Well, summer is here! And as both West Sussex and Hampshire bask in the heat, many clients have taken advantage of the sunshine and removed their soft tops from South Downs Secure car storage facilities.
Since I founded South Downs Secure, I’ve been fortunate to drive more than a few convertible cars. I also owned a BMW Z4 in BCAD times (Before Children and Dogs), which was a lot of fun.
There is something quite extraordinary about getting behind the wheel of a soft-top car. When the roof comes down, your entire experience changes, the road feels different, the car feels different, everything seems to come alive around you, and you feel more connected to the driving experience. While some people regard a soft top as pointless in the U.K., I think it’s safe to say that so far, the summer of 2022 has delivered; and when the sun is shining, there is nothing quite like a British summer’s day, cow parsley hedgerows and a pit-stop at the pub for lunch!
If the recent spell of sunshine has tempted you to look for a summer soft top, the South Downs Secure team thought we’d help you out. In this article, we’re sharing our top picks for varying budgets. Read on for all the details.
Soft Tops – Our Top Picks!
£5,000 to £10,000
There are a lot of choices if you’re looking for a convertible in this entry-level budget. Here are a few of our favourites.
Porsche 986 Boxster S
Credited as the car that saved Porsche from takeover in the late 1990s, the Boxster shared its headlights, front wings, bonnet, interior and engine with the first water-cooled 911 and used a 2.5-litre engine. As an entry-level point into Porsche ownership, it became the maker’s best-selling car.
Over two decades later and you can pick up this low-maintenance, nimble sports car with just enough power to have a lot of fun around West Sussex and beyond for around £5K! It has everything you want from a roadster and a bit more. Above all, this car is bound to put a smile on your face.
Alfa Romeo Spider 3.2 JTS V6 Q4
Gorgeous and handsomely crafted by Pininfarina, the Alfa Spider oozes charm with classic Italian Styling. The Alfa Spider is an iconic car, but it has changed greatly since its conception in 1966, particularly in terms of improved quality and reliability.
Derived from the Brera coupe, the 3.2 V6 JTS Spider has plenty under the bonnet and boasts an attractive driver focussed interior, including the engaging analogue displays. Whilst the car may not hold the road like the Boxster, it’s overflowing with character, a perfect Italian tourer.
Triumph Spitfire MkIII 1500
With the long-running automotive battle finally drawing to a close by the end of the 1970s. Anyone looking to buy a British open-top sports car bought either an MG Midget or a Triumph Spitfire.
The Spitfire was arguably the better pick. Where the Midget had begun to sport plastic bumpers and an overly raised ride height, the Spitfire 1500 retained most of its predecessor’s good looks, like chrome bumpers and low slung stance.
There’s no denying these are very handsome little cars that are great fun to drive, easy to work on and blessed with excellent spares and specialist back-up.
£10,000 to £30,000
If you have a little more fat in your soft top budget, a whole new world of opportunities just opened up for you! Here are a few of our top picks in this price range.
Aston Martin DB9 5.9 V12 Volante
As far as GT cars go, there aren’t many that can compete with the effortlessly stylish Aston Martin DB9 Volante. Equipped with a songful 5.9 V12 that can smoothly propel you up to immense speed thanks to well over 450hp and a well-engineered chassis that can handle the power with ease gives a serene driving experience with a soundtrack that is fast becoming a thing of the past.
Timeless styling keeps the DB9 looking fresh even amongst the latest offerings of today, with plenty of room for long continental trips and summer cruising.
Honda S2000 2.0L VTEC
The highly engineered Honda S2000 has all the right components of any great sports car, a super stiff chassis, double wishbone suspension all around, a Torsen limited slip diff, and 50:50 weight distribution thanks in part to the front-mid engine layout. The cherry on top is the VTEC-equipped F20C 2.0L engine that can scream its way to 9000rpm.
Many people may compare the S2000 to the MX5, but they are leagues apart. The MX5 is a cheap and cheerful roadster for sure but has a pretty lacklustre engine and doesn’t feel all that special. The S2000, on the other hand, is a proper driver’s car with engineering that was state of the art at the time. The sharp handling and more powerful engine make this quite a bit faster than an MX5, and with the values of these cars rising, it’s also a good investment.
Replica AC Cobra V8
As a polar opposite to the super high-tech S2000, another option is an AC Cobra Replica, known for being one of the most common replica kit cars out there. You have plenty of choices when it comes to the manufacturer and the spec of your car. You can have one built to your own spec with modern components giving the look and sound of a Cobra with none of the drawbacks, or you can go for a more faithful recreation to give you the most authentic experience short of buying the real thing.
With a rumbling V8 soundtrack, styling unlike anything else being sold today and being a small car that’s perfectly suited for the narrow British B-road, this is a truly special machine to brighten the day of both driver and passenger as well as anyone who sees and hears you go by. This is one of if not the ultimate open-top driving experiences.
Blow the Budget:
If money is no object and you’re ready to invest in something truly special, read on for our recommendations.
Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider
With Lancia renowned for its advanced and elaborate engineering, the Aurelia was nothing short of revolutionary at the time of its introduction in 1950.
The Aurelia featured a host of technical innovations, which included the world’s first production V6. This entirely new, lightweight and compact design was matched to an equally sophisticated 4-speed transaxle. Further developments continued with Lancia’s unique independent ‘sliding-pillar’ suspension helping to provide balance and poise on the road.
The Aurelia Spider is simply beautiful, a 1950’s automotive pin-up; if it’s style you’re looking for, then look no further.
If you fancy investing in this very rare piece of automotive history, then take a look at this beautiful right-hand drive example available through Drew Wheeler.
B Special 3/8 Racer by: Racing Green Engineering Ltd
Built from a refurbished Bentley mk6 chassis and powered by the Bentley B81 6.5 straight eight, the 1930’s homologation B Special 3/8 racer is quite literally outstanding; the large bore straight pipes that exit the bodywork not only look like a Spitfire manifold, it sounds like one too.
The build quality is second to none, and the experience behind the wheel is like nothing else I’ve ever driven. To use the Spitfire analogy once more, it’s like removing the wings and adding wheels; not only do you get the innate sense of nostalgia, the emotions surge as you depress your right foot and the deep roar awakens your senses as you are thrust into the driver’s seat. An absolute experience which is hard to replicate.
For more information about these amazing machines and Racing Green, visit this website.
Finding your Soft Top:
If you’re ready to start looking for your soft top, you can visit websites like Car and Classic or Pistonheads. Or, if you’re looking for something special, consider a bespoke brokerage service. Our good friend Drew Wheeler has
Essential Kit & Caring for your Soft Top:
Once you’ve bought your soft top, do consider the essential pieces of kit that you’ll also need. Sunglasses, hats (or headscarves for the ladies channelling their inner Audrey Hepburn) and coats for cooler days are a must!
If your car has a fabric roof, then it is essential to think about convertible roof care. Our good friends at Black River Details wrote an article on how to maintain and appropriately protect your roof; read it HERE.
Finally, when summer’s over if you need to keep your car safe and protected over winter, think about professional car storage. Our bespoke facility has been designed to offer fully dedicated world-class car storage.