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.