An expert breaks down the pros, cons of hardtop, soft-top convertibles

There’s nothing more thrilling than dropping the top of a convertible on a sunny day and hitting the open road. Like all fun things automotive, though, there is a major consideration when it comes to convertible tops, especially in arid climates like Las Vegas: Should you have a hardtop or cloth-top convertible?

It’s an issue best left to the experts, and few people know this issue better than Doug Haartz, international sales manager and customer service manager for The Haartz Corp., a world leader in highly engineered and uniquely designed convertible toppings and interior surface materials.

Haartz Corp. works with every automobile manufacturer worldwide on design, technology and color. Haartz’s family has been doing so since 1907.

Haartz, a walking encyclopedia on all things convertible, said materials today are made with yarn systems that incorporate the best available technology, from ultraviolet-reflective technology to fade resistance. Soft fabric roofs today are built to last through the rigors of daily use, in all climates and conditions.

“From the daily driver in extreme northern climates, to the sun-drenched environment of the Southwestern USA, soft tops are expected to perform as well as their coupe/sedan siblings in all situations,” said Haartz, who works from the company’s North American headquarters in Acton, Massachusetts.

“Cloth tops today are designed to withstand the rigors of the environment,” he said. “Testing is done in all kinds of extreme conditions from Arctic to subtropical to desert. Stringent requirements are built into the soft-top fabric so that no matter what car company or region of the world is considered, performance is assured.”

Cloth-top convertibles offer trunk space, Haartz said. A hardtop convertible’s roof requires more space for storage when in the open position. In some convertibles, it’s impossible to store more than an overnight bag. You can forget golf clubs and luggage in some hardtop models.

A perceived detraction from soft tops, Haartz said, is that they are hard to keep clean, look worn and need to be replaced often.

A well-cared-for soft top will last as long as the car. That means owners need to follow care guidelines.

Are they easy to maintain? No, but it’s worth the investment in time and materials to do so, said Haartz, who makes his living from soft-top convertibles.

“Soft tops offer more options for individuality, are as safe as the retractable hard tops … and typically will cost less to develop and manufacture than their retractable hard-top counterparts,” he said.

He said cloth tops are as safe as hard tops. But how? Roll bars sense when a convertible is going wheels-up. They’ll pop instantly because all roofs, regardless of composition, must provide the same rollover protection.

Findlay North Volkswagen sales manager Gary Robinson said convertibles such as the soft-top Volkswagen Beetle rarely remain in stock.

“They sell pretty quickly because there’s a limited availability,” he said. “The weather is also really nice here and they give people the flexibility to enjoy a nice day while offering a great driving experience.”

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