Seeing as I have a break from school, I am back in the lightbox again on this Teutonic Tuesday! Here are two 80’s droptop convertibles that perfectly encapsulate the state of the burgeoning affordable executive market in Europe of the time.
The E30 needs no introduction as the ultimate yuppie-mobile of its era and the car that kick started the compact-executive segment. The convertible variant in question is a Baur conversion from the people who have been chopping roofs off Bimmers for decades.
It is interesting that this was seen as a stylish vehicle in the day as the “coupe” variant of the E30 is really more of a two-door sedan (a la 2002) and a far cry from the curvaceous 4-Series of today.
Still, people were big on convertibles in the eighties and nowhere is that more apparent than in the existence of the Ford Escort XR3i convertible.
Though the third generation Escort was jointly developed by Ford in Brentwood and Ford in Cologne, the convertible is a uniquely German proposition from Karmann of Karmann Ghia fame.
With hot touches like the original XR3 trim and Cosworth-fettled engines, the third-generation Escort marked a turn in the market where economy cars could sell on more than just practicality and frugality. It could be said that this Escort and its contemporary Golf were the cars that started the ascent of C-segment compacts from tinny, miserable little contraptions to the luxurious, leather-lined and turbocharged behemoths of today.
Thus, this E30 cabrio and Escort convertible represent the beginning of the compact executive and the luxurious compact respectively yet harken back to an era where the convertible was the ultimate expression of modern luxury and success.
Today it is the CUV that carries that position though in a different way; no longer do we prize impracticality and open-air motoring—instead we aim for comfort and status as reflected in the current market. Ford’s Escape is the second best selling Blue Oval product in the United States, and BMW continues to slice its compact CUV market share into smaller and smaller niches with the X3, X1, X4, and now X2.
Whatever the reason, these two Teutonic droptops are special in simultaneously representing the beginning of an era and the last of a breed in their luxurious status as soft-top convertibles.