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From an engineering perspective, chopping off a car's roof makes no sense. But who said engineers know everything? A convertible car can turn even the most mundane drive into an experience (and, if it rains, not a good one).Here's a look at some of great (and not-so-great) convertibles.

1967 Pontiac GTO: In the mid-sixties, there was no cooler convertible muscle car than the GTO, with its big-block V8 and Hurst shifter.

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Porsche 356 Speedster. Produced by Porsche from 1954 until 1958, the Speedster is one of the world's most iconic convertibles. James Dean and Steve McQueen both owned one. (The car in this photo is a Speedster replica made by Intermeccanica, a Vancouver company.)


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Porsche Boxster Spyder: By making a few strategic changes to the popular Boxster, Porsche produced a convertible that harks back to the 1950s. Among those changes? A lightweight, manually-operated top that must be assembled like a pup tent.

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Shelby 427 Cobra: By installing an American V8 in a tiny British sports car called the AC Ace, Cobra creator Carroll Shelby came up with a winning formula. The 427 version shown here was the ultimate evolution of Shelby's iconic car, which many consider the ultimate roadster.

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Porsche 911 Turbo cabriolet: Chopping the top off Porsche's ultimate road car adds to the visceral thrill. With the top down, the roar of the 500 horsepower twin-turbo motor is magnified (along with the 280 km/hr wind rush).

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Caterham Seven: With no roof, no doors, and no air conditioning, the Seven is a raw, high-powered convertible that connects you with the road (and with rocks and bugs, if you take off the windshield).

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Ariel Atom: The Atom takes the convertible concept to the extreme by deleting the body panels. (A full-face helmet is mandatory.) Designed in England, the Atom is produced under license in the USA by TMI Autotech.

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Austin Healey 100-6: Designed by engineer Donald Healey in the 1950s, the 100-6 exemplifies the classic British roadster. With the top down and the six-cylinder engine crooning, the 100-6 feels fast, and looks beautiful. (This particular car is a 1959, owned by one of Peter Cheney's readers).

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Volkswagen Beetle: Although some argue that chopping off the Beetle's top destroyed its iconic shape, the convertible Bug has a charm of its own.


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Not all convertibles are attractive. As evidence, I present the 1984 Chrysler LeBaron cabriolet with fake wooden side panels. As stylistic travesties go, this was hard to beat. On the upside, the top does come down.


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Jaguar E-Type: When it appeared in 1961, the Jaguar E-Type was called "the most beautiful car ever made" by no less than Enzo Ferrari, and the convertible version is even more beautiful than the coupe. Among the E-Type convertibles' advocates was soccer legend George Best who once announced: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

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Mid-50s Chevrolet Bel-Air: With its sofa-style seats and swooping chrome trim, the Bel-Air symbolizes the sock-hop/doo-wop era. Like the coupe, the convertible version is an enduring classic.

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1949 Hebmueller cabriolet: Built on a Volkswagen Beetle chassis by a German coach-building company, the Hebmueller is a rare convertible car - only 682 were produced, between 1949 and 1951.

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1966 Alfa Romeo Spider Duetto: The Alfa's pointed snout and tail made it a design classic, and one of the best-loved convertibles ever made. The Spider became a cultural icon after it appeared in the 1967 movie The Graduate. The car's signature tapered rear end is variously referred to as a "boat tail" or "cigar tail."


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MGB: The MGB had modest performance, but its snug cockpit and convertible roof made for a memorable driving experience. The flakey Lucas electrical system added occasional drama.

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Columnist Peter Cheney (left) and reader Michael Brake drive the back roads in Brake's Caterham Seven convertible.

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Peter Cheney's wife Marian (on the right) and her friend Robin Taber enjoying a top-down drive in a 1967 Pontiac GTO convertible.

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Peter Cheney's wife Marian in a 2002 Mazda Miata.

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