Article: 19910701085

Title: Going Topless

19910701085
00064320
200050_19910701_064320.xml
Going Topless
0032-1478
Playboy
HMH Publishing Co., Inc.
News
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article
Sure, Chrysler is in a slump and industry insiders are speculating that Lee Iacocca may soon be driving off into the sunset. But before you wave goodbye, remember that it was largely his willingness to take a risk on the LeBaron convertible in 1982 that sparked an American ragtop renaissance. For decades, the convertible was considered the ultimate driving machine, but beginning in the late Sixties, the thrill of top-down motoring took a back seat to growing concerns over automobile safety. By 1978, when Playboy published Last of the Ragtops, MG, Fiat, Triumph, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo and a few others were "the plucky remnants of a gallant, top-down band." Today, there are about 40 makes and models of convertibles on the market, with more on the way--including Dodge's Cobra-like ten-cylinder Viper. Once again, Iacocca is taking a risk. And now that cars are safer than ever, outdoor fun is back, as the pictures on these pages attest. Turn to page 169, for Playboy's Guide to Going Topless. The good times are rolling again.
Ken Gross
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Sure, Chrysler is in a slump and industry insiders are speculating that Lee Iacocca may soon be driving off into the sunset. But before you wave goodbye, remember that it was largely his willingness to take a risk on the LeBaron convertible in 1982 that sparked an American ragtop renaissance. For decades, the convertible was considered the ultimate driving machine, but beginning in the late Sixties, the thrill of top-down motoring took a back seat to growing concerns over automobile safety. By 1978, when Playboy published Last of the Ragtops, MG, Fiat, Triumph, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo and a few others were "the plucky remnants of a gallant, top-down band." Today, there are about 40 makes and models of convertibles on the market, with more on the way--including Dodge's Cobra-like ten-cylinder Viper. Once again, Iacocca is taking a risk. And now that cars are safer than ever, outdoor fun is back, as the pictures on these pages attest. Turn to page 169, for Playboy's Guide to Going Topless. The good times are rolling again.

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Photography by Richard Fegley
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Left: Pontiac's big, sleek $19,200 Firebird is a throwback to convertibles of 20 yearsago--a rear-wheel-drive four-seater packing a muscular 3.1-liter V6 that's sufficient to settle most stop-light contests. Deeply recessed running lights and a mean, dramatically taperedhood line spell speed. Drop the top, turn up the Delco electronics stereo, enjoy the basso profundo rumble of the twin pipes and just cruise--all the way to the diner.
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Photography by Richard Fegley
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Above: Often imitated, never duplicated, the newest Renegade incarnation of the 4x4 comes with the Wrangler's 180-hp fuel-injected six-cylinder engine, eye-catching new fender flares and a luxurious (for a Jeep vehicle) interior. Purists needn't worry: Under that sleek new bodywork, there's still the heart of an off-road rebel. Price: about $15,000.
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Photography by Richard Fegley
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Don't be misled. The Ferrari 348 ts is hardly understated. Its screaming 300-hp four-cam V8 and crisp transversal five-speed gearbox mean you'll take a back seat to no one. While this slick $105,500 Pininfarina-designed machine originated as a handsome coupe, in open style, the 348 ts' sharply raked windscreen and tight little tail become beautifully accentuated.
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Photography by Richard Fegley
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Below: Toyota's Celica takes on a markedly different personality when shorn of its top. Celica ragtops begin as coupes in Japan; the steel roof is removed in California. Next, an easy-to-use convertible top is installed and finished with a sleek plastic tonneau. Price: about $21,000, with a 220-watt killer stereo.
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Right: Chevy's Geo Metro LSi convertible offers all--well, almost all--the fun in the sun you can imagine for about $9700. Its 55-hp three-cylinder engine may seem puny until you recall that the MG TC had only 54 horses and weighed considerably more. The Geo Metro LSi comes with a driver's-side air bag, and air conditioning is optional. Our recommendation: Skip the A/C and keep that top down.
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Photography by Richard Fegley
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Lotus revived an old name, Elan, for its latest gem: a fleet little two-seater. The new Elan is a pert front-wheel-drive roadster packing a 162-hp turbocharged Isuzu-Lotus twin-cam engine. (Can a front-driver offer world-class handling? When the suspension is by Lotus, it sure can.) The Elan carves up a long and winding road with the precision of a surgeon's laser. At $39,040, twice the price of a Miata, it had better.
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