Hardtop

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1965 Rambler Marlin, a pillarless hardtop

A hardtop is a rigid form of automobile roof, which for modern cars is typically constructed from metal. A hardtop roof can be either fixed (ie not removable), detachable for separate storing or retractable within the vehicle itself.

Pillarless hardtop (often referred to as simply "hardtop") is a body style of cars without a B-pillar, which are often styled to give the appearance of a convertible.

Detachable hardtops[edit]

1959 Daimler SP250 with detachable hardtop

A detachable hardtop is a rigid, removable roof panel that is often stored in a car's trunk/boot.

Retractable hardtops[edit]

2005 Volvo C70 with retractable hardtop

A retractable hardtop (also known as coupé convertible or coupé cabriolet) is a type of convertible that forgoes a folding textile roof in favor of an automatically operated, multi-part, self-storing roof where the rigid roof sections are opaque, translucent, or independently operable.

Pillarless hardtops[edit]

1969 Australian Dodge Phoenix four-door sedan.
Four-door pillarless hardtop of the same basic car. Note the lack of a B-pillar and window frames, which (along with the vinyl roof) creates an appearance similar to a convertible.(American Plymouth Fury shown)
1976 Chrysler New Yorker with doors open. Note the half-height pillar to which the rear doors attach.

The pillarless hardtop (often abbreviated to "hardtop") is a hardtop with no B-pillar which is often styled to look like a convertible.[1][2] If window frames are present, they are designed to retract with the glass when lowered. This creates an impression of uninterrupted glass along the side of the car.[3]

A pillarless hardtop is inherently less rigid than a pillared body, requiring extra underbody strength to prevent shake. Production hardtops commonly shared the frame or reinforced body structure of the contemporary convertible model, which was already reinforced to compensate for the lack of a fixed roof.

Hardtops tend to be more expensive and collectible than sedan models of the same vehicle.[4]

Some hardtop models took the convertible look even further, including such details as simulating a convertible-top framework in the interior headliner and shaping the roof to resemble a raised canvas top.[citation needed] By the late-1960s such designs could be highlighted with an optional vinyl cover applied on the steel roof.

The hardtop began to disappear along with convertibles in the mid-1970s, partly out of a concern that U.S. federal safety regulations would be difficult for pillarless models to pass. The ascendancy of monocoque construction also made the pillarless design less practical. Some models adopted modified roof styling, placing the B pillars behind tinted side window glass and painting or molding the outer side of each pillar in black to make them less visible, creating a hardtop look without actually omitting the pillar. Some mid- to late-1970s models continued their previous two-door hardtop bodies, but with fixed rear windows or a variety of vinyl roof and opera window treatments.

By the end of the 1990s, almost all hardtop designs disappeared as structural integrity standards continued to increase.


Origins[edit]

California Top on a 1926 Studebaker Phaeton

Early automobiles had no roof or sides, however by 1900 several cars were offered with fabric roofs and primitive folding tops.[5][6] However, cars with fully closed bodies (ie with a rigid roof and sides) grew in popularity and soon became the norm.[6]

In 1915–1918, the first pillarless hardtop cars were produced, then called "convertible cars" (or "touring sedans" or "Springfields").[7] The Springfield design featured folding upper frames on the doors and the rear glass frames are removable and stored under or behind the seats.[8]

Another form of early pillarless hardtop is the "California top", originating in Los Angeles and most popular from 1917—1927.[7][9] These were designed to replace the folding roofs of touring cars, in order to enclose the sides of the car for better weather protection.[10] One objective of these aftermarket tops was to bring the cost of the closed car nearer to the prices of corresponding open cars.[11] Automobile dealers were encouraged to equip an open car with a California top to demonstrate that they were "cool and clean in summer, and warm and dry in winter."[12] The hard tops were frequently equipped with celluloid windows that retracted like a roller blind for open sided motoring offering a low-cost compromise between an open and closed car.[13]

United States[edit]

Two-door hardtop coupe:
1969 Pontiac Parisienne
Four-door hardtop sedan:
1970 Cadillac Sedan de Ville
Two-door hardtop wagon:
1957 Mercury Commuter
Four-door hardtop wagon:
1958 Rambler Ambassador

There were a variety of hardtop-like body styles dating back to 1916.[14] Chrysler Corporation built seven pillarless Town and Country hardtop coupes as concept vehicles in 1946, and even included the body style in its advertising that year.[15]

Mass-production of hardtops began with General Motors, which launched two-door, pillarless hardtops in 1949 as the Buick Roadmaster Riviera, Oldsmobile 98 Holiday, and Cadillac Coupe de Ville. They were purportedly inspired by the wife of a Buick executive who always drove convertibles, but never lowered the top.

The Kaiser-Frazer 1949 Virginian was an early example of a four-door hardtop albeit with a removable thin, chrome- and-glass 'B' pillar held on by five screws.[16] The car was designed to have a convertible look and padded nylon or cotton was applied over the roof to contribute to the soft-top appearance.[17]

Two-door hardtops became popular with consumers in the 1950s while the two-door sedan body fell out of favor among buyers.[18]

In 1955, General Motors introduced the first four-door hardtops.[19][20] To popularize the introduction of the body style with no B-pillar, GM gave special trim designations for all their brands in North America. The term Seville was used for Cadillac, Riviera was used for Buick, Holiday was used for Oldsmobile, Catalina was used for Pontiac, and Bel Air was used for Chevrolet.[21]

By 1956 every major U.S. automaker offered two- and four-door hardtops in a particular model lineup. General Motors restyled their new models and now offered four-door hardtops from every division and in nearly every series except the lowest priced lines.[22]

In 1956, the first four-door hardtop station wagons were introduced by Rambler[23] and American Motors Corporation.[24] The following year, the Mercury Commuter hardtop wagons became available in both two- and four-door body styles.

Throughout the 1960s the two-door pillarless hardtop was by far the most popular body style in most lines where such a model was offered. Even on family-type vehicles like the Chevrolet Impala, the two-door hardtop regularly outsold four-door sedans. Some car lines (such as the 1957 Cadillac and 1965-69 Corvair) only offered pillarless models with no sedans at all. So prevalent were true hardtops that Popular Mechanics had to describe that the new full-sized 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont models also included a "pillar" sedan.[25]

The U.S. industry's last pilarless two-door and four-door hardtops were in the 1978 Chrysler Newport and New Yorker lines.[26] Since then, no U.S. manufacturer has offered a true hardtop in regular production.

Japan[edit]

1972 Toyota Crown with side windows lowered

During the 1970s, Toyota produced the Toyota Crown in a pillarless two-door hardtop version.[27] Nissan followed suit with the Nissan Cedric and Nissan Gloria in 4-door sedan and 2-door hardtop body styles,[28] with the latter "rendered as a premium quality personal car."[29] Subaru introduced a new compact coupe as a genuine two-door hardtop with the Subaru Leone in 1971.[30] The pillarless hardtop models were more expensive and luxurious than the sedan versions.

In the 1980s, Toyota continued the design with the Mark II, Nissan with its Laurel, and Mazda marketing its Luce.

Europe[edit]

Two 1973 Sunbeam Rapiers: first with side windows lowered and raised on the second car

Various European manufacturers have produced hardtops without B-pillars (usually coupes), however they are rarely marketed as pillarless hardtops. Examples include the current Bentley Continental GT, the 2008 Bentley Brooklands, the 2001-2003 Renault Avantime and the 2012-current Ford B-Max (excluding models sold in the United States). The 1958-1964 Facel Vega Excellence is one of few four-door hardtops produced in Europe.

British pillarless hardtops included the Sunbeam Rapier and the Ford Consul Capri (355) which, unlike American models, sold fewer cars than their regular center pillar saloon versions.

The New Mini has been marketed as a hardtop in the United States, although it does have a B-pillar, which is disguised by being painted black.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Pillarless Pioneer: The 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera". www.ateupwithmotor.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  2. ^ Gunnell, John (1982). Standard catalog of American cars, 1946-1975. Krause Publications. p. 15. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  3. ^ "Hardtop meaning". Engineering Dictionary. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  4. ^ Mays, James C. (2006). Savvy Guide to Buying Collector Cars at Auction. Sams Technical Publishing. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7906-1322-2. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  5. ^ "The Evolution of the Convertible". www.popularmechanics.com. Retrieved 10 May 2018.
  6. ^ a b "The up-and-down history of the convertible". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  7. ^ a b Howley, Tim (April 2006). "A History of Hardtops". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  8. ^ Forbes, Kingston (1922). The principles of automobile body design, covering the fundamentals of open and closed passenger body design. Ware Bros. pp. 245–249. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  9. ^ "1925 Studebaker Big Six California Top". www.vintagecarheritage.com. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Glossary – A guide to speaking the language of CCCA". www.classiccarclub.org. Retrieved 13 May 2018.
  11. ^ Cullen, T.F. (1 February 1922). "Price situation results in many improvements in cars". Automobile Trade Journal. 25 (8): 28–29. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  12. ^ "A source of year 'round profit for dealers that sell Nash cars". Automobile Topics: 96. 25 February 1922. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  13. ^ Spajic, Igor (21 February 2012). "1925 Studebaker Big Six California Top". Vintage Car Heritage. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  14. ^ "Motoring Memories - Hardtop convertibles". www.autos.ca. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  15. ^ Auto Editors of Consumer Guide (15 October 2007). "1946 Chrysler Town & Country Hardtop". HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  16. ^ Marcus, Frank (June 2002). "1949 Kaiser Virginian". Car and Driver. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  17. ^ Auto editors of Consumer Guide (23 November 2007). "1950 Kaiser Virginian". HowStuffWorks.com. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  18. ^ Norbye, John P. (October 1965). "How Car Buying Has Changed in 20 Years". Popular Science. 187 (4): 65. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  19. ^ Flory Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946–1959: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland. p. 621. ISBN 9780786452309. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  20. ^ "1955, The Hardtop Goes "Pillarless"". www.gmheritagecenter.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  21. ^ Niemeyer, Daniel (2013). 1950s American Style: A Reference Guide. Lulu. pp. 147, 148, 151. ISBN 9781304201652. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  22. ^ Flory Jr., J. "Kelly" (2008). American Cars, 1946–1959: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland. p. 701. ISBN 9780786452309. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  23. ^ "Rambler has everything new - even a hardtop wagon". Popular Mechanics. Vol. 105 no. 1. January 1956. pp. 116–117. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  24. ^ "A look at the hardtop station wagon". www.macsmotorcitygarage.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  25. ^ "the 67's: Solid citizens of Detroit". Popular Mechanics. 126 (4): 114. October 1966. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  26. ^ Flory Jr., J. Kelly (2012). American Cars, 1973-1980: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland. p. 586. ISBN 9780786443529. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  27. ^ Classic Car: The Definitive Visual History. Penguin. 2016. p. 228. ISBN 9781465459077. Retrieved 6 February 2018. Designed for the 1970s, the Crown followed US styling trends
  28. ^ "Automotive History: Nissan Cedric – When The Pupil Becomes A Master". www.curbsideclassic.com. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  29. ^ "Business Trends - Tokyo Report". Business Japan. Nihon Kogyo Shimbun. 36: 20. 1991. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  30. ^ "Subaru Leone Series was Reborn". Diamond's Economic Journal Industria. 10: 40. 1980. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  31. ^ "2015 Mini Hardtop 4-door: A stretch in size and appeal". www.kbb.com. Retrieved 5 June 2018.