06/19/2012 12:27 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Topless Models on the Rise Again in 2012

Few may remember this, but in the mid-1970s the government threatened to introduce rollover standards that would have made convertible sales impossible in the U.S. -- or at least that's what many carmakers and car buyers thought. GM applied the "last convertible" tagline to the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible in an attempt to juice sales before the model went out of production. Many buyers scooped up those $12,000 "last convertibles" thinking they had a million dollar investment that only need a few years to mature.

And while economic and safety concerns of the late 1970s did slow the production and sale of convertibles in the U.S., it had little effect on drop-top sales in Europe and other countries. Once the economy took off again in the early 1980s, so did ragtops. We've never really backpedaled on that progress, with convertible offerings generally increasing over the past 30 years, and particularly over the past decade.

In 2000, there were 37 convertible models for sale in the U.S., and by 2007 that number was up to 50. The number of convertible offerings (like so many statistics...) topped out in 2008, with 59 models. A slight drop in drop-tops offerings, down to 49 in 2010 and 2011, might have had people thinking they were a dying breed again.

But in 2012 convertible numbers are back up to 53 models, with everything from tiny Smart cars to the truly bizarre Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet available to satisfy your topless needs.

Total Car Score will release its Top 10 Convertibles for 2012 list tomorrow based on their aggregated ratings from across the industry. Total Car Score has identified the Top 10 Convertibles for 2012 based on their aggregated ratings from across the industry. We have also confirmed the Europeans still hold the advantage when it comes to appealing open-top cars. They hold eight of the 10 slots in the list, though Ford's Mustang represents the U.S. as the number three car, and Lexus maintains Japan's honor in slot nine.

Given the quality of today's convertibles there's really no downside to buying one. You get all the fun and sun you'll want with the top down, yet they provide a quiet, serene cabin when the top goes up. The noisy, leaky and flexible convertibles of the past are gone today, even for ragtops not making this Top 10 list.

Oh, and that 1976 Eldorado that was supposed to represent the "last convertible" 36 years ago? They aren't worth a million bucks yet, but low-mileage examples can command upwards of $50,000. Not bad, but you'd have been better off buying $12,000 worth of the very first Star Wars toys, and sticking them away instead...