10 Types Of Convertibles Explained (With Photos)

Convertible cars embody the allure of wind in your hair and the warmth of the sun on your face, delivering a stylish cruising experience along the open highway. This captivating sensation has garnered the attention of countless motorists, prompting car manufacturers to craft a diverse array of convertible models.

The convertible stands as an iconic emblem of motoring freedom, evolving throughout automotive history to yield innovative, safer, and more efficient iterations. Car makers continually refine and enhance these vehicles, introducing fresh types and styles to meet evolving demands. These distinctions emerge from variations in folding roof mechanisms, the materials employed, and the imperative to harmonize with the car’s overall design.

What is a Convertible Car?

A convertible, often referred to as a cabriolet, is a type of passenger car uniquely designed with a retractable or removable roof, allowing for open-air driving experiences. The specific mechanisms and methods for retracting and storing the folding roof can vary, influenced by contemporary styles and manufacturer preferences.

One of the primary attractions of a convertible lies in its capability to offer open-air driving enjoyment, coupled with the convenience of deploying the roof when necessary. This dual-purpose design distinguishes convertibles, providing drivers the freedom to embrace the elements or shelter as needed.

Constructing a convertible car necessitates significant structural engineering modifications to ensure the vehicle retains adequate rigidity despite the absence of a fixed roof.

In the early days of automobiles, all cars lacked roofs and were exposed to the elements. However, as cars became more prevalent, faster, and more powerful, the inclusion of a roof became a crucial consideration in automotive design.

The concept of folding roofs on cars is not new, as evidenced by the 1897 Daimler Grafton Phaeton, equipped with a folding soft-top roof.

As solid-roofed cars became commonplace, convertibles took on a distinct identity in the motoring world. They exuded an air of elegance and sportiness as open-top cars ceased to be the standard. Car manufacturers responded by producing convertible variants of their sportscar models, capturing the attention of motoring enthusiasts and spurring increased demand.

1. Soft Top Convertible

The soft top convertible stands as one of the earliest convertible designs, with its initial iterations crafted from tightly woven cotton canvas to ensure waterproofing.

What distinguishes the soft top roof is its flexibility, ease of manipulation, and secure attachment to a folding framework, facilitating the smooth and effortless retraction and folding of the roof.

Following World War II, the scarcity of cotton canvas prompted car manufacturers to explore alternative materials for soft top convertibles, capitalizing on advancements in plastic and nylon technology.

Various materials have been employed for soft tops, including vinyl, PVC, latex, butyl rubber, nylon, and acrylic fibers. Typically, these soft top roofs comprise multiple layers, with the outermost layer featuring the most waterproof material, while the inner layer is primarily cosmetic, harmonizing with the car’s interior colors and design.

Between these inner and outer layers, manufacturers often incorporate soundproofing materials to diminish noise levels within the car when the roof is deployed.

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Soft top convertibles boast a unique ability to compress to a compact size, allowing car manufacturers to conceal the folded roof entirely within a compartment positioned behind the seats. This arrangement not only contributes to a sleeker car profile when the roof is down but also safeguards the rooftop fabric from potential damage while stowed.

The textile roof or soft-top convertible design is commonly found in sportier car models, primarily due to the limited space available for accommodating the folded roof.

Several iconic car models have embraced soft top convertibles within their range, including the Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet, the Mazda MX-5, the BMW Z-8, as well as the Ferrari 360 and 430 Spider.

2. Detachable Hardtop Convertible

Hard top convertibles distinguish themselves from soft tops by utilizing a roof constructed from rigid materials, such as plastic or metal.

The rigidity of a hard top presents specific challenges when it comes to the process of removing the roof to enjoy open-air driving on a warm, sunny day.

Hard tops offer several advantages over their soft top counterparts, including superior noise suppression and weatherproofing when the roof is in the closed position. Additionally, they provide enhanced security, and the roof material itself tends to be more durable and robust. However, there are also notable disadvantages associated with hard tops.

Within the realm of hard top convertibles, there are two primary detachable roof designs. The first involves dividing the roof into multiple panels that can be manually removed and stowed in a compartment located in the car’s trunk.

The second style features a single-piece roof that must be removed and stored separately from the car, often requiring it to be left in a garage when driving in an open-top configuration.

Both of these detachable hardtop designs share a common drawback: the roof removal process is entirely manual, and deploying the roof becomes challenging if the weather takes an unexpected turn. In such situations, finding shelter is necessary to replace the roof panels or waiting for inclement weather to pass.

Detachable hard top convertibles enjoyed significant popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, gracing cars like the Ford Thunderbird and Chevrolet Corvette.

While detachable convertible roofs have been a part of car models since the 1950s, they experienced a decline in popularity due to their inconvenience. This decline was further exacerbated by advancements in soft top materials and storage mechanisms, as well as the introduction of retractable hard top convertibles.

Nonetheless, some car manufacturers continue to offer detachable hardtop convertible options for select models.

3. Retractable Hardtop Convertible

The advent of the retractable hard top mechanism ushered in a revolutionary blend of durability and convenience. It offered the solidity of a traditional solid roof while enabling automatic folding and storage in a dedicated compartment at the rear of the car.

Although the concept of retractable hard tops dates back to 1919, it wasn’t until 1934 that it found its way into production vehicles, notably featuring on the Peugeot 401D Coupe Eclipse.

Over time, enhancements in retraction and storage mechanisms have propelled the retractable hard top into the mainstream, making it a sought-after choice for various car models, including convertible versions of sedans.

Typically crafted from metal, the retractable hard top boasts numerous advantages over soft-top convertibles. It offers heightened security, superior noise reduction, and efficient climate control when the roof is in use. The weatherproofing capabilities of this type of convertible are unmatched, and it boasts exceptional durability.

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Nonetheless, the retractable hardtop does present certain challenges to car designers. The roof itself and the complex retraction mechanism significantly increase the vehicle’s weight. This added heft necessitates a sturdier and more intricate retraction mechanism, introducing complexity and the potential for more components to malfunction.

Furthermore, stowing the rigid roof typically consumes a considerable portion of the car’s trunk space, limiting luggage capacity.

Due to the added engineering complexities and components involved, retractable hardtop convertibles are generally priced substantially higher than their counterparts.

Classic cars like the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner represent examples of this convertible configuration, while modern vehicles like the McLaren 570S Spider, Ferrari Portofino, Ferrari 488 Spider, Mercedes-Benz SL Roadster, and the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF continue to showcase the benefits of retractable hard tops in the contemporary automotive landscape.

4. Roadster Convertible

Traditionally, the term “roadster” was reserved for describing open-top vehicles without any provision for enclosing the driver or passenger compartments. Moreover, it denoted a two-seater performance sports car rather than a four-door model.

However, the definition of a roadster has evolved to encompass cars that fulfill the other fundamental criteria of a roadster but offer the flexibility of a retractable roof.

Notable examples of these convertible variants include the BMW Z4, Jaguar F-Type, Audi TT, and the Porsche Boxster. These models embody the spirit of the roadster while providing the option to enjoy open-air driving or the security of a closed roof when needed.

5. Fixed Profile Convertible

A fixed-profile convertible is ingeniously designed to retain specific structural elements of the vehicle’s sides and roof even when the roof is retracted.

In this innovative design, only the central panel of the roof folds back, while the side pillars and door frames remain in position, lending the car its distinctive fixed profile, from which this convertible type derives its name.

The doors, side pillars, side bodywork, and roof sections that stay in place offer enhanced structural integrity, requiring fewer engineering modifications to the car’s chassis.

Typically, the central part of the roof consists of a flexible fabric material that neatly folds down to the rear of the car, situated behind the seats, when the roof is opened.

A pioneering example of this convertible style is the Citroen 2CV, dating back to 1948. A more contemporary rendition can be seen in the new-generation Fiat 500 Cabriolet, introduced in 2007, showcasing this remarkable rooftop design.

6. Cabrio Coach Convertible

The cabrio coach shares similarities with the fixed profile convertible but maintains even fewer structural elements of the car’s frame when compared to the fixed profile variant.

This convertible style is often referred to as a semi-convertible because it falls short of being fully convertible due to the retention of certain side structures on the car, which diminish the complete convertible experience.

An exemplary illustration of the cabrio coach design can be found in the Ford Eifel, a German-made automobile produced by Ford Germany during the period from 1935 to 1940, which elegantly embraced this distinctive convertible rooftop concept.

7. Four-Door Convertible

Convertibles are typically associated with sporty car models and two-door vehicles, rather than their four-door sedan counterparts.

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The advent of retractable hardtop convertible technology has enabled car manufacturers to introduce limited edition convertible models based on their mass-produced four-door sedans.

However, despite the availability of four-door convertibles, they remain relatively uncommon in the market. This could be attributed to the prevailing perception among motorists that convertibles should exude a sporty look and feel.

As a consequence, four-door convertibles enjoy limited popularity in contemporary automobiles. An exception to this trend is the 1961 Lincoln Continental 4-door convertible, which notably featured reverse-opening rear doors. These unique doors swung outward towards the rear of the car, distinguishing it from traditional front-hinged doors.

8. Offroad Convertible

Although convertible rooftops are typically associated with sporty cars, certain offroad car manufacturers have integrated this feature into select models, garnering positive reception among enthusiasts.

Most offroad convertibles employ soft top or fabric roof materials. In some variants, the roof can be completely detached, while others facilitate roof folding towards the rear of the vehicle.

Prominent examples of offroad convertibles encompass the Ford Bronco, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, Land Rover Defender, and the Hummer H1 Open Top. Remarkably, many of these vehicles belong to the category of 4-door convertibles.

9. Landaulet Convertible

The landaulet convertible is a relatively rare and distinctive variation of convertibles. It deviates from the conventional convertible design, drawing inspiration from limousine layouts. In this unique style, the rear part of the roof above the passengers can retract, allowing for an open-air experience, while the roof above the driver remains solid and fixed.

These convertibles often incorporate a partition that separates the driver from the passengers, akin to the traditional limousine configuration. Typically associated with dignitaries, royalty, and VIPs, convertibles of this type are frequently employed as stately vehicles. A notable example is the 1966 Rolls Royce Phantom V, often used as a “state car” landaulet.

Mercedes has ventured into an offroad version of this convertible style with the Mercedes-Maybach G 650 Landaulet, adding a touch of opulence to the world of offroading.

10. Targa Top Convertible

The term “Targa top convertible” was coined following the introduction of the 1966 Porsche 911 Targa, a model that showcased this innovative roof design.

Targa tops are characterized by a retractable fabric roof and a strategically placed roll bar positioned behind the seats, serving both as a safety feature and structural support. In some Targa models, the rear windscreen is crafted from glass and remains in position when the roof is retracted, providing a unique blend of open-air driving and cabin comfort.

In other variations of this design, the rear windscreen is composed of a plastic window that can be conveniently folded away, offering a true convertible experience.

Several other iconic cars feature the Targa top convertible roof design, including the 1961 Triumph TR4, as well as more contemporary models like the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport, Dodge Viper, Lotus Elise, and the Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster.


While the traditional convertible often embodies a sporty persona, usually as a two-seater, various iterations of convertibles extend the liberating joy of open-air motoring to diverse automotive styles.

Advancements in technology and engineering have markedly enhanced the waterproofing, soundproofing, and overall safety features of convertible vehicles. However, it’s worth noting that the exhilarating experience of top-down driving often comes at an additional cost.