“Sex Sells” has long been a popular tenet in advertising. And sex appeal has typically made it easier to sell cars. The movie industry has always favored convertibles for their leading men and women, whether Carey Grant, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Kevin Costner or Susan Sarandon.
Virtually any car becomes sexy when you chop the top, but I did say virtually. Here are five cars that resist the glamour and glitz that often come with convertibles.
1985-1987 AMC Alliance Convertible: Built in the United States using a 1.7-liter engine and transmission from Renault, the Alliance was very much French in feeling. It was small, mundane in appearance and less than competitive against the best from Volkswagen, Toyota and Honda. It wasn’t cool with a roof and, except literally, it didn’t get cooler without one. A good measure of its appeal then is its collectability and desirability now, which is nil. And what about sexiness? There really isn’t any in the convertible version and it is hardly what any self-respecting womanizer would call a “babe magnet.”
1989 Yugo Cabriolet: The formula for the Yugo was simple and it was laughable. Buy a 20-year-old-design of a highly rust-prone Italian economy car, barely update it and ship it to America by the thousands. At first, people will buy a product that is vastly cheaper than the competition, but once the public finds out that it is slow, unattractive, outdated, uncomfortable and minimally reliable, the charm leaves in a hurry. Did a Yugo have any sex appeal at all? Not really. Did a convertible version help the image and dramatically boost the sales? Again, the answer was, “Not really,” a response that was reinforced by a price that was double the cost of the GV Plus hatchback, which had gained fuel injection and six horsepower.
1960-1963 Studebaker Lark VI Convertible: Solid, sensible and reliable all summed up Studebaker’s Lark. It was a good car without flash or panache, which had limited appeal to car-mad teens, who saw far greater potential in the average Chevy or Ford. There’s no question that lowering the top on the Lark made for a pleasant experience, but it didn’t change the status of this car from dud to stud when it came to sex appeal.
1908-1927 Model T Ford: Ford’s Tin Lizzie has always been rugged, reliable and in a class of its own. But sexy? Not likely. The roadster or touring car versions may be fun, simply because fun goes with open-air motoring like peanut butter goes with jelly. Sex appeal, though, simply isn’t part of the equation with this American icon, though the story would be very different if we were talking about a 1940 Ford Convertible Coupe.
1961-1963 Rambler American: The Rambler had to be one of the most sensible cars built in America: properly engineered to conservative standards, with incredibly reliable straight-six engines for the American models and pricing within reach of middle class budgets. For 1961 the American line offered a convertible and it was a lot like its sibling—responsible, sturdy and dull. In appearance and performance, the new drop-top was essentially an open-air version of an orthopedic shoe. You know, the kind of show that Marilyn Monroe or Angelina Jolie would avoid like the plague. Even spraying pheromones on this car wouldn’t give it an ounce of sex appeal.