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Cabriolet (automobile)

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.

  • All-round visibility
  • Maximized ventilation
  • Ease of entry and exit
  • Ability to transport large objects
  • Potentially reduced safety.
  • Poor break-in protection.
  • Deterioration and shrinkage of the sun-exposed textile fabric over time.
  • Problems with trunk floor pan rust-through due to leakage of an improperly maintained top.
  • A heavier vehicle and higher curb weight due to additional structure required to restore both torsion and flexure stiffness normally provided by a metal roof and (in some cases) door window frames, and additional weight from motorized mechanisms (where provided). Body-on-frame styles usually included an entire X-brace within the conventional ladder frame.
  • A narrower rear seat due to space required by the folded side rails.
  • Potential diminished rear visibility due to smaller rear window or UV deterioration of plastic pane
  • Potential diminished structural rigidity, requiring significant engineering and modification to counteract the effects of removing a car's roof.
  • Potential scuttle shake, where an insufficiently rigid bulkhead between engine and passenger compartment can impact ride or handling.
  • Potential reduced aerodynamics compared to an equivalent coupe, especially with the top down.
  • Potential increased wind noise, moisture intrusion with the top up
  • Potential reduced cargo space.
  • Adler, Dennis (2011). Convertibles. First Gear series. Minneapolis, MN: Motorbooks. ISBN . 
  • Beattie, Ian (1977). The Complete Book of Automobile Body Design. Haynes Publishing Group. ISBN . 
  • Beattie, Ian (1987). Automobile Body Design. Haynes Manuals. ISBN . 
  • Benson, Michael (1997). Convertibles: Sun, Wind & Speed. London: Tiger Books International. ISBN . 
  • Georgano, Nick (2001). Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile. Routledge. ISBN . 
  • Hirsch, Jay; Weith, Warren (1979). The Last American Convertibles. New York: Collier Books; London: Collier Macmillan. ISBN . 
  • Holmes, Mark (2007). Ultimate Convertibles: Roofless Beauty. London: Kandour. ISBN . 
  • Langworth, Richard M (1988). The Great American Convertible. New York: Beekman House. ISBN . 
  • Wieder, Robert; Hall, George (1977). The Great American Convertible: An Affectionate Guide. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN . 


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