Theme: Bodies – The CC

We may not even have a library photo of a hard-top convertible-cabriolet. 

2001 Lexus SC430 in Aarhus, Denmark
2001 Lexus SC430 in Aarhus, Denmark

We do, above. There are not many more. Maybe they are not a DTW type of car. Dear goodness, I find when checking the date of the Mercedes SLK, the R170, that it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary. It seems natural to start with this one.

That car bridges Sacco, being a bit of Gunak and a bit of Mauer. More importantly it started a long wave of convertible coupes that had the best of a hard-top and the best of a convertible. The idea dates to Peugeot’s 1931 601 Eclipse. However, little happened to the idea other than the short-lived Ford Skyliner (57-59) and the half-hearted Toyota Soarer Aerocabin (1989).

Mercedes’ genius lay in packing all the bits really neatly and styling the car to hide the bulky mechanism. That the boot was almost entirely taken up with roof when in open-mode didn’t matter. This truly was a car for lunching ladies and their tennis coaches.

The idea extended to the mass market with Ford’s Italianate Focus CC of 2006-2010 which is as Ghia as Ford got in recent times although it wore Pininfarina labels. In the same year Opel presented the Astra Twin Top (which looked sleeker). Peugeot got in first in 2001: the 206 CC which probably showed the limits of styling to hide bulk.

After that burst of mainstream interest the CC retired to larger, more expensive cars though a few stragglers hung on (Peugeot, Renault and VW).

Inherently the folding mechanism added weight and stole boot space. Long, powerful cars could carry it off whereas four-bangers on family car platforms did not. Customers decided cloth tops were a better balance of fun and sun and for the Cascada Opel has gone back to fabric.

2016 Daihatsu Copen Cero: source
2016 Daihatsu Copen Cero: source

Fashion has led customers away from cabrios so it makes little sense to have a sub-niche but the idea is now tested and where appropriate will crop up again periodically. And I wonder if the Evoque ought to have been one rather than a soft-top.

My pick of the bunch is the Daihatsu Copen, even if it is tinier than the CC concept should support.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

20 thoughts on “Theme: Bodies – The CC”

  1. CC’s really were “the car of the future” for a few years, and it seems every manufacturer wanted to be part of the craze, competing with each other on who could graft the biggest ass to their poor unsuspecting compacts.

    i think in the end, while still not as beautiful as a regular soft top, the style was most suited to smaller vehicles, like the copen, MX-5 and opel tigra.

  2. Didn’t BMW offer both soft and hard-top versions of their 3-series at some point?

    1. Indeed, but for some reason I thought BMW had done the same at some point in the mid 00s, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    2. No, it’s not. Albeit former head of R&D, Burkard Göschel, was said to have fought tooth & nail to keep the 3 Series convertible a soft top.

  3. The Copen is really astonishing. I didn’t know there is still one in 2016; but I guess not in Europe any more. It’s actually a car I’d like to have – preferably in its earliest, purest form with the 660 ccm engine and RHD (they were sold like this in mainland Europe!). They somehow avoided the bulky rear, but if driving open, your weekend baggage is basically limited to a toothbrush.
    I remember the most hiedous examples of this car type also came from Japan. Does anyone remember the Nissan Micra and the Mitsubishi Colt CC?

  4. By putting an extra fold into the 3 series top, BMW were able to get round the problem that on a saloon type base, the cabin area usually looks too stunted.

    Simon, I agree that the early Copen is oddly desirable. But then so is the SC430.

    1. There are more elegant cars to showcase prosthetic dental technician and masterful car designer George Paulin’s Eclipse system, but I hadn’t seen this one before.

  5. Hmm. Ford (Dearborn) offered a hardtop convertible in, was it, the late ’50s or very early ’60s. More evidence of failing memory. In ’59, if I recall correctly, a neighbor had one. Minimal trunk (boot) capacity, balky electric motors that were supposed to operate the top but didn’t always and, as with all US cars of that era, rust, rust and more rust.

    1. Sean, I think you’re right, recall that the monster had a one-piece top. It had to have been heavy. The usual position was stuck half up or half down.

  6. Actually, I realise that I own a CC – of sorts. It’s surprisingly effective weatherproofing, and you only lose about 30% of the luggage space when it’s folded.

  7. I’m probably never going to live this down around these parts, but…

    I genuinely don’t think the SC430 is that bad, and have never quite understood the ferocity of the hatred typically hurled in its direction. It’s certainly dull and somewhat ungainly and evidently unsuited to lip-gloss red, but truthfully, I see much more offensive visual pollution on the roads on a daily basis. It’s far from the worst CC I’ve ever seen; it’s not even the most aesthetically displeasing Lexus I’ve ever seen.

    @ Laurent: It wasn’t BMW, but Chrysler, that manufactured both a soft-top and a folding hardtop, for the Sebring/200 convertible.

    The trick with CCs, it seems, is to keep the technology for two-seaters only. I can’t recall seeing a four-seater one that wasn’t seriously aesthetically compromised in one way or another – there’s simply too many bits to make it work elegantly, and if you cut it up into workable pieces, you end up with a disastrous maze of shutlines. It’s amazing how quickly the fad died, really – I well remember the SLK concept at Turin 1994, and even seeing my first production SLK on the road very vividly. It seems funny to say now, but it was a major head-turner at the time, and a big departure for M-B. I liked it a lot, reputation be damned.

    Mention of the 206CC reminded me of this, which I think has been entirely forgotten even at Fiat – a Pininfarina proposal, shown at Bologna in ’99…

    1. Stradale. I agree about the SC430. It’s not possible to defend it that rationally, the DLO looks as though it has been transplanted from a small coupe, but it seems like it would be nice enough to waft around in. Except I seem to remember reading that its ride was a bit jittery, which surprised me. Oddly, all the (admittedly few) ones I’ve seen were red which, depending on the accuracy of Richard’s camera, would appear to be of the fading variety..

    2. Ouch. That Punto looks too much Colt CC in the back. The roofline is too high. In this class of cars, only 206 and Tigra look vaguely right in proportions — my impression is they are lower than the rest.

    3. Stradale: I’m an SC430 defender. It had the most beautiful assembly, was genuinely luxurious and looked good. The jittery ride allegations can be traced back to a few written sources and over-state the case. It’s not a Silver Shadow and not a 911. It’s a compromise and as such is quite okay.

  8. If for nothing else, I find myself admiring the coupe-convertibles for their intricacy. There can’t be much of the original car left, what with the strengthening of the platform to compensate for the occasionally absent roof, the complexity of the roof itself and its concealment system, and the nightmarishly demanding detailing tasks of sealing the junctions effectively.

    I’m convinced that the realities of dull commerce killed off the coupe-convertible. Developing an SUV from a mainstream platform was a far more straightforward task, and almost everyone can justify buying one of these. Convertibles, coupes, and sports cars, by comparison, appear frivolous and self indulgent.

    It’s the reason why Toyota dropped the MR2 and Celica – the production infrastructure could be put to better use making RAV4s, for which there was vastly more demand.

  9. Odd coupe-convertible fact. If you’re a Welsh speaker, VW’s Eos is a nightingale…

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