You might think I’m insane for suggesting you buy an open car in the middle of winter but there is method to my madness.
Quite rightly you’ll be thinking that you’ll barely ever get the roof down and you might as well get something with more than a bit of canvas between you and the elements. Unsurprisingly, everyone else will be thinking the same ensuring demand is low as are prices. Just £700 will get you into the cheapest car on the list while others have hard roofs that leave them feeling very similar to a regular car. Whether you just want to look good and catch some sun or if you want something that carves through corners and devours straights, there’s a car on the list for you. If not, please feel free to share what you’ve found!
- Volkswagen Golf Mk3 Convertible – £700
Topless thrills don’t have to cost thousands, this Golf is cheap to buy, cheap to insure with a classic policy and should prove pretty reliable too. Although it’s 20 years old it still has plenty of toys although don’t expect it to be the most exciting car to drive. With an MOT till October, you could use it until autumn next year and sell it for what you paid for it. Alternatively, tidy the car up and it could be a reliable retro ride for many years to come.
- Ford StreetKa – £1476
Don’t just think of this as a regular Ka with the roof sawn off, Ford spent a lot of time and money re-engineering this with a bigger engine and wider, stiffer suspension. It’s no rocketship but it’ll still feel quick enough around town and be a hoot round bends. You do lose 2 seats compared to the hatchback but you gain a much more stylish rump. Being a Ford, it should be cheap to run and pretty reliable. If it does go wrong, parts are cheap.
- Fiat Barchetta – £1950
Fancy a sexy Italian for the summer? How about the Fiat Barchetta? A rare sight on UK roads, probably thanks to them being left hand drive only, they’re a good looking alternative to the ubiquitous Mazda MX-5. Underneath it’s based on the Fiat Punto meaning predictable front wheel drive handling and fairly cheap running costs. It also means that if it does go wrong, which it might, bits are cheap. A lively 135 bhp engine makes the car pretty nippy and they handle well too.
- Toyota MR-2 MK-3 – £2795
If your main reason for buying a sports car is that you love driving, the MR-2 needs your attention. Although it’s not the prettiest car here, it’s light, mid engined and rear wheel drive. Add feelsome steering and an engine with just enough power to make things interesting and you have the ingredients for serious fun. Being a Toyota, it’ll be endlessly reliable and servicing shouldn’t be too costly either. It won’t be overly practical and there’s only room for one passenger but hey, your friends can always take the bus.
- MG Midget £3450
You don’t have to spend a great deal to get a proper classic like this MG Midget. You do have to be careful to avoid buying a rusty old money pit, however this dry stored example should be a good bet. The mechanicals are simple (the engine is shared with the original Mini) so don’t expect modern levels of grip, braking or safety. The upshot is that you don’t have to go fast to have fun and the kind of looks that you just don’t get anymore. Be prepared to get your hands dirty though, MGs can be temperamental.
- Smart Roadster £4500
In many respects this Smart Roadster is the modern day MG Midget. It’s similarly tiny, shares its engine with an economy car and is cheap to run. Available only as a semi-automatic, it could be argued the slow witted and clumsy gearbox ruins the car. Learn to work with it and you’ll find a chuckable chassis, accurate steering and a great sounding turbocharged engine. The looks are Marmite and storage limited but they are bloody good fun. It’s easy to squeeze a few more horsepower from the engine too.
- Jeep Wrangler – £4450
http://www.pistonheads.com/classifieds/used-cars/jeep/wrangler/jeep-wrangler-4-0-petrol-limited-edition-65k-mileage/3222334Just because you’re buying a car to enjoy in the summer doesn’t mean it won’t prove invaluable in winter. This Jeep Wrangler offers a removable roof for the sun and 4 wheel drive with chunky tyres for the snow. The brick like aerodynamics and massive 4.0 litre engine will mean you’ll be very friendly with your local petrol station attendant but they are at least pretty reliable. Wranglers are very much an old school 4×4 so don’t expect the best road manners either.
- Mercedes SL320 £4490
If I was picking the classiest drop top from this list, the SL would win every time. This immaculate 1994 car comes with one of the smaller engines of the range which should save a few quid on petrol and servicing. Besides, the SL is not really about going fast, it’s about looking good. It also comes with a removable hard top to keep the heat in and car thieves out. Classic insurance won’t be expensive and old SLs tend to go up in value if you look after them….
- BMW M3 Evo – £4995
Here’s a convertible that’ll really put the wind in your hair thanks to over 300 bhp from a brawny straight 6 engine. This 1996 example has been well looked after and comes in the best colour too. Inside is leather and luxury while you can even seat 4 at a push. Being an M3, parts and servicing will be on the expensive side as will the fuel bills. If you like the looks but don’t need the performance or expense, consider the lower powered 318i, 320i or 325i, they’re much cheaper to buy and run.
- Renault Wind – £4988
Once you’ve stopped laughing at the stupid name, the Wind is well worth your consideration. For a start, this is only 4 years old with just 36000 miles. For seconds it shares a lot with the Renaultsport Twingo, a great little hot hatch and for thirds it’s actually practical for a 2 seat roadster. A clever folding hardtop gives plenty of boot space that isn’t impacted when the roof is stowed (unlike a Merc SLK or Peugeot 308CC) and avoids a massive arse. The name killed sales in the UK so they’re rare but well worth tracking down.