15 April 2016

Our Top 5 cruisers go topless

This is a tough one. So many possibilities, so little space. But with spring finally here and classic cars emerging from hibernation across the country, we asked our Facebook followers: which car is the best cruiser?

First a disclaimer – today’s cars are decked out with so many modern (and standard) conveniences that an argument could be made that even the most basic of daily drivers could be considered a decent cruiser, depending on your trip’s length. So newer cars are out; we’re talking classics here.

Which brings us to the tough part. There are so many awesome classic cruisers out there that determining a top five that will resonate with the masses is a total crapshoot. Yes, we’d take a Porsche 911 in a heartbeat. Yes, a Volkswagen Kombi would be fun – as long as the cruise included scenic stops and overnight stays. And yes, a Mercedes drop-top (like a 280SL) would certainly fit the bill. But those three didn’t make our list.

We went for length and luxury with a dash of sportiness. And we have just one requirement across the board: make ours a convertible please.

  1. 1955-63 Ford Thunderbird
    Take your pick here. The 1955-57, ’58-60 and ’61-63 T-Birds aren’t identical, but they all have personalities that we like – all with V-8 power. As the story goes, the Thunderbird’s rapid development was Ford’s answer to the Corvette, but the car was a champion of comfort and convenience (“personally luxury,” as Ford called it), not sportiness. It worked.

  2. 1959 Buick LeSabre
    The ’59 LeSabre was actually rushed to market as an answer to Chrysler’s fresh designs, and GM did an incredible job considering it didn’t have its normal lead time. The LeSabre’s fins were “canted,” and so were its dual headlights. Add a 364-cid, 250-hp Buick V-8 under the hood and there was plenty to like. Driving one is a pleasure no matter how close or far the destination.

  3. 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88
    Redesigned for ’58, the Super 88 was chromed out and badged to the max. It was also smooth and powerful. And what would cruising be like without a little music? The new Super 88 featured a “transportable” radio, which could be removed and used outside the car upon arrival.

  4. 1961 Lincoln Continental
    The ’61 Continental was based on a stretched version of a proposed 1961 Thunderbird two-door hardtop that had been rejected as too classy and not sporty enough for the typical Thunderbird buyer. But it certainly worked as Lincoln’s new and improved Continental. In an effort to limit the car’s size as much as possible and to make the rear seat easier to access, the Continental featured suicide doors. The car was still massive though, weighing nearly 5,000 pounds, and it had an engine to match: 430 cid and 320 hp. Big car, smooth ride.

  5. 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz
    The luxurious 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz had it all (and still does): Good looks, power (390-cid, 345-hp V-8), legroom and smooth ride, plus “Biarritz” was just a fancy name for convertible (in addition to a French Basque reference). For all those things – plus the fact that not many were built (1,285) – the Biarritz is one of the most desirable classic American automobiles out there. It’s also an amazing cruiser.

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