Why chopping the roof off a 2014 Corvette Stingray makes it better
Convertibles get denounced by enthusiasts for being less pure. There’s some truth to that: installing the hydraulics to retract the roof adds weight, it usually makes the car look like a plank of wood, and it comprehensively ruins the handling by sacrificing structural rigidity.
See. Less pure.
Only, Chevrolet doesn't agree. It claims the 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible is just as good as its hardtop twin, and can even outdo a McLaren 12C in its in-house stiffness tests. Come again?
Not all convertibles are bad handlers; cars like the Mazda Miata are universally treasured. But a Miata didn’t have its roof chopped off; it never had one in the first place. And perhaps that's why it’s so adored—we don’t fully appreciate that, with one, it could be even better.
Convertibles have come a long way from the roofless variants of the Geo Metros and Pontiac Sunfires—cars so soft they make Drake look tough. But as a general rule, if a performance enthusiast has the choice between coupe and convertible, they’ll pick the better handling hardtop over its flimsy headless twin. And they’ll save money doing it.
There are exceptions, however: most notably, the McLaren 12C. The Spider is indiscernible from the coupe in terms of handling, and yet it defies rule #2 by appearing more attractive. The McLaren is the only real convertible that isn't a sacrifice; all others sell because a buyer is willing to give up performance in return for fresh air. (L.A. smog never tasted so good.)
The 12C Spider works because it was designed from scratch without a roof, much like an open-top race car. But it doesn’t need the heavy structural braces to strengthen the platform like most convertible sports cars; its rigid carbon chassis has all the strength it needs. It’s a masterpiece—one that's so good it's cannibalizing sales of the 12C coupe.
April December fools?
Corvette convertibles are not known for being on par with the hardtop variant. They are known, however, for being the preferred midlife crisis car for portly gentlemen that dye their hair and wear Rush t-shirts. As any gearhead will tell you, if you want to experience the full capabilities of a Corvette, you must drive the coupe, not the floppy soft top. So what’s the deal?