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Thread: Coach Convertibles from 77-87 (Toyota,Datsun,Mazda,Honda)

  1. #1
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    Coach Convertibles from 77-87 (Toyota,Datsun,Mazda,Honda)

    Coach Convertibles from 77-87

    Hello All, I am really enjoying this web site. Since I really love the vintage japanese cars but have no brand specific loyalty, this is the type of site I like.

    I have been researching a subject that seems to have had very little written on it. That's the coach-built convertibles of the late Seventies and Eighties. They made convertibles out of a ton of different cars, including: Camaro/Firebird, Ciera, CRX, Lincolns, Cadillacs, Celicas, Mustangs, Preludes, Toronados, Century, Celebrity, Skylark, Fiero, TBird/Cougar, 280ZX/300ZX and the list goes on. These cars were sent to the coach builder as a new car by a new-car dealership to sell on their lot with full warranty or could be ordered directly by the car owner from the coach builder. When ordered by the new-car dealership, the conversion was considered a dealer-installed option, like rustproofing, a sunroof or air-conditioning, even though the dealership out-sourced the installation.

    I have several magazine articles from the '77-82 era from Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Road & Track etc about these custom convertibles. They were somewhat popular and I remember seeing these on occasion on the streets (even in Kansas!). The most common seemed to be the Celica and 200SX convertibles, but you would see them all from time to time. When the popularity fell for the convertible in the early '70s, production also fell. 1976 was the last year for U.S. domestic convertibles and only a few 2-seat european imports were available to U.S. consumers. This left a nitch market for coach shops to engineer and produce affordable convertibles from a variety of new cars. Some of these conversions were produced in the thousands. By '83, a few manufacturers hired these coach companies to build "factory" convertibles (mustang, lebaron, etc), but they were nothing more than factory-authorized versions of the custom convertibles. They were also shipped to the coach shop to have thier top removed. As a result of these new factory-approved convertibles, the custom coach built convertible became less popular and production fell.

    Most were built very well with numerous measures taken to stiffen the chassis, so don't reply with "those cars are a death trap" or "must flex like a rubber band". I own a Straman built CRX and it is just about as stiff and rattle-free as the hardtop. The top and body/interior modifications were professionally designed to look "from the factory" on all the conversions.

    I wanted to start this thread to see if any of you have one of these or have information to add to what I listed below. Though these cars are not true "factory" convertibles, they can be considered "original" since they often came from the new-car-dealer with this conversion.

    What you see below is the car model and the company that did the conversion. The year in the ( ) is the year I have found reference to a documented car. These are all cars converted for the U.S. market.

    75-78 Datsun 280Z Steas Industries(78)
    79-83 Datsun 280ZX Belvedere Enterprises Inc(80) Steas Ind.(81,82) American Custom Coachworks(81) Giuliano Motors Ltd(82)
    84-89 Nissan 300ZX Straman(83,84,85,86,88)
    90-96 Nissan 300ZX (factory conv for 93) Straman(90,91)
    80-83 Datsun 200SX Sparlingco(82) Intermeccanica(82) American Custom Coachworks(81,82,83)
    78-81 Toyota Celica Griffith Sunchaser(80,81) California Coach Co.(81) Grandeur Motor(80) Sparlingco(81) American Custom Coachworks(80,81), Grandeur Motor Corp.(80,81)
    82-85 Toyota Celica (factory conv for 84) Sparlingco(83), Griffith Sunchaser(82)
    80-83 Toyota Corolla Convertible Specialists Inc.(82) Sparlingco(82,83) American Custom Coach(83) Matrix3(83) Griffith(82)
    79-82 Honda Prelude National Coach(82) Solaire(82) Classic Touch(81) Tropic(Germany)(81)
    84-87 Honda CRX Straman(84,85,86,87)
    79-85 Mazda RX7 Pacific Avatar(79,82,83) Global Coach(81,83) Ultima
    90-99 Mitsu 3000GT- (factory hdtp conv for 3000GT:95&96 only by ASC) Straman(91)
    90-96 Dodge Stealth Straman(91,92) Coach Builders Ltd(92)
    79-82 Mazda 626 Coupe Convertible Specialists Inc.(82) Sunset Coach(82)
    80-84 Subaru GL Coupe Steas Industries(81,82,83)

    I will be adding photos and new info to this thread, so keep checking in. If you have any info, photos or find one on the internet, post it here.

  2. #2
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    Re: Coach Convertibles from 77-87 (Toyota,Datsun,Mazda,Honda

    Quote Originally Posted by slimwhitman
    Though these cars are not true "factory" convertibles, they can be considered "original" since they often came from the new-car-dealer with this conversion.
    I'd like to see you argue that point with a car show official.

    Dealer options like Air-con on cars where it wasn't installed at the factory will loose you points.

    Anyway that aside, looking forward to seeing some pics and reading more about these 'verts that I never knew existed. Especially the Z/ZX convertibles.

  3. #3
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    Welcome!

    The 1992-94 Nissan 240SX convertible was built by ASC. There was also a JDM convertible but built by a local company and much cleaner than the ASC conversion.

    Please post some pics of your CRX!

  4. #4
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    Ive seen a few converted honda n600, but they are all 70-71.

  5. #5
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    This is an excellent topic! I commend you for taking on such a project.

    Over the years we at TORC have received a number of inquiries regarding the various Toyota conversions that took place, especially the Celica Sunchaser. Just recently we had one member asking about his Matrix3 Corolla convertible. Alas we never had much info regarding any of these conversions and usually couldn't help people very much.

    Have you researched into what has become of the companies that performed these conversions? Do any of them still exist? It would be a benefit to owners if you had any info to share, such as if any of the companies are still around, or if there are any companies that specialize in repairing or that stock replacement parts for these convertibles.

  6. #6
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    Celica Sunchaser

    I will start with the most recognizable conversion. The Celica Sunchaser seemed to be THE most common of all the conversions. It was built by Griffith. The only other cars converted by them were the '82 Celica and the '81-82 AMC Eagle known as the Sundancer. They got plenty of press from the major magazines for the early Sunchaser and orders rang up quickly. Records are not available, but it is reported that several thousand Sunchasers may have been built for '80-81. There happens to be one on ebay right now. The Griffith built cars are the only ones using roll bars.



    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1980-Toy ... dZViewItem

    Also, here is a Celica on ebay right now built by American Custom Coach. This may be the second most common Celica conversion. This is a full convertible, without the rollbar. Several hundred of the ACC Celicas were built.



    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/JT2RA43C ... dZViewItem

    More to come on the Celica conversions as I get time to load them to my Flickr account....

  7. #7
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    1982 Mazda 626 Convertible

    This is a conversion I know little about. The owner knew very little about the car's history, too. (That is a common problem!) It is likely that well under 100 were built, but several dozen completed cars is probable. The "sunsetter" edition....whatever that means. The builder is listed as Sunset Coach by a sticker in the door jamb.





    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1982-Maz ... dZViewItem

    In a 1982 article in Motor Trend, they listed a company called Convertible Specialists Inc building a 626 convertible, as well as many other convertibles. I have never seen any cars built by them, so it is possible that they designed the conversion but it was installed by other companies?

    I bet you could make a decent offer on this rare car and own it yourself.


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  9. #9
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    Z-Car

    Alfadog - What is the story about the Z-Car convertibles? They look to be one-off custom cars, not series run conversions when the car was new. Do you know anything about the cars in the photos? What year are they and who converted them. Since I see no convertible top mechanism, they look to be one-off customs and not very practical when a thunderstorm pops up.

  10. #10
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    I use to have a 82 Celica convertible built by Griffith conversions. I took pictures of it including the door ID plate. I will post them when I find them.

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