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Oh MAMA - Topless in Wisconsin By Larry Nutson

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      FIND YOUR: Perfect New Convertible Match

Topless in Wisconsin

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Did that title get your attention? Well, this story is about cars. Convertible cars. Drop tops. Soft tops. Rag tops. Cabriolets, if you want to be a bit European. It’s about open-air driving.

My “Topless in Wisconsin” headline is borrowed from a similar drive event, “Topless in Miami.” I’ve taken part in the Miami open-air driving event that is hosted by the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA).


Now I’m at the Midwest Automotive Media Association Spring Rally that is held each year at Road America in Elkhart Lake. MAMA media members had numerous different cars and trucks to drive on the track, off-road, in an autocross and of course, the way most cars spend their life, on the public roads.

With spring in the air I took a look at the new drop tops we had on hand that make for interesting offerings in today’s car market. Here are a few, including some new models just hitting the market.

Buick Cascada

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New on the market for 2016. This 4-seater is priced starting at $33,065. Power comes from a 1.6-L 200HP turbo and Cascada offers the latest in driver-assistance safety features. You can raise and lower the power top at speeds up to 31 mph making for great convenience if a sudden rain shower comes along.

2017 Fiat 124 Spider

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Just now hitting the market. The two-seat 124 is based on a collaboration with Mazda and is powered by a Fiat 160HP 1.4-L turbo engine. Prices start at $24,995. Three trims are offered, Classica, Lusso and Abarth. The Abarth gets 164HP due to some tuning.

MINI Cooper

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Redesigned for 2016 and now is a good bit larger. It has seats for four, but maybe only for little ones in the rear. Priced starting at $25,950. Engine choices include a 134HP 3-cylinder turbo on the Copper or 189HP 4-cylinder turbo on the Cooper S. The Mini 3-in-1 power top can be opened to multiple positions from half-open to full open.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

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All-new and introduced last year and continues to set the bar as the fun, contemporary roadster. Priced at $24,915 power comes from a 155HP 2.0-L Skyactiv engine. A new RF model for 2017 has a targa-like folding hardtop.

Rolls-Royce Dawn

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The new “drophead” from this regal marque. Powering the bespoke 4-seater with its formal coach-doors is a 563HP 6.6-liter V12 twin-turbo engine. Price, if you have to ask, starts at $335,000. Most orders for the car bring the price to $400,000. Only a couple thousand will be built for the world.

Convertibles are not what they once were. Today the tops are, for the most part, power operated for ease of lowering and raising. Multiple layers of material keep you warm in the winter and dampen outside noise. The Haartz Corporation is the world leader in highly engineered and uniquely designed convertible toppings, flexible exterior trim and interior surface materials. Haartz acoustic and crease resistant convertible topping material is very durable and easy to keep clean.

Market trends show open-air market growth of 39% (216,000 units) planned over the next 7 years. Roof systems are moving towards softtops and away from retractable hard tops. There is plenty of room in the market for affordable 2+2 cabrios so we may start to see more from other makers.

You may be surprised to know that there are many more convertibles to choose from right now in the market. For example, there’s the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro & Corvette, Mercedes-Benz SL, SLK & E-class, BMW 2-series, 4-series, 6-Series & Z4, Audi R8, TT, A3 & A5, Porsche Boxster & 911, Fiat 500c, Alfa-Romeo 4C Spyder, Jaguar F-type, VW Beetle, Nissan 370Z, 2015 Infiniti Q60 and the Jeep Wrangler.

Some of the more exotic include Aston-Martin, Maserati, Ferrari, and Lamborghini. They’ll even soon be a Range Rover Evoque convertible for off-roading in the sun

There are lots of choices for topless entertainment and driving fun. It might just be time for something a little more personal for you to drive.

I hope my topless in Wisconsin wasn’t too cheesy!

© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy