The new 2020 Corvette Convertible is finally here, and for the first time in history, it has a folding hardtop roof. I’d be lying if I said I’ve seen much angst and anger over this fact, but I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t expect it to happen. People hate change, historic marquee fans as much as anyone. So why did the General Motors engineers change from a cloth roof to a hardtop? Let us count the reasons why.
The most obvious reason to adopt a metal and plastic roof is security. The constant bane of any convertible owner is the bogeyman (ne bogeyperson) of a ne’er-do-well with a knife, seemingly around every corner ready to hack into your convertible roof and steal all the loose contents of your car’s cabin. I’d love to see actual police reports of how common this is, but it can’t be that widespread given the fact that most new convertibles are still cloth topped. While the lack of security is certainly high on the soft top’s negatives list, it is doubtful this was the main reason for the change in C8 Corvette.
As I just mentioned, cloth roofs are the most common type of convertible, and it has been thus ever since the introduction of the first automobiles. The reasons why the first “convertibles” and the majority of today’s true convertibles are soft tops are the fact that they are lighter, simpler, less prone to catastrophic failure, and less expensive to produce at the factory. In any automaker’s twin goals of producing cars profitably and creating a good ownership experience, cloth roofs have historically had all the advantages.
What has changed, and what was certainly front of mind for the Corvette C8 engineers, was the buying public’s current demand that our cars be temple-silent once we are ensconced inside their plush cabins. As a society, we now expect our vehicles to be completely without wind noise, rattles, shakes, or knocks of any kind. The reduction of noise – or NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) to us car nerds – is without a doubt the primary reasoning behind General Motors going through the extra headache and expense of designing, manufacturing, and servicing warranties on the folding hardtop.
This reduction in noise, and the solid roof itself, lend the C8 a more upscale and mature feel. This is no bad thing for a car model that has historically battled with a perception of poor quality and cheap materials (sexy fiberglass!) and has always been attempting to join the “big-boys” club of sports cars. Previous generations of the Corvette have been lauded for their big horsepower, but not much else. A noise-cancelling and security-enhancing folding hardtop could do wonders for this reputation, and might just gain them entry into the Europeans’ fancy sports car club.
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