Many people wonder why we don’t see more four-door convertibles roaming the streets, and the reasons are simple. The main reason is that a four-door convertible normally has issues with body integrity. Not in the sense that it has self-confidence issues or doesn’t feel sexy in that little blue dress anymore, but rather, it genuinely needs more reinforcement than a traditional car with a traditional roof. Generally speaking, convertibles handle worse, take crashes worse, and are more susceptible to a warping chassis or bending frame issues than a regular car because it is less structurally sound. Even two-door examples such as the Nissan 370z convertible suffer the same problem, and the issue is even more present when it’s a convertible sedan we’re talking about. That hasn’t, however, stopped manufacturers from attempting to make them.
Let’s take a look at some four-door convertible styles that have been available in the past, a few that never made it past the concept stage, and then a quick peek at what the do-it-yourselfer attempts resulted in. To be clear, not all of these cars are actually bad…just most of them.
Lincoln Continental Convertible
In 1961, the fourth-generation Continental was available as a sedan or convertible model. It also has the infamous suicide doors that hadn’t been on a Lincoln since 1951. With this layout, the convertible used a hidden pillar to support the roof structure.
What made this vehicle most famous was that it was Jackie O’s personal drop-top. In fact, you could have seen one parked at the White House garage while Kennedy was president. You might also recall it was in a modified version of this very car that said president met his end. You may have also seen it in the movie Goldfinger, starring Sean Connery as James Bond.
What was most impressive about this vehicle was the powertrain. Under the hood, you’ll find a 430-cubic-inch V8 that produces 300 horsepower. It came paired with a three-speed automatic transmission that sent power to the rear wheels.
Out of Lincoln’s history, the fourth-generation Continental is still considered to be one of the most sought after, and quite possibly the best execution of a four-door convertible to date.
VW type 181
You may know the VW Type 181 better as the Volkswagen Thing. This two-wheel drive, four-door convertible was available in the United States from 1973 until 74. It was dropped from the lineup for 1975 because it failed to meet strict US safety standards. One of the reasons it failed was due to the Windshield Intrusion Rule where the DOT called for a larger distance between occupants in the front seat and the glass.
The Volkswagen Thing has been seen in countless TV shows and movies over the years. Some of these include The Pursuit of Happyness, Good Burger, The Hitchhiker, Sudden Impact and American Pickers. While most four-door convertibles are a bad idea, Volkswagen actually ended up creating one of their most iconic pieces with this vehicle which is adored by many in the automotive world.
I know that the Jeep Wrangler is an SUV, but considering the roof comes off and you can get one with four doors, doesn’t that make it a four-door convertible? Okay, maybe there will be some argument related to that, but it seemed fitting to throw it in the list anyway.
Nothing says adventure quite like a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Despite many consumers claiming that the seating is uncomfortable, the fuel economy is poor and the rear seats are cramped, it continues to be one of America’s most loved vehicles.
Maybe it’s due to the unique quality of being an off-road vehicle and four-door convertible? As far as this niche is considered, the Wrangler is probably one of the sturdier offerings ever seen in the segment, and is our final example of how to do things the right way.
1997 Chrysler Dual Cowl Concept
This four-door convertible concept was inspired by the 1940 dual cowl Newport parade vehicle used to transport elite families and dignitaries. Chrysler planned to take a car that was meant for the wealthy and turn it into something practical, that anyone could drive.
As you and I both know, this never happened. While it may have never made it to production, you might remember the look from Gran Turismo 2 back in the day. It was offered as a special vehicle that could only be put in your garage if you won it.
Chrysler 300C Helios
American Specialty Cars (ASC) was an engineer of roof systems and body systems for the world’s automakers. They had been one of the main coach convertible builders over the years but ceased operations in 2016.
Prior to that, in 2005, ASC unveiled its ideas for a convertible version of the Chrysler 300C. They named it the ASC Helios 300. For quite some time, people were convinced that they were going to enter production, but it never came to be.
Given what some people have said about their ownership experience with the 300, it’s probably for the best that this four-door convertible never saw the light of day.
Do-it-Yourself Four Door Convertibles….or Don’t
Your brain might tell you that if you can’t find what you are looking for, you should create it. I’m here to tell you that your brain is wrong – because we are friends and that’s what friends do.
Making your own four-door convertible seems like it should be a simple project. The problem, you say, is easy to fix. If you have a roof that you no longer want, simply hack or cut it off. After all, the Sawzall exists for a reason, right? The tools are available at any hardware store around and it could be a fun weekend project, but you probably aren’t going to be pleased with the results.
Our main concerns for you include, but are not limited to:
1) Ruining the structural integrity of your vehicle
2) Getting soaking wet
3) Slicing your hand apart in the process
4) Being saddled with a crippling regret that no amount of welding, duct tape, or krazy glue can remedy
Of course, if you have an old car lying around you don’t care about, this could be something fun to do with your buddies! To determine if this is a good idea for you, one must only look toward others that have tried the same project. Let’s see how the results panned out for a few brave souls around the internet, shall we?