Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (2024)

As the seasons change and rain clouds make way for fresh foliage and flowers, it’s easy to start daydreaming about open-air motoring. If you, like us, have been perusing the classifieds for a reasonably priced and fun convertible, these selections might broaden your horizon. Each can be had in #3 (Good) condition for less than $30,000, and offer a mix of performance, cruising capability, classic looks, or a blend of all three. Hopefully, there’s something here that gets your gears turning and conjuring up thoughts of top-down oceanside drives or aimless canyon exploration.

2009 Pontiac Solstice GXP

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (1)

#3 (Good) Value: $11,600

GM’s Kappa convertibles, sold in the U.S. as the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice, were initially offered with a naturally aspirated, 177hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It wasn’t long, however, before Red Line and GXP trims, respectively, gave the twins GM’s first direct-injection engine, the 260hp 2.0L turbocharged LNF. GM even offered a tune and a 3-bar MAP sensor to manage more boost and net 290hp. The rare hardtop Solstice is a pricey collectible, but the convertible remains an affordable option. The car’s frequent criticism was its lack of luggage space. However, it does bring a solid chassis, sporty handling, and room for some serious rubber under those curvy fenders.

1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder GS-T

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (2)

#3 (Good) Value: $12,400

The Eagle Talon, Plymouth Laser, and Mitsubishi Eclipse offered buyers three flavors of stylish, affordable sport compact as part of the partnership known as Diamond Star Motors (DSM), named for the combined brand logos of Mitsubishi and Chrysler. Unfortunately for Plymouth fans, the Laser never made it into the second generation of the cars, which lasted from 1994-1998, and arguably had the best design. In more bad news for fans of Mopar brands, the Eagle, while available with the same powertrains as the Mitsubishi, was not offered as a convertible. The sole DSM drop-top is the Eclipse, and the GS-T is the most potent, packing a 210hp 2.0-liter turbocharged 4G63 engine.

2012 Chevrolet Corvette

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (3)

#3 (Good) Value: $22,000

C6 Corvettes are a lot of car for the money, especially the later models that ditched the 400hp, cathedral-port LS2 for the bump in displacement and better breathing of the LS3. The Grand Sport trim, with its wider bodywork, dry-sump oiling system, and track-tuned suspension, is barely out of range for this list, unless you’re in the market for an automatic. For those that insist on three pedals, the standard Corvette convertible comes in well under our price cap, and that gets you a Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual trans, and a 430hp LS3 V-8 for a fabulous top-down soundtrack.

1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia

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#3 (Good) Value: $22,900

Despite sharing its underpinnings and powertrain with the VW Beetle, the Type 14 Karmann Ghia managed to look special thanks to its hand-finished body and concept car styling. Marking the end of an era, the 1971 models were the last to use thinner, more elegant bumpers. Enjoy the simple, easy-to-service Beetle drivetrain and ample aftermarket to keep this curvy cruiser running in tip-top shape for very little money.

1957 Ford Thunderbird

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (5)

#3 (Good) Value: $28,700

The final year of the first-generation Thunderbird brought exclusive styling with subtle fins that make Ford’s Jet Age taillights seem even more appropriate. Inside, a new dash pod with round gauges gave the ‘Bird a sportier look to reflect its boost in power over the previous year’s offerings. The 292-cubic inch, two-barrel V-8 base engine in 1957 is even more affordable, but we picked the 245hp four-barrel 312 version for our list. Both the dual-quad 312 and the supercharged 312 demand a lot more money, but a resourceful hot-rodder could tune up any of the Y-block V-8s to be plenty of fun, fun, fun.

1969 Mercury Cougar XR-7

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (6)

#3 (Good) Value: $28,800

In 1967 and 1968, Mercury’s upscale pony car still had obvious Mustang roots. In 1969, things changed. Despite sharing a platform and powertrains with the Mustang, the Cougar looked like a different beast entirely, particularly in convertible form. As opposed to the Mustang’s quad-headlight front end, the Cougar’s hidden headlights were a preview of the 1970 Montego. The Cougar is a rare sight compared to a Mustang and its sweeping lines and muscular haunches make it an underappreciated example of Mercury’s muscle car-era styling. We picked a four-barrel, 351-powered example, which should provide ample power for top-down cruising. Both the 390 and 428 engine options fall outside our price range, but that’s OK, as we’re not drag racing with the top down anyway.

1987 Morgan 4/4

Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (7)

#3 (Good) Value: $29,800

Speaking of drag racing, aside from the air-cooled VW, this Morgan is the least likely to show up at your local NHRA test-and-tune to go heads up against the local hotshots. That’s just not its scene. Packing 96hp, this minimalist machine is hand-built for the kind of top-down motoring exemplified by Pre-War British roadsters. Morgan just kept making them that way. Narrow, close to the road, and with the wind whipping around you and the engine buzzing, normal speeds will feel like race pace. The Ford Kent 1599cc crossflow engine was produced for decades and was used in several forms of motorsport worldwide, so there’s no shortage of knowledge and parts available.


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Dreaming of Summer: 7 Convertibles for Less than $30K - Hagerty Media (2024)
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