Top down and loving it

It’s been a long winter and a reluctant spring. But finally the sun is out and warm. The grass is riz. The trees are in bud.

It’s been a long winter and a reluctant spring. But finally the sun is out and warm. The grass is riz. The trees are in bud.

So am I enjoying everything the season has to offer? Yes sir. I’m right where I want to be this time of year … in the basement, slightly drowsy on allergy medication, watching the NHL playoffs.

And as soon they’re over, or there is a lull in the action for a few days, I’ll engage in another springtime passion — driving top down. (Just to clarify, I’m keeping my shirt on; it’s the car roof that comes down.)

It’s tough to feel lousy when you’re speeding through the countryside with sunshine on your head.

The experience also illuminates why our species became so enamoured with automobiles at the turn of the last century — we get that simple, primal rush of “being in motion.”

Modern cars, and modern roadways, can disconnect us from this cool vibe, but the simple act of “dropping the top” can reconnect us to those heady days of the horseless carriage, when we first became the masters of our own mobility destinies, and sped off in all directions, just because we could.

These days, I borrow convertible test cars, and they’re all very cool, but my strongest and fondest drop-top experiences came during my twenties, behind the wheel of my well-used 1973 MGB. In those days I was prone to taking fast runs late at night, and I can still feel how the air felt cooler whenever the road dipped into a valley, and how the countryside smelled during haying season.

I also remember what it smelled like when I happened to be trapped behind a garbage truck.

That’s the double-edged sword thing happening. Convertibles let the sun in — good for your soul. But they also let the sun in — not good for pasty, white Canadian skin. I remember some long summer days in the MGB’s saddle, an experience that made my face look like I’d been shaving with a blowtorch.

Convertibles also let the wind blow your hair — oh so groovy while you’re driving, not so handy when you need to arrive somewhere with manageable hair.

The age-old solution to mitigate sunstroke and hair issues while experiencing open-air moorings is to wear some sort of headgear. Some people do it elegantly, like Audrey Hepburn and her kerchief, in any movie she made in the 1950s and 1960s. Me? Not a kerchief guy. Or a hat guy.

– Michael Goetz has been writing about cars and editing automotive publications for more than 20 years. He lives in Toronto with his family and a neglected 1967 Jaguar E-type.

 
 
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