15 April 2016

Our Top 5 cruisers go topless

This is a tough one. So many possibilities, so little space. But with spring finally here and classic cars emerging from hibernation across the country, we asked our Facebook followers: which car is the best cruiser?

First a disclaimer – today’s cars are decked out with so many modern (and standard) conveniences that an argument could be made that even the most basic of daily drivers could be considered a decent cruiser, depending on your trip’s length. So newer cars are out; we’re talking classics here.

Which brings us to the tough part. There are so many awesome classic cruisers out there that determining a top five that will resonate with the masses is a total crapshoot. Yes, we’d take a Porsche 911 in a heartbeat. Yes, a Volkswagen Kombi would be fun – as long as the cruise included scenic stops and overnight stays. And yes, a Mercedes drop-top (like a 280SL) would certainly fit the bill. But those three didn’t make our list.

We went for length and luxury with a dash of sportiness. And we have just one requirement across the board: make ours a convertible please.

  1. 1955-63 Ford Thunderbird
    Take your pick here. The 1955-57, ’58-60 and ’61-63 T-Birds aren’t identical, but they all have personalities that we like – all with V-8 power. As the story goes, the Thunderbird’s rapid development was Ford’s answer to the Corvette, but the car was a champion of comfort and convenience (“personally luxury,” as Ford called it), not sportiness. It worked.

  2. 1959 Buick LeSabre
    The ’59 LeSabre was actually rushed to market as an answer to Chrysler’s fresh designs, and GM did an incredible job considering it didn’t have its normal lead time. The LeSabre’s fins were “canted,” and so were its dual headlights. Add a 364-cid, 250-hp Buick V-8 under the hood and there was plenty to like. Driving one is a pleasure no matter how close or far the destination.

  3. 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88
    Redesigned for ’58, the Super 88 was chromed out and badged to the max. It was also smooth and powerful. And what would cruising be like without a little music? The new Super 88 featured a “transportable” radio, which could be removed and used outside the car upon arrival.

  4. 1961 Lincoln Continental
    The ’61 Continental was based on a stretched version of a proposed 1961 Thunderbird two-door hardtop that had been rejected as too classy and not sporty enough for the typical Thunderbird buyer. But it certainly worked as Lincoln’s new and improved Continental. In an effort to limit the car’s size as much as possible and to make the rear seat easier to access, the Continental featured suicide doors. The car was still massive though, weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, and it had an engine to match: 430 cid and 320 hp. Big car, smooth ride.

  5. 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
    The luxurious 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz had it all (and still does): Good looks, power (390-cid, 345-hp V-8), legroom and smooth ride, plus “Biarritz” was just a fancy name for convertible (in addition to a French Basque reference). For all those things – plus the fact that not many were built (1,285) – the Biarritz is one of the most desirable classic American automobiles out there. It’s also an amazing cruiser.

7 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Noel Hastalis Chicago April 20, 2016 at 18:50
    Disappointing! No Mopars? Have you looked at the old YouTube flicks comparing the great handling, of the period, late '50s/early '60s Chrysler products to GM's offerings that bounce along the highway like uncontrolled kangaroos (no offense to kangaroos!)? I'll take my '60 Chrysler 300F any day over these offerings - having cruised over 18,000 miles in it over the past two years. Unsurpassed Styling, Engineering, Power!
  • 2
    Robert Florida April 20, 2016 at 20:39
    All good choices although the Lincoln would be my first pick as it just exudes "Cool" especially in black!
  • 3
    Harold R. jacobs Whidbey Island, Washington April 21, 2016 at 20:15
    Any classic convertible is a fun ride, but one that is affordable to most is an MG Roadster. I have a 1979 MGB that I drive any time it doesn't rain as I feel cramped with a top up. However,I will be putting it in the GARAGE next month when I get my 1947 MGTC back from a frame up restoration. We hope to drive the TC to Watkins Glen next summer and take it around the track!
  • 4
    Ken Wiebke Northport NY April 21, 2016 at 08:39
    Interesting article about going "topless". The accompanying image of the 1959 Buick is a four door sedan and the 55 Thunderbird is shown with its hardtop in place...
  • 5
    Gene Bartholomew Ct April 21, 2016 at 08:55
    I think those cars are ugly and boring, grab a GTO or 67-69 Firebird convertible and now you're talking, plenty of HP, comfort, storage and fun and not a land yacht.
  • 6
    Marty Maryland April 29, 2016 at 11:03
    I am not sure how you would include the 3rd generations T-Bird and not the nearly identical 1964-66 "flair birds". These were the last of the T-Bird 2-door luxury sports cars, before they became little 4-door Lincolns in 1967. The '66 was also the first T-Bird to have the option of a 428 ci monster engine. These cars were both powerful and, with an exceptionally wide wheelbase and curb weight, the epitome of the luxury road cruiser.
  • 7
    Doug Wolford Puyallup, WA June 1, 2016 at 16:07
    I bought a '59 Buick Invicta convertible for $150 back in 1970. I put a battery in it, drove it 8 months, and sold it for $485. Thought I was making a killing! Check the Hagerty Price Guide now!

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