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s r a t S r a C With summer almost upon us, movie goer and car buff,

Roderick Eime, looks at the allure of the convertible and its enduring screen presence.

he image of Thelma and Louise

Ferrari

F430 Spider

and their 1966 Thunderbird

The 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California is one of the

Released in Australia in mid-2005, the F430

convertible plummeting over the

rarest Ferraris of all time, with only about 100

gloriously perpetuates the Ferrari convertible

precipice in the heart-wrenching

ever built. And when the lunatic car park

heritage, offering the topless versions as a

finale of the 1991 cult classic is

attendants thrash it to within an inch of its life in

premium alternative to the coupe. The F430’s

perhaps the scene that will

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and it’s later wrecked

Pininfarina styling, both in hardtop and

always define the character of the convertible in

when launched out of a window, Ferrari fans

convertible, are derived from the iconic “shark

popular culture. Freedom, hedonism and a

were in uproar. Relax, the film car was a replica

nose” design of the 1961 F1 car that took Phil

touch of rebelliousness will always epitomise the

built on an MGB chassis. Nevertheless, Ferrari

Hill to world championship status.

top-down attitude. James Dean and his

were so incensed at this, they sued the replica

ultimately tragic Porsche 550 Spyder absolutely

company.

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Long gone are the painstaking procedures of stowing the hood.

cemented the “rebel without a cause” into the romantic psyche. Thanks to Hollywood, the image of the convertible roadster will always hold the appeal of a car constructed purely for enjoyment and allure. The DHC (Drop Head Coupe) has featured large in movies with style and sensuality as their theme. Dustin Hoffman’s Alfa Spider Duetto in The Graduate, the Chevrolet Corvette in Route 66 or even the tortured Ferrari 250 in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off all invoke the freespirited, fun-loving pleasure-seeker so often portrayed on the big screen. Here’s a rolling credit of famous convertibles and their co-stars - and we match them to their latter-day showroom equivalents.

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This stylistic flourish comes courtesy of a soft top system designed to take up a minimum of space. The fully-lined electric hood is completely automatic, and is opened and closed by seven electro hydraulic actuators. The hood folds over twice before disappearing completely into a well just ahead of the engine compartment, leaving the engine in full view at all times.

retractable hardtop to unfold itself from behind

official launch at the 36th Geneva Motor Show,

The F430 has a top speed of 305 km/h

the rear seats. The three-piece lightweight steel

the Pininfarina-designed soft-top was an instant

thanks to its mid-mounted 360kW, 4.3 litre V8

roof provides both superior sound insulation and

success and began a production dynasty that

and the price? A cool, $425,000, but the waiting

extremely large windows for excellent visibility.

continued until 1993.

list is well over 12 months.

The venerable Z-Series is retained in the

Today the Alfa Romeo Spider enjoys a

For dreamers, there is always the 320 km/h

delightful Z4 which starts at $78,000 for the 2.5

renaissance with two models superseding the

SuperAmerica V12. Just six of these incredible

litre manual version, or go the whole hog for the

last of those built on the original 105 series

beauties came to Australia last year and despite

Z4 M - $94,000

chassis. The current model, powered by either a

the $650,000 price tag were sold before they

2.2 litre, 136 kW 4 cylinder or the state-of-the-

Alfa Romeo Spider

art 191 kW 3.2 litre Quad Cam V6 in AWD is a

Despite its diminutive size and “entry level”

quantum leap from 1966. Even then, the

status, the Alfa Romeo Spider had an inordinate

ground-breaking Duetto, with 4-wheel discs and

When James Bond parked his “shaken not

effect on movie goers when it starred alongside

5-speed transmissions, was similarly cutting

stirred” derriere in the sublimely retro-styled

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in the 1967

edge.

aluminium-bodied Z8 in The World Is Not

smash hit, The Graduate. Just one year after its

rolled off the ship. Keep an eye out for one.

BWM Z8

Enough, everybody wanted one. But BMW were determined to make the Z8 a rare beast and only three of the 5700 production run ever found their way to Australia in mid-2000. Priced at $328,000, they were snapped up by avid collectors despite the fact that the left-handdrive-only could never be registered for road use. Now out of production, the Z8 shares the identical 294kW, 5.0 litre, high-revving V8 as the M5 and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in a trifling 4.7 secs. Despite tantalising us with the likes of the Z8, BMW has always maintained a selection of stylish cabriolets for us regular drivers. The 3 Series convertible is best expressed in the justreleased, top-of-the-line 335i with its allaluminium Twin Turbo 225 kW straight-six engine. The 335i is priced at $104,500 Again, the roof is a breeze, excuse the pun, and it takes just 22 seconds for the fully-lined

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As with most modern convertibles, the


Spider’s hood is fully automatic and tucks away

The prestige CLK convertible coupe comes

on a SL 65 AMG with bi-turbo V12. This 450kW racing car costs $415,900.

unobtrusively to produce a seamless,

in a range of models from mild to wild. Starting

streamlined sports car. The 2.2 litre version

at $99,400 for the supercharged 200K right up

starts at $76,950 while the more desirable 3.2

to the hair-raising AMG 63 V8 with 354kW on

Porsche

V6 kicks off at $100,950

tap; just $214,000.

Porsche, celebrity, sports car and glamour can

Mercedes-Benz

affordable model. It’s smaller and strictly a two

and Hollywood-owners of Porsche 911s would

A firm favourite with the Californian glitterati, the

seater, save the SUV for the supermarket. You’ll

fill this issue, but the defining event in Porsche’s

sexy SL, CLK and SLK roadsters are always

look fine on Rodeo Drive in the entry-level SLK

rise to ultra-desirable status occurred when

popping up in the glamorous TV series and

200K (1.8 litre supercharged, 120kW) at

movie bad-boy, James Dean, died behind the

movies. Spotters will notice the CLK in Mean

$88,374. Max out the AMEX with a 55 AMG

wheel of his now legendary 550 RS roadster

Girls and Havoc and SLK in The OC, but the

(V8, 265kW, 5.4 litre) at $164,474.

“Little Bastard” in 1955. The circumstances of

The compact SLK is traditionally the more

CLK gets bare-chested in Mission Impossible 3

Move into the SL-Class statusphere and here

when Tom Cruise commandeers one for a

you’ll find the real pedigree machines. With a

heart-stopping dash to rescue his wife.

racing and performance heritage back to the

Celebrity owners include Britney Spears (SLK

great road races of the ‘50s with Stirling Moss

McLaren), Colleen McLoughlin, Wayne Rooney’s

at the wheel, SL-Class Roadsters don’t come

missus (SLK), Lindsay Lohan (SL65 AMG) and

cheap. Starting at $214,000 will get you the SL

Carmen Electra (SL-Series).

350 V6. Serious shoppers can go kick the tyres

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be said in the same breath. To list the movies


the crash have always remained controversial

For the Rest of Us

and the recovered wreck and its parts were

Lexus SC430

believed to be cursed as they went on to cause

Although it may not crow legend status yet, the

more mayhem until the car mysteriously

beautifully refined Lexus SC430’s list of movie

vanished in transit in 1960, never to be seen

credits grows too with The OC, Terminator 3,

again. Jerry Seinfeld owns a flawless 550 and is

CSI, 24 and Legally Blonde 2. The SC430 is a

a regular concours winner.

very driveable car, far removed from the blowy

Other notable Porsche convertible owners

drop-tops of old. The exemplary aerodynamics

include David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Britney

is one of the standout features of the SC430,

Spears.

painstakingly designed to deliver the sheer thrill of a top-down spring or summer drive without constantly attacking the coiffure. Tyra Banks loves hers. An all-alloy Quad Cam 4.3 litre VVT-i V8 delivers an inspirational 210kW when the mood takes you. The option-free SC430 is priced at $162,074

stylish convertible for summer and a glamorous hard-top coupe for winter. Best referred to as a “retractable hard-top”, the roof cleverly stows itself in the boot in a totally hands-free operation Mazda MX-5 Who are Tia and Mia? They are the cheeky little cheerleaders in the 2006 animated hit, Cars. In overseas markets, the MX-5 is known as Miata.

Holden Astra Still waiting for its big break in the movies, the Holden (Opel) Astra nevertheless offers the best of both worlds. In top down mode you have a

In many ways, the pint-sized MX-5 has become the modern epitome of an affordable sports car. In a genre once dominated by the likes of MGB and Triumph, the purpose-built, superbly engineered little rocket has created a cult status for itself since introduction way back (can you believe it) in 1989. Cleverly designed to a “timeless” classic line resembling the early Lotus Elan, the MX-5 is everything a fun little roadster should be and with sales of 750 thousand worldwide, it will be with us for a long time yet. True, sales are at their lowest since introduction, but the all-new 2.0 litre third generation MX-5 is just starting to make its presence felt. Grab one for $42,870

In the spirit of the 550, Porsche continue to

upwards.

release sports-orientated, pared down roadsters for the general market. The Boxster range was recently revamped with larger engines and the

Snapshots: Audi TT Roadster

latest Boxster S now totes a mid-engine 3.4 litre

Starring Roles: Mission Impossible 2,

flat six of 217kW giving it real cache among its

Legally Blonde 2

higher priced stablemates like the 911 and 911

Relaunched in June this year, both the

Turbo. Starting money is $108,000 for the 2.7

award-winning 2.0 TFSI and potent 3.2

litre (180kW) Boxster, but if money is no object,

V6 engine, with S tronic transmission, are

the 911 Carrera 4S Cabriolet (3.8 litre, 261kW)

available for Australian buyers, priced at

will set you back $265,100 with Tiptronic

$77,500 and $92,900 respectively.

transmission.

Spider or Spyder? What does it mean? The term so often applied to convertible cars, particularly those of Italian origin, has nothing to do with the common eight-legged, web-weaving arachnid. Ask an Italian to pronounce “spider” and you have “speeder”. True. A cabriolet, like so many car terms, was derived from its horse-drawn equivalent; namely a light, two-wheeled cart with a folding top. Convertible is the interchangeable term more favoured in the American market. A ‘roadster’ is a more basic form of convertible, traditionally a 2-seater without roll-up windows or even a proper roof. A barchetta is an Italian roadster.

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