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The Obscure World Of Four-Door Convertibles

Vukasin Herbez June 6, 2019

Even though four-door convertibles are practically extinct these days, most true car lovers still regard them as the pinnacle of open-top luxury. Once both popular and common, the four-door convertible class slowly started to disappear after World War II. The reason was simple since four-door convertibles have problematic torsion rigidity due to their construction. A long and open-top car makes the body twist, which is not pleasant.

Back in the ‘30s when cars had those sturdy, ladder-type chassis, the four-door convertible was a popular option. But when cars moved to unibody structures, this body style didn’t work anymore. However, some manufacturers still produce four-door convertibles. So read on to learn about the most interesting and obscure four-door convertible models.

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15. Duesenberg SJ

Duesenberg was one of the most famous and sadly, discontinued luxury manufacturers known for combining superb quality with big power. Their SJ and SSJ four-door model, which was available as a convertible, they built in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s were among the fastest cars of the period.

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That was due to the big straight-eight engines they used with a supercharger. Interestingly, the output ranged from 260 to as much as 400 HP in SSJ trim.

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14. Lincoln K-Series

The successor to the popular and important L-Series was the K-Series they debuted in 1931 and offered up to 1941. The K-Series was a true world-class automobile that could rival anything from Cadillac, Packard, Mercedes or Duesenberg.

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Powered by the new and massive 447 cubic inch V12, the K-Series delivered 150 HP and serious performance for the standards of the day. Lincoln offered the K-Series in many body styles including a four-door convertible. Also, you could order the special coach-built body, which many customers did.

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13. Cadillac V16

The Cadillac V16 had a displacement of 452 CID or 7.4-liters and produced 185 HP. Despite these relatively small power figures, this engine delivered unmatched torque, smoothness and effortless acceleration. Unfortunately, the timing of the introduction couldn’t be worse since the stock market crashed. In fact, the Great Depression started just a few months before they offered the V16.

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However, the qualities of the V16 found their way to many buyers. And in 1940, when they stopped production, they built more than 4,000 of those magnificent machines. The V16 was available in all body styles, including a four-door convertible, which many specialized body shops produced. And best of all, they would personalize them according to the wishes of the buyer.

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12. Ford V8 DeLuxe

Although the advertised power of the early ‘30s Ford V8 was just 65 HP, it was significantly more than their competitors. In fact, it turned Ford’s four doors into real performance machines for the masses.

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The early ‘30s Ford is the most popular for its two-door coupe and roadster variants. However, Ford offered a four-door convertible that provided passengers with open top comfort and significant performance.

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11. Buick Roadmaster

The late ‘30s Buick Roadmaster was one of the most popular luxury cars from GM at the time. It came with a potent straight-eight engine that provided great acceleration and effortless cruising. Interestingly, buyers could only get two body styles of the Roadmaster.

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They offered it in a four-door sedan or four-door convertible. In fact, GM produced more convertibles than sedans in the model years between 1938 and 1940.

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10. Frazer Manhattan

Although forgotten today, Frazer, or Frazer-Nash, was a well-respected independent American carmaker. The company was a major player in the economy car field during the post-war period. One of their most interesting models was the Manhattan.

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It was a dependable and affordable mid-size sedan they also offered as a four-door convertible. Unfortunately, the market didn’t respond well so the model lasted just a couple of years.

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9. Lincoln Continental Convertible

When Lincoln showed the new 1961 Continental, the automotive public was stunned. The elegant styling, conservative use of chrome, straight lines, and futuristic design transformed the four-door luxury model into a work of modern art. All of a sudden, their sales doubled. But best of all, the new Continental became the official car of the White House because of its stately appearance and restrained elegance.

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But the best exterior feature was the suicide doors with the rear doors opening towards the traffic. Of course, this wasn’t the best solution, but it only added to the charm of the Continental. Interestingly, Lincoln offered a cool-looking four-door convertible model that proved to be popular and quite unique on the market.

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8. Chevrolet Caribe Concept

Back in 1966, Chevrolet was inspired by the Continental convertible, so they decided to introduce a four-door model open-top car they would base on the Impala. They named it the Caribe Concept. This beautiful convertible sparked the imagination of the public.

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In fact, Chevrolet even announced that it would be a production model. However, it didn’t happen. Sadly, GM realized the cost of fabricating would be significant, so they abandoned the idea.

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7. Volkswagen Type 181 “The Thing”

Volkswagen based this vehicle on the ultra-popular and influential VW Beatle. The Type 181, also known as “The Thing,” was a utilitarian version for buyers to use as a beach vehicle. Interestingly, the true roots of this model go back to Nazi Germany and the military version they called the Kubelwagen.

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The Kubelwagen was the German rival to the Jeep Willys. Using the VW Beetle floorpan and engine, it had an open-top body similar to the Type 181. But the best feature is the fact that it has four doors and no roof.

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6. Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

For decades, the Jeep Wrangler was strictly a three-door vehicle. Then in 2006, Jeep introduced their Unlimited body style with two additional doors, as well as more room and comfort. However, since the Wrangler is a utilitarian vehicle, Jeep made it with a removable plastic roof.

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And that means owners could transform it into a convertible just by unbolting a few bolts. The Wrangler Unlimited without the roof and with four doors is one of the few modern four-door convertibles.

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5. Hummer H1

The civilian Hummer H1 debuted in 1992 and it looked almost the same as the military version. Also, it featured the same technology and engine. The power came from a 6.2-liter diesel V8 with just 165 HP but loads of torque. Basically, the only real difference between the military and civilian Hummer was the interior.

Photo Credit: Exotic Motor Cars

The street-legal model had a much plusher interior with air-conditioning and leather upholstery, as well as a premium audio system. The Hummer H1 was expensive and terrible to drive. Add to that, it was impractical and as big as a house. It also could be had with removable roof panels that transformed it into a huge four-door convertible.

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4. Chrysler Newport Phaeton Pace Car

One of the most interesting four-door convertibles was a Newport one-off, which they created in 1941. Chrysler was awarded the pace car title for 1941 at the Indy 500 race. To celebrate, Chrysler wanted to make it special in the form of the one-off Newport Parade Phaeton Convertible.

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The Newport Phaeton Pace Car got its power from a 145 HP straight-six engine. And that engine provided enough performance to lead the first race in front of a grid full of race cars.

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3. Mercedes Ocean Drive

For a moment back in 2007, it looked like the four-door convertible would make a big return when Mercedes introduced the Ocean Drive Concept. They based it on the current S-Class executive sedan. It featured a specially crafted body and interior as well as a custom-made automatic top.

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Mercedes was on the verge of full-scale production when manufacturing problems like the difficult execution of the roof mechanism killed the project. Sadly, the beautiful Mercedes Ocean Drive remained in the concept category.

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2. Chrysler 300 C Four-Door Convertible

Similar to Mercedes, Chrysler played with the idea of a four-door luxury convertible in 2010. And the 300C sedan was the perfect candidate. Chrysler gave it an elegant silhouette, Hemi engine, and luxurious interior. However, it failed to enter full-scale production since the company abandoned the idea.

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But, you can still buy a 300 C Four-Door Convertible today. That is because several independent coach companies started producing customized Chryslers with this feature.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

1. Cadillac Ciel Concept

When Cadillac presented the concept in 2011 at the Pebble Beach Concourse the Elegance, the Cadillac Ciel was the star of the show. This luxury four-door convertible was exactly what the Cadillac brand stands for. And that is prestige, elegance, high class, and uniqueness. The Ciel Concept promoted a new design language and Cadillac’s intentions to become the world’s leading luxury brand once again. The word, “Ciel,” means “sky” in French. They powered this concept car with a twin-turbo V6 producing 425 HP. However, there still are no plans for production.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

Welcome to the interesting and obscure world of four-door convertibles. Did you find your favorite on this list? Some of these cars are unavailable, while others are easy to find, depending on which one you chose. But, no matter which one you end up with, you’ll be the envy of your neighborhood with one of these sitting in your driveway.

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