I admit it. I love going topless. I'm not referring to nude or topless beaches or nudist colonies. I'm talking about the sun in my face and the wind in my hair when my hardtop convertible is the fully retracted position.
Living in New York we Empire State dwellers only get maybe, maybe six months a year when days and/or nights are nice enough to drive al fresco, which is what makes it so special. Being the persnickety guy that I am (ask anyone who knows me well) there are many various and sundry criteria for roof retraction, to wit:
• It can't be too hot. Over 85 degrees in the middle of the day is a complete non-starter. My black interior will only magnify the power of the sun and turn my vehicle into a rotisserie. There are some convertible folks who roll-up the windows and crank-up the air conditioning with the top down. I'm of the school of people who think this is ridiculous. If you want a/c, just keep the top up. On very hot days, I opt for the top down at night when temps in the 70s make it delightful.
• It can't be too cold -- there are some hardy souls who imagine that they're tooling around the Western Front in say, Belgium, circa 1944-45 in either an open air jeep or one of those topless enormous German army staff cars that you see in the movies with all the generals being braced by the swirl of frigid air. Again, as with the aforementioned a/c people, these are usually the same folks who go topless with the heat at full blast. I just don't understand that whole concept. In fact, I'm unilaterally opposed to the deployment of windows in the upright position as a matter of course and principle when the roof is down. Windows up negate the entire point of being out in the open. Worried about your hair? This is why the good Lord invented baseball hats and rear wind breakers behind the seats (they stop the interior cabin wind swirl prevalent in convertibles of yore).
• There can't be a specter of rain. Getting the interior of your car soaked in a flash storm or even a steady downpour will take weeks of airing and baking out to get the damp and mildew out of the car. It doesn't help the leather seats either.
September in New York is one of the most pristine months of the year for topless driving. Most of this month has been gloriously sunny with temps in the high 60s to low 70s with low humidity and few clouds. This is ideal driving weather (and what it's like in Southern California for much of the year which is why there are so many ragtops out there) and I look for any and every excuse or opportunity to take a drive. Working as I do under florescent lights and staring at a computer screen all day just like much of modern humanity, getting some natural Vitamin D and fresh air is a must.
Most car manufacturers have abandoned the classic ragtop in favor of hardtop convertibles. I'll be the first to say that the hardtop convertible is a superior product (having owned both types) because in the winter and inclement weather you have a real hardtop. It is much, much quieter with the roof up (wind noise being a big factor in cloth tops) and way easier to keep clean. It also deters vandalism -- ragtops can be easily slashed and then very expensive to repair or replace.
But the move to hardtop convertibles has significantly upped the cost of attaining the open air. Typically, hardtop convertibles are available as expensive options on luxury coupes and sports cars and this has created a sunshine gap between the affluent and the less so. Natural Vitamin D immersion while in motion has become the province of the successful. It wasn't always thus. Back in the 50s thru the 70s you could get an affordable ragtop on your average Chevy, Ford or Dodge. No so today. If the Occupy Wall Street people and the left-wing of the Democratic Party would like to rail about the perks of the top five percent, why not take on the issue of open air driving for all? What about an extra tax on those with retractable hardtops to subsidize ragtops for Ford Fiesta owners? Is it fair for the masses to be ensconced in their sunless hardtops while the affluent get all the rays? This is an issue that Obama and Romney ought to debate this week.
In the original series of Star Trek, there was an episode called "The Cloud Minders" that initially aired on February 28, 1969 in which the elite of the planet Ardana live literally in the clouds in a city appropriately named Stratos while masses of "Troglytes" [sic.] toil away deep beneath the planet's surface to extract the mineral "zienite" and are deprived of fresh air and sunshine. In a clear violation of The Prime Directive (not to interfere in other cultures), Captain Kirk forcibly shows the leaders of Stratos that the supposedly inferior Troglytes are being exposed to a toxic gas while mining which stunts their mental capacity and makes them overly emotional. The Stratos dwellers promise to get some fresh air into the mines and Kirk gets his consignment of zienite.
While non convertible drivers are hardly "Troglytes," (many one percenters prefer non-retraction and climate control as well while driving their Bentleys and spreading Grey Poupon) one needs to spring for a few extra bucks for the open air. A few somewhat affordable open-air options are the Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring Edition (which I drive) and the VW Eos, the Mini Cooper and used VW "New" Beetles. Old Chrysler Sebrings are a cost-effective option as well.
Between now and Halloween whenever we're above 60 and have clear sunshine, look for me riding around topless, grabbing as much natural light as possible before we're all imprisoned indoors come the onset of winter. If anyone is looking for a lift with the wind in their hair, zap me an email and let me know.