Hardtop
Overview
 
A hardtop is a term for a rigid, rather than canvas, automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 roof. It has been used in several contexts: detachable hardtops, retractable hardtop roofs, and the so-called pillarless hardtop body style.

Among the modern body designs is the two- or four-door hardtop that typically "does not have a center pillar
Pillar (car)
Pillars are the vertical supports of the greenhouse of an automobile — known respectively as the A, B, C or D-pillar moving in profile view from the front to rear....

" and requires additional reinforcement compared to similar sedan styles for support in rollover
Rollover
A rollover is a type of vehicle accident in which a vehicle tips over onto its side or roof. The most common cause of a rollover is traveling too fast while turning.- Dynamics :Vehicles can roll over in several ways...

 situations.
Before the mid-1920s, 90% of automobiles had open tops, with rudimentary (if any) weather protection provided by a convertible
Convertible
A convertible is a type of automobile in which the roof can retract and fold away having windows which wind-down inside the doors, converting it from an enclosed to an open-air vehicle...

-type canvas top and celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

 or isinglass side curtains.
Encyclopedia
A hardtop is a term for a rigid, rather than canvas, automobile
Automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 roof. It has been used in several contexts: detachable hardtops, retractable hardtop roofs, and the so-called pillarless hardtop body style.

Among the modern body designs is the two- or four-door hardtop that typically "does not have a center pillar
Pillar (car)
Pillars are the vertical supports of the greenhouse of an automobile — known respectively as the A, B, C or D-pillar moving in profile view from the front to rear....

" and requires additional reinforcement compared to similar sedan styles for support in rollover
Rollover
A rollover is a type of vehicle accident in which a vehicle tips over onto its side or roof. The most common cause of a rollover is traveling too fast while turning.- Dynamics :Vehicles can roll over in several ways...

 situations.

Detachable hardtops

Before the mid-1920s, 90% of automobiles had open tops, with rudimentary (if any) weather protection provided by a convertible
Convertible
A convertible is a type of automobile in which the roof can retract and fold away having windows which wind-down inside the doors, converting it from an enclosed to an open-air vehicle...

-type canvas top and celluloid
Celluloid
Celluloid is the name of a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor, plus dyes and other agents. Generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic, it was first created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, before being registered as Celluloid in 1870. Celluloid is...

 or isinglass side curtains. Some automobile bodies had roofs that could be removed during the summer and reattached during the winter, although it was a cumbersome and laborious job. By the time of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 some automakers offered a lift-off roof, typically with a wood frame, canvas or leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

 covering, and glass windows. These removable roofs, sometimes called a California top, were the forerunners of the detachable hardtop, offering security and weather protection comparable to a fixed-roof model when installed.

Following the ascendancy of steel tops for closed bodies in the 1930s, detachable hardtops with metal roofs began to appear. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the availability of new types of plastic
Plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 and fiberglass
Fiberglass
Glass fiber is a material consisting of numerous extremely fine fibers of glass.Glassmakers throughout history have experimented with glass fibers, but mass manufacture of glass fiber was only made possible with the invention of finer machine tooling...

 allowed lighter, easier to handle hardtops with much of the strength of a metal top.

In the 1950s and 1960s detachable hardtops were offered for various convertible
Convertible
A convertible is a type of automobile in which the roof can retract and fold away having windows which wind-down inside the doors, converting it from an enclosed to an open-air vehicle...

 sports car
Sports car
A sports car is a small, usually two seat, two door automobile designed for high speed driving and maneuverability....

s and roadster
Roadster
A roadster is a two-seat open car with emphasis on sporty handling and without a fixed roof or side weather protection. Strictly speaking a roadster with wind-up windows is a convertible but as true roadsters are no longer made the distinction is now irrelevant...

s, including the 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird
Ford Thunderbird
The Thunderbird , is an automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company in the United States over eleven model generations from 1955 through 2005...

 and the Chevrolet Corvette
Chevrolet Corvette
The Chevrolet Corvette is a sports car by the Chevrolet division of General Motors that has been produced in six generations. The first model, a convertible, was designed by Harley Earl and introduced at the GM Motorama in 1953 as a concept show car. Myron Scott is credited for naming the car after...

. Because the convertible top mechanism is itself expensive, the hardtop was customarily offered as an additional, extra-cost option. On early Thunderbirds (and Corvettes through 1967), buyers could choose between a detachable hardtop and a folding canvas top at no additional cost, but paid extra for both.

Improvements in canvas tops have rendered the detachable hardtop less common in recent years, in part because the top cannot be stored in the vehicle when not in use, requiring a garage or other storage facility. Nonetheless, some open cars continue to offer it as an option. Around 10% of Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
The MX-5, also known as Miata in North America and Eunos Roadster in Japan, is a lightweight two-seater roadster, of front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, built by Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan. The model was introduced in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show...

s are believed to have been delivered with an accessory hardtop, which is compulsory for some auto racing series.

Pillarless hardtops

The automotive usage of the term "hardtop" is most often applied for a fixed roof body style without a center pillar
Pillar (car)
Pillars are the vertical supports of the greenhouse of an automobile — known respectively as the A, B, C or D-pillar moving in profile view from the front to rear....

. They were sometimes called a "hardtop convertible" because they were designed to look like a convertible with the top raised. While some early models retained side window frames and B-pillars, by the 1950s most were "pillarless hardtops", omitting the B-pillar (the roof support behind the front doors) and configuring the window frames, if any, to retract with the glass when lowered. Some hardtops took the convertible look even further, including such details as simulating a convertible-top framework in the interior headliner and shaping the roof to resemble a raised canvas top. By the late-1960s such designs were further emphasized with an optional vinyl
Vinyl roof
Vinyl roof refers to a vinyl covering for an automobile's top. This covering was originally designed to give the appearance of a convertible to models with a fixed roof, but eventually it evolved into a styling statement in its own right. Vinyl roofs were most popular in the American market, and...

 cover applied on the steel roof.

A pillarless hardtop is inherently less rigid than a pillared body, requiring extra underbody strength to prevent shake. Production hardtops commonly shared the frame
Chassis
A chassis consists of an internal framework that supports a man-made object. It is analogous to an animal's skeleton. An example of a chassis is the underpart of a motor vehicle, consisting of the frame with the wheels and machinery.- Vehicles :In the case of vehicles, the term chassis means the...

 or reinforced body structure of the contemporary convertible model, which was already reinforced to compensate for the lack of a fixed roof. With such a reinforced frame, a hardtop was stronger and stiffer than a convertible, but both weaker and (because of the reinforcements) heavier than a pillared body.

There were a variety of hardtop-like body styles dating back to at least the 1920s. Chrysler Corporation built seven pillarless Town and Country hardtop coupes as concept vehicles in 1946, and even included the body style in its advertising that year. Mass-production of hardtops began with General Motors, which launched two-door, pillarless hardtops in 1949 as the Buick Roadmaster
Buick Roadmaster
The Roadmaster was an automobile built by the Buick division of General Motors. Roadmasters produced between 1936 and 1958 were built on Buick's longest non-limousine wheelbase and shared their basic structure with senior Oldsmobiles. Between 1946 and 1957 the Roadmaster was Buick's top of the line...

 Riviera, Oldsmobile 98
Oldsmobile 98
The Oldsmobile 98 was a full-size automobile and the flagship model of the Oldsmobile division of General Motors. The name first appeared in 1941 and was used again after American consumer automobile production resumed post-World War II...

 Holiday, and Cadillac Coupe de Ville
Cadillac Coupe de Ville
The Coupe de Ville was a model of the Cadillac marque of General Motors from 1949 through 1993.- Early History :The name "de Ville" is from the French de la ville or de ville meaning "of the town"...

. They were purportedly inspired by the wife of a Buick executive who always drove convertibles, but never lowered the top. The hardtop became extremely popular in the 1950s, and by 1956 every major U.S. automaker offered hardtop coupé
Coupé
A coupé or coupe is a closed car body style , the precise definition of which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and over time...

s and four-door sedans in a particular model lineup. In 1955, Buick and Oldsmobile introduced the first four-door hardtop sedans. In 1956, the first four-door hardtop station wagon
Station wagon
A station wagon is a body style variant of a sedan/saloon with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door , instead of a trunk lid...

 was introduced by Rambler
Rambler Six
The Rambler Six and the Rambler V8 are intermediate sized automobiles that were built and marketed by American Motors Corporation from 1956 to 1960....

. In 1957, Mercury offered both two- and four-door hardtop wagons, the only marque to ever to do so. The type did not catch on, though, as most buyers considered wagons too boxy to benefit from the sporty look (or expensive enough to begin with). All disappeared from the market after 1964. The Facel Vega Excellence
Facel Vega Excellence
The Excellence was a luxury saloon unveiled by Facel-Vega of Paris, France at the Paris Auto Show in October 1956 to rave reviews by the motoring press....

 is a notable French example of a four-door hardtop from this period, noted for the huge opening with both doors on one side open and for sagging if all the doors were left open. The doors were designed for locking to the floor and not each other.

Throughout the 1960s the two-door pillarless hardtop was by far the most popular body style in most lines where such a model was offered. Even on family-type vehicles like the Chevrolet Impala
Chevrolet Impala
The Chevrolet Impala is a full-size automobile built by the Chevrolet division of General Motors introduced for the 1958 model year. Deriving its name from the southern African antelope, Chevrolet's most expensive passenger model through 1965 had become the best-selling automobile in the United...

, the two-door hardtop regularly outsold four-door sedans.

The hardtop began to disappear along with convertibles in the mid-1970s, partly out of a concern that U.S. federal safety regulations would be difficult for pillarless models to pass. The ascendancy of monocoque
Monocoque
Monocoque is a construction technique that supports structural load by using an object's external skin, as opposed to using an internal frame or truss that is then covered with a non-load-bearing skin or coachwork...

 construction also made the pillarless design less practical. Some models adopted modified roof styling, placing the B pillars behind tinted side window glass and painting or molding the outer side of each pillar in black to make them less visible, creating a hardtop look without actually omitting the pillar. Some mid to late 1970s models continued their previous two-door hardtop bodies, but with fixed rear windows or a variety of vinyl roof and opera window
Opera window
Opera Windows are small porthole sized side windows in the C-pillar of some cars. Typically offered in unison with a vinyl roof, they were a very common design feature of American automobiles during the 1970s. The design was new at the time, "... and would prove to be very popular, indicated by its...

 treatments. The U.S. industry's last true two-door and four-door hardtops were in the 1978 Chrysler Newport
Chrysler Newport
The Newport was a name used by the Chrysler division of the Chrysler Corporation used as both a hardtop body designation and also for its lowest priced model between 1961 and 1981...

 and New Yorker
Chrysler New Yorker
The Chrysler New Yorker was a premium automobile built by the Chrysler Corporation from 1939–1996, serving for several years as the brand's flagship model. A model named the "New York Special" first appeared in the 1930s...

 lines.

Since then, no U.S. manufacturer has offered a true hardtop in regular production, although some German manufacturers, including BMW
BMW
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG is a German automobile, motorcycle and engine manufacturing company founded in 1916. It also owns and produces the Mini marque, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. BMW produces motorcycles under BMW Motorrad and Husqvarna brands...

 and Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz is a German manufacturer of automobiles, buses, coaches, and trucks. Mercedes-Benz is a division of its parent company, Daimler AG...

 have offered upscale pillarless hardtops. Renault produced a three-door hardtop between 2001 and 2003 in the form of the Avantime
Renault Avantime
The Renault Avantime is a grand-touring coupé combining features of a 2+2 coupé and an MPV — marketed by the French manufacturer Renault, designed and manufactured by Matra, between 2001 and 2003...

.

In the mid-1970s, Toyota introduced the Toyota Crown
Toyota Crown
The Toyota Crown is a line of full-size luxury sedans by Toyota. The range was primarily available in Japan and some other Asian countries, originally designed to serve as a taxi...

 as a 2- and 4-door hardtop, and Nissan followed suit with the Nissan Cedric
Nissan Cedric
The Nissan Cedric is a large automobile produced by Nissan since 1960. It was developed to provide upscale transportation, competing with the Prince Skyline and Gloria which were later merged into the Nissan family...

 and Nissan Gloria
Nissan Gloria
The Gloria is a large luxury car made from 1959 by the Prince Motor Company, and later by Nissan Motors since its merger with the former - hence being originally marketed as Prince Gloria and later as Nissan Gloria...

. Subaru introduced a new compact coupe as a genuine two-door hardtop with the Subaru Leone
Subaru Leone
The Subaru Leone was a compact car produced by the Japanese car manufacturer Fuji Heavy Industries from 1971 to 1994. The word "leone" is Italian for lion....

 in 1971. The hardtop models were more expensive and luxurious than the sedan versions. In the 1980s, Toyota continued the trend with the Toyota Mark II
Toyota Mark II
The Corona Mark II, first offered for sale in Japan September 1968 at Toyopet Store dealerships, was intended as an intermediate model between the large luxury sedan the Crown, sold at Toyota Store dealerships, and the smaller Corona, also available at Toyopet Store...

 and the Toyota Chaser
Toyota Chaser
The Toyota Chaser is a mid-size car produced by the Toyota Motor Company, Japan. Most were 4-door sedans, with the 2-door coupe discontinued after the first generation...

, with Nissan introducing its Nissan Laurel
Nissan Laurel
In April 1968 Nissan presented its new Laurel in four-door deLuxe and Super deLuxe versions, both equipped with a 1.8 L inline-four cylinder engine and independent rear suspension. In summer 1970 a hardtop coupé joined the line-up, one year later a 2000 cc engine became available...

, and Mazda introducing the Mazda Luce
Mazda Luce
Mazda used the Luce name on its largest sedans in Japan from 1969 until 1990. These vehicles were exported under a variety of names, including RX-4, 929, and Cosmo. The Luce nameplate was replaced by the Mazda Sentia name in 1991...

, all as four-door hardtops. During the early 1990s, almost all Japanese car makers had at least one four-door hardtop in multiple classes, including compact sedans, starting with the Toyota Carina ED
Toyota Carina ED
The Toyota Carina ED was a Japanese compact car created in 1985 as a companion to the 1984 Carina sedan. It was positioned as the 4-door Celica, with a similar focus on luxury found on the Corona EXiV. Its design sought to emulate the hardtop styling of large American sedans, resulting in a small,...

, Toyota Corona EXiV
Toyota Corona EXiV
The Corona EXiV was an automobile by Toyota Motor Company. Released in 1989, it was the sporty Toyota Corona and a sister car to Toyota Carina ED. EXiV stood for EXtra impressiVe....

, Toyota Sprinter Marino
Toyota Sprinter Marino
The Toyota Sprinter Marino is a four-door hardtop version of the Toyota Sprinter Trueno produced between 1992 - 1998 for sale in the Japanese Domestic Market. The Toyota Corolla Ceres is a slightly restyled version of the Sprinter Marino, as was common practice by Japanese automakers in the 1980s...

, Nissan Presea
Nissan Presea
The Nissan Presea was a compact car, produced for the Asian market from 1990 to 2000. It competed with entry level luxury 4-door hardtop sedans that were popular in Japan during the '90s, notably the Toyota Carina ED, Toyota Corona EXiV, Subaru Legacy, Mazda MS-8, Honda Vigor sedan, and the...

, Honda Inspire
Honda Inspire
The Honda Inspire is a luxury sedan introduced by Honda in 1990 and based on the Honda Accord chassis. The first Inspire debuted in 1990 as the Accord Inspire, a sister nameplate to the Honda Vigor, then the Honda Vigor was exported to the USA as an Acura...

, Honda Integra
Honda Integra
The Honda Integra is a compact luxury performance coupe made by Honda during the years 1985 to 2006. The sporty front wheel drive car is able to house five passengers with a two door hatch or four door sedan available.The Integra was on Car and Driver magazine's annual Ten Best list six times, in...

, Mitsubishi Emeraude, and Mazda Persona
Mazda Persona
The Mazda Persona was a mid-sized front wheel drive sedan sold in Japan in the late 1980s. It used Mazda's MA platform and was replaced by the Efini MS-8 in March 1993....

. Even Subaru got into the game with the Subaru Legacy
Subaru Legacy
The Subaru Legacy is a mid-size car built by the Japanese company Fuji Heavy Industries, and manufactured by its division Subaru since 1989, and is available as a sedan or wagon. Part of the original design goals for the Legacy model was to provide Subaru a vehicle in which they could compete in...

. By the end of the 90s, however, almost all four-door hardtops disappeared, as structural integrity standards continued to increase. The Subaru Legacy remained a "B" pillar hardtop until the introduction of the 2010 model.

British luxury carmaker Bentley
Bentley
Bentley Motors Limited is a British manufacturer of automobiles founded on 18 January 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley known as W.O. Bentley or just "W O". Bentley had been previously known for his range of rotary aero-engines in World War I, the most famous being the Bentley BR1 as used in later...

 (owned by Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen Group
Volkswagen Group is a German multinational automobile manufacturing group. , Volkswagen was ranked as the world’s third largest motor vehicle manufacturer and Europe's largest....

) sells two true hardtop coupes, the Continental GT fastback, and the Brooklands
Brooklands
Brooklands was a motor racing circuit and aerodrome built near Weybridge in Surrey, England. It opened in 1907, and was the world's first purpose-built motorsport venue, as well as one of Britain's first airfields...

 coupe (2008). Other British pillarless hardtops included the Sunbeam Rapier
Sunbeam Rapier
The Series I Rapier was a pretty car which in general, was well received by the motoring press. Available in a range of attractive two-tone colour schemes typical of the period, it boasted steering column gear change, leather trim and an overdrive as standard fittings. Vinyl trim was an option in...

 and the Ford Consul Capri (355) which, unlike American models, sold fewer cars than their saloon cousins. The body style was thought to be making a comeback, as concept versions of the Dodge Challenger
Dodge Challenger
The Dodge Challenger is the name of three different generations of automobiles marketed by the Dodge division of Chrysler.The first generation Dodge Challenger was a pony car built from 1970 to 1974, using the Chrysler E platform and sharing major components with the Plymouth Barracuda. The second...

 and Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet Camaro
The Chevrolet Camaro is an automobile manufactured by General Motors under the Chevrolet brand, classified as a pony car and some versions also as a muscle car. It went on sale on September 29, 1966, for the 1967 model year and was designed as a competing model to the Ford Mustang...

 shown in 2006 were both two-door hardtops, however, the production versions of both included a blacked out B Pillar
Pillar (car)
Pillars are the vertical supports of the greenhouse of an automobile — known respectively as the A, B, C or D-pillar moving in profile view from the front to rear....

 and fixed rear side glass. Another pillarless design was featured in the 2007 model concept for the Chrysler 300C
Chrysler 300C
The Chrysler Corporation has used the designation Chrysler 300C to refer to two different vehicles, which are described in separate articles.* The 1957 Chrysler 300C, that year's version of the Chrysler 300 "letter series"; a large, high-performance luxury coupe sold in very limited numbers.* The...

. The New Mini also included a blacked out B-pillar and fixed rear side glass, although it is labeled 'Hardtop' in the United States.

Retractable hardtops

A retractable hardtop (also known as coupé convertible or coupé cabriolet) is a type of convertible that forgoes a folding textile roof in favor of an automatically operated, multi-part, self-storing roof where the rigid roof sections are opaque, translucent, or independently operable.

Collectibility

According to most automotive collectors and price guides the hardtop versions of old cars are among the most desirable. The "body styles car enthusiasts traditionally favor" include convertible
Convertible
A convertible is a type of automobile in which the roof can retract and fold away having windows which wind-down inside the doors, converting it from an enclosed to an open-air vehicle...

s, wood-body station wagons, as well as hardtop coupes, sedans, and wagons. It is important to distinguish between a true hardtop and a what could be a similar looking sedan version with pillar posts. This makes a big difference in the value of a particular automobile.
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