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A convertible is for life, not just for Christmas

At Imperial Car Supermarkets, we sell cars of all shapes and sizes, and yes... That includes convertibles.

But what IS a convertible? Is it the same as a cabriolet? And how does that compare to a spider? And when does a spyder become a spider?

There's a great deal of confusion around the naming of non-fixed roof cars, so here’s the Imperial Car Supermarkets guide to wind-in-your-hair motoring.


Soft Top / Rag Top

Modern convertibles can feature either a fixed, folding metal roof or a canvas-framed roof. Cars like the BMW Z4 and Mazda MX5 have the option for either. The terms 'soft top' and 'rag top' are fairly self explanatory. Folding metal roofs tend to be more popular, more secure, more stable and more refined; but also heavier and more complex. The need to store the roof mechanism steals valuable storage space in the boot. A canvas roof can be manual or electronic, and a manual roof can be removed in seconds!



Although the Roadster term is now widely used, it was originally an American term to describe 'an open car with seating for two or three'. In the post World War 2 era, the name became a marketing term to try and sell more cars to the Americans, meaning many British cars were marketed as ‘Roadsters’ whether they had sporting pedigree or not!

These days a roadster is roughly any car that's primary function is to look good, drive well and provide maximum enjoyment with the wind in your hair.


Spider / Spyder

The Spyder moniker has traditionally been applied to cars where a roof doesn't come as an option. When spelt with a Y, it is generally agreed that the Porsche 550 was the first vehicle to use the name in this way.

To confuse things further, when spelt 'Spider' the name relates to the Italian spelling of 'Speedster', which roughly translates as Roadster... Which we've already seen is a 2 seat open car.

The Alfa Romeo Spider and Ferrari 355 Spider conform to this convention as they do come with a retractable roof.

However, to further confound the issue and prove that there are no rules when it comes to naming cars, the Audi R8 Spyder (spelt with a Y) does feature a retractable roof, which we know from our research is wrong... And the Renault Sport Spider (spelt with an I) does not have a roof. Which we also know is wrong!


Are we the only people that seem to care about the rules?!


Landau & Rigid Door

A car with a sunroof that rolls back on itself, where the main frame of the roofline remains in place is classed as a Landau or Rigid Door convertible. The Fiat 500 comes in this format, with a full-length retractable canvas roof that slides on rails mounted within the roof of the car. There are companies that convert 4-door saloon cars into rolling canvas convertibles, but thankfully they’re not hugely popular… Let’s be honest, the BMW 3 Series Landaulet is one ugly duckling!


Targa Top

A Targa top is a removable central roof panel where the rear window and frame assembly remain in place, such as the Porsche 911 Targa. Porsche were the first manufacturer to use the name, and still own the trademark to it today.



A T Top Roof features two removable roof sections mounted on a T Shaped fixing which runs down the centre of the car. This was popular in the 1980s, particularly in America and with Japanese cars such as the Nissan 300ZX. Again, to further confuse things, the 1990s Rover Coupe was a T Top with two removable glass panels, which left the T section in place to form the T Top... but this metal bracket could also be removed, meaning the car was then a Targa.


We hope this little guide hasn't left you thoroughly confused!

Imperial Car Supermarkets often have convertible cars available, ranging from the 2-door roadster style of the BMW Z4 and Mini Cooper, up to executive folding hard tops like the BMW 3 Series.

We also stock the crème-de-la-crème of soft top sports cars... the Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

To find out more about our range, or to test drive your next car (convertible or not) then do get in touch.

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