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A convertible or cabriolet is an automobile body style that can convert between an open-air mode and an enclosed one, varying in degree and means by model. Convertibles evolved from the earlier phaeton, an open vehicle without glass side windows that sometimes had removable panels of fabric or other material for protection from the elements.
Historically, a retractable roof consisted of an articulated frame covered with a folding textile-based fabric similar to that on an open carriage evolved into the most common form. A lesser seen detachable hardtop provided a more weatherproof and secure alternative. As technology improved a retractable hardtop which removes and stows its own rigid roof in its trunk appeared, increasingly becoming the most popular form.
A semi-convertible also known as a cabrio coach has a retractable or removable top which retains fully framed windows on its doors and side glass. A landaulet is a semi-enclosed convertible with a fully enclosed front cabin and an open rear, typically with a folding fabric top and roll-down glass all round.
Many convertibles are two-door models, with a number of four-door models.
In British English: all-weather tourer, a four-door car, and for a two-door car drophead coupé were used for high-quality, fully enclosed versions of the body style known as the "convertible" in the United States. Other common terms include cabriolet, cabrio, soft top, drop top and where the roof is little more than emergency weather protection open two-seater, rag top, spider, and spyder.
There is rarely consistency about the (current) use of cabriolet in preference to convertible, and the former term can not be equated with the cabrio coach term mentioned above that originates from "a light, two-wheeled, one-horse carriage with a folding top, capable of seating two persons."
The collapsible textile roof section (of cloth or vinyl) over an articulated folding frame may include linings such as a sound-deadening layer or interior cosmetic headliner (to hide the frame) – or both – and may have electrical or electro-hydraulic mechanisms for raising the roof. The erected top secures to the windshield frame header with manual latches, semi-manual latches, or fully automatic latches. The folded convertible top is called the stack.
Ford Model T c. 1925, with minimal weather protection
Bentley 4½ Litre 1929 with luxury snap-on and thumbscrew sidescreens
Ford Phaeton 1934 open 4-door touring car
1955 Porsche 550 Spyder
fixed-profile Nash Rambler Convertible "Landau" Coupe c. 1950
Jaguar XK c. 2008, with heatable glass rear window and fully automatic cloth top with integral top-concealing rigid tonneau
Mercedes SL 1964, perhaps the most popular detachable hardtop
Lincoln Continental c. 1966, 4-door with integral automatically operating, self-storing tonneau
Jaguar E-type 1963, with vinyl foldable tonneau installed and snap-secured
Cadillac Eldorado 1972, with detachable, two-part, fully rigid "parade boot" tonneau cover
Citroen 2CV c. 1975, with roll-back roof and rigid doors
Rolls Royce Corniche c. 1986, a high-end prestige marque with a manually installed tonneau cover
Volkswagen New Beetle c. 2003, with raised textile (cloth) convertible top featuring interior headliner, an acoustic insulation layer, and heatable glass rear window
Porsche Boxster c. 2004, with detachable clear plastic windblocker and a Z-fold top, automatically raisable in 12 seconds and optional 51 lb (23 kg) detachable aluminum hardtop (not shown)
Citroën C3 Pluriel c. 2007, a multi-configurable convertible with roll-back textile roof and removable rigid sidebars
A Fiat 500 (2007) fixed-profile convertible
1966 Rolls-Royce Phantom V landaulet
Mercedes-Benz 300d landaulet in operation
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