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The very best in convertibles

The Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet sells for $81,400, and gets 325 hp from its entry-level, six-cylinder engine.
The Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet sells for $81,400, and gets 325 hp from its entry-level, six-cylinder engine.Porsche
/ Source: Forbes

Spend $333,000 on a car, and your dealer will give you any modification or customization your heart desires — or so you would think. When rapper Stack$ asked to have his Phantom sedan turned into a convertible, his Rolls-Royce dealer in Miami said no.

We knew this was coming. Rolls Chairman Ian Robertson told us over dinner a few months ago that the company will make virtually any change a Phantom buyer requests — as long as the modification does not compromise the car's integrity. Chopping the Phantom's top, Robertson said, would alter the car's engineering, as its chassis, body and safety systems were not designed with convertible conversions in mind.

What we didn't see coming was Stack$' decision to chop off his Phantom's roof on his own. He hired Wisconsin-based Gennadi Design to make his Phantom an open-air car, a procedure for which Gennadi charges $198,000; it can also turn your $141,000Ford GT supercar into a convertible for $38,000. Stack$ says on his Web site that basketballer Shaquille O'Neal offered him a check for the car “the second we got it to Miami.” He declined, saying, “I need it for my video.”

This story illustrates the lust that buyers have for luxury convertibles. At all pricing tiers, the market is booming, with new offerings appearing all the time. Recent arrivals include Ford Motor's Jaguar XK, Volvo's C70 and Aston Martin's DB9, as well as General Motors' Cadillac XLR-V and Porsche's 911 Carrera Cabriolet.

At the top end of the luxury-car market, companies are rushing convertibles to showrooms. Around September, Bentley will begin selling the $350,000 Azure convertible, a version of its flagship Arnage sedan. At the recent New York International Auto Show, Bentley introduced another convertible, the two-door Continental GTC, which will go on sale later this year.

Rolls-Royce has its own convertible on the way — not a Phantom derivative, but a new model based on its 100EX prototype from the 2004 Geneva Motor Show. The Rolls convertible will come to market in June 2007.

Company officials say a convertible had to be its next offering, given that prospective buyers ask about convertibles more than any other body style. For Stack$, getting a Rolls-Royce convertible was not enough; he wanted one before the general public could get them, as evidenced by the lyrics of his single "Git It, Git It."

Asked about Stack$' custom-made car, a Rolls-Royce spokesman said, "I must say, it looks like they did a nice job."

While readers will have to wait to see the Rolls and Bentley convertibles come to market, plenty of exotic, expensive convertibles are available now. There's the $174,000 Aston Martin DB9 Volante, the $100,000 Cadillac XLR-V, the $200,000 Ferrari F430 Spider from Fiat, the $187,000 Mercedes-Benz SL65 AMG from DaimlerChrysler and the $319,000 Lamborghini Murciélago Roadster, all of which made our slide show.

One super-expensive roadster, the $440,000 Porsche Carrera GT, did not make our list, for two reasons. First, we don't know how much longer it's going to be available, based on its very limited volume. Second, we feel you can get the perfect convertible for $240,000 to $265,000 less, in the form of the Ferrari or Aston Martin drop tops.

We passed up another great Porsche convertible, the Boxster, because the faster, flashier, more expensive and sexier 911 made our list, and we saw no need to include a “lesser” Porsche in the mix. The same goes for other Mercedes convertibles below the flagship SL65. We love the Boxster and we love the Mercedes SLK-Class convertible, but this list is about the best of the best — not the best and the almost-best.