Convertible Car - A convertible is a type of automobile of various automobile body styles that can convert from open-air mode to a provisional enclosed (roofed) mode.
Roof designs have varied widely and have evolved from the earliest models, where roofs were demountable and/or detachable. Contemporary roofs are often hinged to fold away, either into a recess behind the rear seats or into the boot or trunk of the vehicle. The roof may operate either manually or automatically via hydraulic or electrical actuators, and the roof itself may be constructed of soft or rigid material. Soft-tops are made of vinyl, canvas or other textile material, while hard-tops are made of steel, aluminum, plastic, or other rigid materials.
1922 Ben P. Ellerbeck conceived the first practical retractable hardtop system in 1922 – a manually operated system on a Hudson coupe that allowed unimpeded use of the rumble seat even with the top down – but never saw production.
1935 Peugeot introduced the first production, power-operated retractable hardtop in 1935, the 402 eclipse Decapotable, designed and patented by Georges Paulin. The French coachbuilder, Marcel Pourtout, custom-built other examples of Paulin's designs on a larger Peugeot chassis as well. The first Eclipse 402s offered a power-retractable top, but in 1936 was replaced by a manually operated version on a stretched chassis, built in limited numbers until World War II.
1941 - Chrysler presents the retractable hardtop concept car, the Chrysler Thunderbolt.
1953 - Ford Motor Company spent an estimated US$2 million to engineer a Continental Mark II with a servo-operated retractable roof. The project was headed by Ben Smith, a 30-year-old draftsman. The concept was rejected for cost and marketing reasons.
1955 - Brothers Ed and Jim Gaylord showed their first prototype at the 1955 Paris motor show, but the car failed to reach production.
1957 - Ford introduced the Skyliner in the United States. A total of 48,394 were built from 1957 to 1959. The retractable top was noted for its complexity and usually decent reliability in the pre-transistor era. Its mechanism contained 10 power relays, 10 limit switches, four lock motors, three drive motors, eight circuit breakers, as well as 610 feet (190 m) of electrical wire, and could raise or lower the top in about 40 seconds. The Skyliner was a halo car with little luggage space (i.e., practicality), and cost twice that of a baseline Ford sedan.
1989 - Toyota introduced a modern retractable hardtop, the MZ20 Soarer Aerocabin. The car featured an electric folding hardtop and was marketed as a 2-seater with a cargo area behind the front seats. Production was 500 units.
1995 - The Mitsubishi 3000GT Spyder convertible by ASC was marketed in the U.S. The design was further popularized by such cars as the 1996 Mercedes-Benz SLK. and 2001 Peugeot 206 CC.
2006 - Peugeot presented a concept four-door retractable hardtop convertible, the Peugeot 407 Macarena. Produced by French coachbuilding specialist Heuliez, the Macarena's top can be folded in about 30 seconds. It has a reinforcing beam behind the front seats which incorporates LCD screens into the crossmember for the rear passengers.
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