the ones that made us go weak in the knees when we saw one for the first time.

Honda S800 

In the 1960s, Honda’s bread and butter were cheap motorcycles and utility vehicles. It had absolutely no business in the sports car market. However, applying lessons learned from motorcycle manufacturing, the S800 came with a zesty, rev-happy 800cc inline-four that delivered 70 horses to the rear wheels, via a chain-drive! How fun!

LESS THAN 150K

Winner: Jaguar XKE Roadster

The XK-E (or E-Type) was styled to look long and low, and you sit nearly on the rear axle. The hood juts out for what seems like miles in front of the driver, and you point this thing more than drive it. It’s an experience you’ll only get in a Jag.

With straight-six engines ranging from 3.8 to 4.2 liters, the E-Type has a top speed of nearly 150 mph, and it accelerates far better than the more expensive Aston Martin DB5. It also handles well, with four-wheel disc brakes and a fully independent suspension, and it has a very serene, smooth ride. If you value mechanical simplicity and reliability, you want to avoid the complicated, heavy V12. The early models are also somewhat more restrained in the styling department, although there’s something to be said for the V12’s brutish good looks, like a vehicular Jason Statham.

ALTERNATES

Fiat Dino Spider 

It’s possible that the only thing keeping this car’s value under $100,000 is the fact that sometime, someone high up on the Fiat ladder decided the car would sell better if it was branded as a Fiat, rather than a Dino. With the same engines as the “true” Dino, this car boasts similar performance and styling that make it a worthy consolation prize for the enthusiast who can’t rally up a few hundred grand for a 246GT.

Mercedes-Benz 280SE convertible 

The 1968-1971 280SE convertible has about forty percent less brightwork than the contemporary Cadillac convertible, yet is every bit as spacious and substantially more competent at high speeds. It features Mercedes’ locomotive-like inline-six motor, making 160 horses that had more than enough giddy-up to move the big convertible down the ‘bahn at triple-digit speeds.

MONEY’S NO OBJECT

Winner: Ferrari Daytona Spyder

There were ten times as many F40s built as Daytona Spyders, and three times as many Enzos. If you want a rare Ferrari, forget about the supercars and look for a droptop Daytona. It’s surprising that more Spyders weren’t built by the factory, though. The Daytona was a relaxed, powerful GT that lent itself to long, sweeping road trips along the Mediterranean coast. Such trips would only be enhanced al fresco, and yet, the Daytona Spyder was little more than a one-off design exercise, with merely 121 built.

If you want a Spyder, you must have an original, not a conversion. Just be prepared to pay through the nose the next time one comes up for sale.

ALTERNATES

BMW 507 

The 507 project was intended to provide customers with a sports car stopgap, something in between the outlandishly expensive Mercedes-Benz 300SL and the cheap, featureless Triumph TR3. But for whatever reason, high production costs doubled the car’s intended list price to a stratospheric $10,000, more than the Gullwing it was supposed to undercut. Only 252 of the beautiful cars were built, every one at great financial loss.

Porsche 356 Speedster 

The Speedster is a happy car. Every last inch of it, from its bright-eyed headlights to its rounded rump, suggests that it just wants to go to the beach and splash around. It isn’t a particularly fast machine, so driver and car must work together to preserve as much forward momentum as possible, but, to paraphrase the saying, it’s probably more fun to drive a Speedster quickly than it is to drive a Miura slowly.

What do you think? Tell us about your favorite convertible, and as always, Drive Tastefully.

Photo Sources: ebay.com, honestjohn.co.uk, oldcarbrochures.comproductioncars.com

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25 Comments on "Best Cars for a Summer Weekend at the Coast"

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Guillermo Sanchez Molina
Guillermo Sanchez Molina

Any awsome VOLVO? Somebody forgot VOLVO CARS .

Jack B
Jack B

Good luck finding any near-decent R107 for

Jack B
Jack B

less than $10,000.

Leopoldo Santos
Leopoldo Santos

wrong mirrors on the alfa , the round ones are the correct kind, no mg, no triumph, no mx5, just gas guzzelers , normal guy cars , fiat 600 with moon roof, vw bug

Alec DeJovani
Alec DeJovani

Ferrari 275 GTS or a Lynx XKSS if the weekend is just for two. Mercedes 280SE cab (W111) or Icon Fj43 if a small group is involved.

John
John

What a shitty article. Do you know anything about cars?

Christian Evans
Christian Evans

What a shitty troll.

Andrew Ackerman
Andrew Ackerman

It is not summer unless you have a TR 6!!

Paul Hughes
Paul Hughes

I’m partial to my ’94 Saab 900 Turbo convertible. 5 speed, APC tuned to up the hp from 160 to about 200, great roadholding, and a ton of character. Plenty of trunk space for a weekend away, great for cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway. I’m also a big fan of the Triumph TR6, 8 and Stag, E36 and E46 M3 convertibles too.

Evan Bedford

Any of those will do. But whatever it is, it must have a light colored interior. I discovered to my dismay that my Miata with the black leather became an oven. However, I did manage to snag some “leather dye”. 4 coats of white later, everything is much cooler. And those coats have lasted several years now with no visible wear.

Gearhead since Birth
Gearhead since Birth

Can’t believe my 63 Nova convt. wasn’t included. I would rather drive that and a load of other convertibles like a cobra, or corvette, maybe? whoever made this list needs to be shot in the right foot.

Eugene Dantser
Eugene Dantser

Simply, Petrolicious team avoid including American cars as usual)

Mark Hancheroff
Mark Hancheroff

That must be the Italian Ford Mustang up there, built by the famed Giuseppe Ford, of Detroit, Tuscany. 🙂

Eugene Dantser
Eugene Dantser

Only Mustang) There are so few articles about American cars that deserve it on this site

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange
While the recent period is particularly Ferrari centric (and I’m not complaining at that) because of the celebration of 60 years of Ferrari in the US, I think in general Petrolicious gets a fair balance across most car makes. When it comes to videos I’m sure the team would love to do an SM,DS or Aston Video but all the videos are dependent on finding an owner wanting to have their car and themselves on film. I don’t agree with future doc that American cars cannot be tasteful and wouldn’t complain at seeing a few here, but they are (particularly… Read more »
Eugene Dantser
Eugene Dantser

Why can’t I reply you, Future Doc?) Only like your post) Ok, you don’t like American cars in general. But what about Bentley (no articles on the site), Hispano-Suisa, Aston Martin (two articles), Citroen (very few articles and nothing about SM and DS), Maserati (very few articles par rapport à Porshe) etc., etc. Only Porshe, Porshe, Porshe and Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari on Petrolicious.

Future Doc
Future Doc

Most “classic” American cars are not “tasteful” nor driven “tastefully” (no such thing as a tasteful 1/4 mile). The American cars that are on Petrolicious are a different breed. Loud and Fast Art, In Torque we Trust, and the Oakland Racer are such a different take on normal “American” automania that you normally see in the parking lot of Hardees on a Tuesday night. (Nothing wrong with that part of American car culture, but it is different than the take of Petrolicious).

Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop

After spending a week blatting around Tuscany and the Amalfi coast in a Giulietta Spider, I’m dismayed to see them left off the list…
Heroic little 1300 single carb motor, the most amazing drum brakes, surprisingly roomy, and just utterly wonderful…

Stopwatch
Stopwatch

I’m a bit biased, but am very glad to see the Alfa Romeo Duetto listed here.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange

Any list of convertibles has to include the Mercedes W113 ‘Pagoda’ SL.

Rod S
Rod S

Porsche Boxster hopefully with an IMS updgrade.

Mark Hancheroff
Mark Hancheroff

I’m rather partial to my ’76 Triumph Spitfire. With the Electronic Overdrive, it is a good competition for the Fiat 124. 😉

Mike Neisen
Mike Neisen

How about an early Miata for under $5k? Certainly much newer than most of the cars mentioned here, but with the 25th anniversary upon us it is worth consideration.

Sentinelist

Not old enough for here. Same reason I painfully can’t (yet) recommend my own al fresco favorite, the triple-black 2000 XKR I’ve been enjoying the last couple years. A Miata will be legit 25-yr. old ‘classic status’ sooner than it. Stay tuned?

Future Doc
Future Doc

Got to agree with the picks.

However, I have a sweetspot for an odd option, the Oldsmobile 442 Convertible. I am not an Detroit Iron fan, but there is something (to me at least) that make it the “tasteful” option for large displacement American summer fun.

Given it is the above 10K but under the 50K limit, I would take the 442 over the ‘stang.

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