27 June 2013

Top five cars for summer cruising

It’s summer, and that means weekend cruise nights, road trips and hot, sweaty vinyl seats. But when it comes to summer touring, whether cross-town or cross-country, not all cars are created equal. The following are our recommendations for cars that will either keep you cool or are just plain cool, and perfect for warm, lazy weekends.

The most obvious solution for hot weather is an air-conditioned car, but even among classics there are quite a few options so why not start at the beginning? The 1953 Chrysler Imperial was the first car equipped with air conditioning that actually cooled (a couple of other cars were outfitted with A/C before the Imperial, but it was largely experimental and powered by wishful thinking).  The Imperial’s air conditioning was so powerful that, when new, it would cool the interior from 120 degrees to 85 degrees in only two minutes!

But if you want absolutely modern style with power-everything, fast forward a few years to 1963 and behold the “Mad Men”-esque Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible. It’s an elegant boulevard cruiser that can glide comfortably with the A/C on during popsicle-melting days and then with the top down on balmy, clear, star-filled nights. Go for a cruise with your lady, put your arm around her and pull her close, Don Draper (that’s what those bench seats are for, among other things).

If money is no object and you find yourself touring “the continent” with a French starlet, then the Caddy just won’t do, Sir. No, you’ll require a proper sporting GT. This is precisely why “il Commendatore” built the 1968 Ferrari 365 GTB/4, the Daytona Spyder. Peel the top back and delight in hearing the V-12 wail every time you downshift, switchback after switchback through the Stelvio Pass, as you and your companion flirt with the Swiss border. Enjoy an Alpine picnic while the sun pierces the thin mountain air just to caress the Ferrari’s shapely Rosso Corsa flanks. Madonn!

Fantasies aside, summer was truly invented for two cars—the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. These cars are appropriate for every possible automotive scenario (except perhaps off-roading). And during the summer their suitability is only magnified. The jingle may have been, “Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet,” but think of the ads: The sun is always shining, and people are at the ball game, having fun, cruising around. It might as well be an advertisement for the summer! And the truth is that only a good ol’ American muscle car will do. Bow tie or oval, it doesn’t really matter. V-6 or V-8? Who cares! Just make sure you can drop the top and turn up the radio!

81 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Robert Gaunt Philadelphia July 6, 2013 at 23:58
    Looking for Classic VW Beetles
  • 2
    Scott Louisville, Ky July 10, 2013 at 13:36
    My 65 Chevy C-10 makes for a pretty good cruiser too!
  • 3
    BULLITT65 U.S.A. July 10, 2013 at 13:45
    I am not aware of any early mustang or camaro with a v-6?
  • 4
    Frank Mayher Mesa Arizona July 10, 2013 at 13:50
    July and Aug......Too hot for car shows 110 deg is normal..........All winter my 1967 GTO convertable is great''''''
  • 5
    Scott Chandler, Az July 10, 2013 at 14:09
    My red ragtop 75 vette is not to shabby. Our summer though is October through March. Much too hot in the summer months to enjoy the wind. It's 90 for a low in he mornings and that's the best time to go cruising this time of year.
  • 6
    Manuel Gualco Traverse city, Mi. July 10, 2013 at 14:09
    My little 65 corvair corsa convertible is great cruiser, plus anyone under 40 years old has trouble figuring out what it is, and why the engine is in the trunk!
  • 7
    Ed Sallia Dundee, Oregon July 10, 2013 at 14:10
    Ah, the usual suspects. But for a cool, all American ride I would prefer an early '60s Studebaker Lark, Cruiser or Daytona convertible. Smooth, easy to drive, dependable, comfortable, quick and economical. They turn heads, get a smile and you don't see them very often. And, not the usual suspects.
  • 8
    Jim Shepherdsville KY July 10, 2013 at 14:21
    1937 Jaguar. To look over the wings at 45 miles per hour is a real joy. You can let your imagination go wild. Can you imagine racing in one of these (not that I would). When off the main road you can imagine what it felt like to drive back in the 30's. Dress like gangsters and look the part. There is nothing like looking out over a long hood, big fenders, 10" headlights, short windscreen. Yup, I'm getting the urge to take it out right now.
  • 9
    Tom Davenport, Iowa July 10, 2013 at 14:27
    Our Parchment Blue 1967 Mercury Monterey Convertible does just fine!
  • 10
    Bob Rufi Monroe, wi July 10, 2013 at 14:28
    A red1967 Ford Galaxie XL convertible
  • 11
    Bob Rufi Monroe, wi July 10, 2013 at 14:30
    A red1967 Ford Galaxie XL convertible
  • 12
    Neal Deutsch Gilbert, Az July 10, 2013 at 14:39
    It may not be old, but my '07 Supercharged Saleen never fails to turn heads and get a thumbs up! There's Mustangs...and there's MUSTANGS!!!
  • 13
    ohgtogeorge Ontario July 10, 2013 at 14:41
    I think the 1970 GTO convertible beats them.
  • 14
    Greg Crystal Lake, IL July 10, 2013 at 14:44
    Someone already said it: The usual suspects. Needs to be an honorable mention to those mid-to-late 60's mid-sized drop-tops like my 69 Olds Cutlass. They are sweet cars to cruise in on a balmy summer's eve.
  • 15
    Jay Givens New Market, MD July 10, 2013 at 14:52
    My daughter and I just cruised all around the country in my Grandmothers 67 Impala that my daughter helped me restore! Plenty of room, A/C, great road manners and cruises well at any speed on any of the roads we threw at it. seeingtheusainmy67chevrolet.blogspot.com
  • 16
    Kendall Reed West Des Moines , Iowa July 10, 2013 at 14:53
    My 1962 Ford thunderbird sport roadster with the top down and the a/c on is amazing!
  • 17
    Dan Martin Plymouth, Mi. 48170 July 10, 2013 at 15:04
    I have a difficult choice for summer cruisin,,,, My Tahoe Turquoise 66 Fairlane Convt. or my Yellow & White 49 Jeepster Conv. Both are great running cars, I take the Fairlane when I have to get somewhere fast,,,, The Jeepster,,,, not so much...
  • 18
    Brent Stritar Az July 10, 2013 at 15:20
    Nothing beats a Boxster for crusing, lots of storage and a cool ride.
  • 19
    Craig Texas July 10, 2013 at 15:42
    T Bucket... Perfect fun only car...
  • 20
    Yoav Gilad United States July 10, 2013 at 15:56
    @ Bullitt65-- good spot... Straight 6s...
  • 21
    R.J.Weber Florida July 10, 2013 at 16:11
    I would like to add my 450SL, '31 Model A Cabriolet, and daily driver '95 SL with 254k on it for pure enjoyment.
  • 22
    Scott Beede Boca Raton, FL July 10, 2013 at 16:34
    How about my 1964 VW Karmann Ghia convertible? Pacific Blue, I'll take it for a ride up A1A, right along the ocean (hopefully tropical storm Chantel avoids us).
  • 23
    Eric Phoenix, AZ July 10, 2013 at 16:48
    It's a little bit warm, but my 1964 Chevy Corvair Spyder Convertible is a good top down cruiser. If it only had AC.
  • 24
    Keith Haynes Seattle,Wa. July 10, 2013 at 17:08
    Nice cars!, But I like my 67 327 red conv. Corvette
  • 25
    John Rowin Sun City, AZ July 10, 2013 at 17:15
    My 1977 L-82 Corvette is a sweet ride. Take the tops off and let the sun shine in...
  • 26
    Ray yedding Grass Valley CA July 10, 2013 at 17:15
    Our Light blue 69 Cougar XR 7 get' lottsa looks and it has a 390 with factory air , Only 95 K actual miles
  • 27
    Paul Martel Hudson, WI July 10, 2013 at 17:20
    You can have the standard issue types - nothing more fun than cruising around on a nice Friday evening in my '62 MGA!
  • 28
    Douglas Mix United States July 10, 2013 at 17:24
    One of the top 5 cars to cruise in actually isn't even a car. It's a 1966 Chevy C10 Custom pickup truck. Sorry to have to modify your list, but it is what it is.
  • 29
    fred levison washington dc July 10, 2013 at 17:27
    a 1975 MGB ragtop in the spring and fall is just magic as a purrs along and sound like a tiger...object is to get it into overdrive at 40 mph. and mine doesnt rattle at all.
  • 30
    Dick Jordan Sweet Home, Oregon July 10, 2013 at 17:42
    My 68 Cougar works great also, with the wink wink eye lids. Not too many left.
  • 31
    Bill Hanson Eugene, Or. July 10, 2013 at 17:56
    Our Triumph seems ok...but maybe thats just me
  • 32
    Roy Brock Westminster, CO 80031 July 10, 2013 at 18:15
    My Cosmic Blue '56 Chevy 2 door hardtop is cool year round
  • 33
    Josh CT July 10, 2013 at 18:37
    I love the crisp nights with the t-tops off in my 88 Toyota MR2. Just pure bliss.
  • 34
    David Buckman Plymouth MA July 10, 2013 at 19:05
    Nothing beats cruising in a '52 Buick Woodie Model 59 estate wagon! I've driven to Atlanta, Chicago, St Louis, Columbus, and Flint, MI. By the way I made it home in 15-1/2 hours straight, a distance of 750 miles. sweating back in '52 was a given unless you were a Rockefeller! If you were, you could hire someone to sweat for you!
  • 35
    Mike Champion MN July 10, 2013 at 19:09
    "And the truth is that only a good ol’ American muscle car will do." Since when were 1st gen Camaros and Mustangs "Muscle Cars" - especially the non existent V6 one's??? If "only a good 'ol American muscle car will do", then you need to have a '64 GTO Convertible like mine...
  • 36
    steve Doalr Nor Cal July 10, 2013 at 19:19
    my 1964 ford falcon sprint convertible is cool for cruising in hot weather & my 64 sprint hardtop 4spd H. P. car is for winter & spring days or when I want to feel some gears & horsepower! If it was not for these cars we would not have had mustangs to always talk about.
  • 37
    John Macomb mi July 10, 2013 at 19:28
    Plain old fun rowing through gears in my 68 SS Camaro conv, but can't seem to get enuff of the recently finished 71 z28. Bride asks "which are you selling?" Neither told her..
  • 38
    Stephen A Raymer United States July 10, 2013 at 20:16
    Baby Bird
  • 39
    Brad O'Neal Lancaster, PA July 10, 2013 at 20:43
    I really don't think I've met a car that I didn't like even though I'm partial to The Blue Oval.
  • 40
    Bob Sherman Oaks CA July 10, 2013 at 21:04
    Wow, am i the only one that owns a 'Cuda? I cruise in style with it, with the a/c on!
  • 41
    Don Misler Massachusetts July 10, 2013 at 21:17
    72 Ontario orange T-top stingray with ic cold a/c, we're good cruisin' with tops removed up to 75 degrees any warmer they go on & so does the a/c. It's the best either way. The wow factor never gets old
  • 42
    Abe Arias Valparaiso, IN July 10, 2013 at 21:19
    Nothing compares to my 65 Corvair Monza. Everytime I go cruising I always gst a compliment on what a nice lookin car it is!
  • 43
    Mike Rampersaud Chicago, ill July 10, 2013 at 21:42
    Just love taking the T-tops off of my 1987 Oldsmobile 442 and cruising on Lake Shore Dr
  • 44
    George Heissenberger Victor NY July 10, 2013 at 21:57
    Why no MG's on the list? the 50's 60's 70's and 80's favorite for summer cruising top down and wind in your hair.
  • 45
    Chuck Gifford moscow pa July 10, 2013 at 22:11
    Love cruisin in my 1978 pontiac solar gold t top trans am nothing like a screaming chicken flying down the road
  • 46
    hamilton smith Duluth MN. July 10, 2013 at 10:28
    They all sound good but my 1964 Sunbeam Tiger comes in higher on that list, in my book.
  • 47
    Jack G. Freeman Alden, NY July 10, 2013 at 22:29
    A Firemist Red w/ White drop-top 1983 Riviera sure does turn on the smiles... pure class!
  • 48
    Bud German Jacksonville, FL July 10, 2013 at 10:34
    I'd sure like to see some consideration for the Cadillac Allante.
  • 49
    ACZ North Georgia July 10, 2013 at 22:51
    Everyone has their personal favorite for this. Mine is my 1991 Buick Reatta Convert.
  • 50
    Bob NY July 10, 2013 at 22:54
    My new ride is a 56 Pontiac star chief hard top and in my estimation a fine cruiser for summer or any other season with it's after market a/c power brakes and steering.
  • 51
    Herb Renstrom Visalia, Ca. July 10, 2013 at 12:35
    I think there should be some cars that didn't list-----The Jaguar E-Type (any series) roadster, Jaguar XK-120 roadster and the Corvette!!!! The sounds coming out of those cars were amazing-----I owned both Jags mentioned at one time--maybe I'm a little prejudiced!!!!
  • 52
    Tom Columbus, OH July 10, 2013 at 12:44
    Why is it when pony cars are a subject, Mustangs and Camaros are the only ones mentioned? Did the writer forget there are others. I guess I need to add, there is the Firebird too. Owning a '69 convertible Firebird 400 I always feel left out of the mix. The Mopar and AMC crowd had their pony cars as well. Now I know how Rodney Dangerfield felt. I get no respect. ;^)
  • 53
    Rick Portland, OR July 11, 2013 at 13:01
    Second owner of my 59 Ford, Fairlane Galaxie 500 Skyliner with power steering, power brakes and power hard-top! Don't need AC with this super cruiser!
  • 54
    Charlie New England July 11, 2013 at 14:25
    The absolute BEST car for Summer cruising.... is always your own car! In our case it's a 1967 Avanti II, 327 Corvette engine (stock) and a 700R4 tranny.
  • 55
    Robert Nacogdoches, Texas July 11, 2013 at 15:28
    My 1984 Series IV Excalibur Phaeton with removable hard top is a real versatile head turner and attention getter for cruiseing year round. Factory built by Excalibur of Milwaukee Wisconsin; It has all the style and looks of a genuine 1937 Mercedes 540, but has all the modern aminities of a modern luxury car.... "the best of both worlds", and a fantastic car to drive and cruise around in.
  • 56
    Mike C. SoCal High Desert July 11, 2013 at 15:33
    Nothing like cruising, top down, around in the mornings or late afternoon in my Orange '74 VW Thing (Type 181). Also had the thrill of cruising in my '63 Corvette with the top down in the '60s.
  • 57
    Rebecca California July 11, 2013 at 16:36
    Summer fave? Gotta be my 1957 Triumph TR3.
  • 58
    MIKE ESTERLINE MONTPELIER OHIO July 11, 2013 at 06:13
  • 59
    Mark Northern IN July 11, 2013 at 06:44
    '74 VW thing FTW !
  • 60
    glyn giusti london July 11, 2013 at 06:54
    so why no Lancia Flaminia Convertibile?
  • 61
    Jack R. Sutton Ma July 11, 2013 at 07:55
    My girl and I look cool and stay cool in my "mint" 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 LTD 4-door hardtop with dealer installed air conditioning or the full vacuum assist vetilation system. Still wish it was a convertible though.......like my first car when i was 16 ! Oh well !
  • 62
    Will Pereira Whiting, NJ 08759 July 11, 2013 at 11:05
    O.K., I read all the comments, and it appears to me that whatever you own is because you like it and THAT is the best car to go crusing in!, and If the top drops, all the better. If it's T-Tops, Moonroofs, or a windowless sedan delivery, get it out there and burn some of that just under $4.00 ethanol laced gas, and have fun. Who cares what list it does or doesn't make, or if it wins trophys? Just DRIVE IT!!!! Oh, before I forget, I've been cruising a resto-mod "37 Packard 4 dr sedan for the last 41 plus years and to me, thats the top ot the list! Enjoy!
  • 63
    John Chicago July 11, 2013 at 23:07
    Like the suggested Caddy, however I love summer cruising in my 1961 Ford Galaxie Sunliner! Drop the top, wife at my side and kids in back, hit the drive in to see a movie, then ice cream!!!! Perfect nights I will remember when I'm old and unable to drive anymore.
  • 64
    Greg Hines Chicago July 11, 2013 at 11:12
    An 87 560 SL crusing at 85 top down A/C blasting......pure summer
  • 65
    ROPO NC July 11, 2013 at 11:24
    '56 Tbird wants to fly and was born a hard and soft top convertible.
  • 66
    Ian Kilpatrick Canada July 11, 2013 at 11:51
    My 2002 Firebird Transam Convertible WS6 the last one made in Canada. has amazing cooling vents that work extr;emely well with the top down. and it gets many thumbs up as we go by.
  • 67
    Mike Smith upstate South Carolina July 11, 2013 at 12:48
    My 76 Eldorado Conv is a wonderful cruiser.
  • 68
    Jeff Keedysville, Maryland July 12, 2013 at 05:16
    Over 50 years ago, the very old proprietor of a men's shop in Los Angeles talked me into buying some loud argyle socks. He told me (and my mom) that when he was young he would drive around in his Stutz Bearcat, his pant legs rolled up and his foot out on the fender so that all of the young ladies of the day could see his loud argyle socks. Now that's cruising!
  • 69
    Bart A Long Island July 12, 2013 at 22:10
    Nice choices but my 67 chrysler 300 conv't is a rolling air conditioner!
  • 70
    Hank F. Palm Beach , Florida July 12, 2013 at 00:11
    My Baby Blue 1967 Lincoln Continental Convertible , the Four-Door land Yacht, is the ultimate cruising machine ( I may be partial !)
  • 71
    Bob Valparasio,Indiana July 12, 2013 at 00:11
    Nothing like jumping in my 1969 Plymouth Road Runner, "riding hardtop" cruising, listen to her rumble.. If it gets too hot, turn on the factory a/c and ride in comfort.. Yeah !!
  • 72
    Mike H. Alto, MI July 12, 2013 at 12:20
    Love to cruise in my 1965 Chevy II Nova SS.
  • 73
    Dave V. Wolcott ct July 13, 2013 at 15:09
    My father had a '63 Cadillac Convert. It was the coolest car. We had notions of restoring it, but he slid on some ice the day it turned 100,000 mi. and decided to bag it
  • 74
    Herb N Inverness, FL July 13, 2013 at 19:02
    Cruising in my 1966 totally like new Turbo Charged Corvair convertible especially at night under the moon and stars.
  • 75
    Bob K Bancroft, On July 13, 2013 at 10:29
    Just finished a great trip around Lake Huron top off in our 77 Targa. Great views.
  • 76
    Don Boise, Id July 14, 2013 at 22:00
    I like my 1923 Model T Touring for a cruse out in the country at 35 MPH, you can see more things and smell the hay & ect. I have owned my "T" for 58 years. ..And when I have a need for speed, it is my 1957 Pontiac Safari (original owner) I take down the interstate. It is great that we all enjoy our rides. . Cheer's and God Bless America! Don (age 77)
  • 77
    Floyd North Carolina July 14, 2013 at 22:36
    Be thankful you have a convertible and enjoy the sunshine and the wind in your hair. Mine is a 59 Corvette, I have been enjoying for 48 years.
  • 78
    S A L Rochester, NY July 18, 2013 at 19:26
    Let's not forget the '69 through '72 Chevy Chevelles. Whether the rally or muscle models, the convertibles are great summer cars as well. My '71 has not let me down!
  • 79
    jerry Illinois September 6, 2013 at 20:23
    Any car that brings back the memories of style and power no matter how fast you go is a little like that real love you never can let go of. The sixtys were the time for music, girls and a firebird I call mine!
  • 80
    Mike Medina ohio December 17, 2014 at 15:08
    Nothing more classic american cruising than my 1957 chevy 2 door hardtop. A joy to drive and fun grtting waves, nods and thumbs up from passerbys.
  • 81
    Jerry Decatur, Georgia December 17, 2014 at 17:15
    I have to agree with Stephen Raymer: 1956 Thunderbird.

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