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When the top goes down, the prices go down?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

What’s up with the Porsche cabriolet market?

Article by Rob Sass
Photos courtesy Porsche

“When the top goes down, the price goes up” has been a staple of auctioneers’ banter since the beginning of collector car auctions. With a few notable exceptions like the 1963 split window Corvette coupe and the Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing, it almost always held true, that the convertible was always more valuable than the coupe, even when—in the case of cars like the Jaguar E-type—the coupe was undeniably prettier. It’s a maxim, however, that’s likely to go away as Baby Boomers increasingly relinquish command of the vintage car hobby to Gen-Xers and Millennials.

Above: 964 Carrera 4.

Convertibles were emblematic of the post-war American “good life” from the 1940s until 1975 when it looked like rollover safety laws would do away with convertibles for good. The legislation never happened, and convertibles even staged a minor comeback in the early 1980s, but they were never as numerous as they’d been pre-1975. Consequently, post-Baby Boomers never developed an attachment to open cars. Indifference to convertibles is particularly true in the Porsche world where there was a convertible desert from 1965 until 1983.  The more outspoken regard them as structurally compromised fashion accessories.

Above: 1983 911 SC Cabriolet.

In spite of relative rarity in many cases, convertible Porsche values lag behind those of coupes. For example, the 1983 911 SC cabriolet, Porsche’s first fully open production car since the 356C went out of production, is a genuinely rare car that made the cover of every buff book when it was introduced. Built to celebrate the last year of 911 SC production, it’s nearly a forgotten car today in spite of its scarcity. 3.2 Carrera cabs, 930 cabs, and 964 and 993 cabs also seem to bring less than coupes and even Targas. Only ultra-low production open body-styles like the 911 Speedster seem to catch the attention of collectors of post-1980 Porsches.

Above: 964 Speedster.

It’s the same in the transaxle car world. Although the 944 S2 cabriolet is a very pretty car, with its low, almost Speedster-like top, desirability in the market has fallen behind that of the S2 coupe. Even the scarce 968 cabriolet is currently in less demand than the 968 coupe. The perception that a lot of 968 cabs tend to be Tiptronics might make the car a tougher sell, even though some prefer the styling to the 944 and the color palette loosened up a bit during the 968 years with Guards Red seeming to predominate just a bit less. The fact that a lot of owners track their 944s and 968s probably accounts for at least some of the coupe preference there.

Even later model cars like the 996 Turbo show a distinct coupe bias where cabriolets tend to show a 15-20% discount over coupes. The emerging preference for closed cars is uncharted territory in the collector car world. Whether it will continue or not is anyone’s guess, but it certainly seems firmly engrained in the Porsche and even the BMW world where cars like the Z3 M Coupe and E36 M3 coupe are vastly preferred over their open counterparts.

Above: 996 Turbo Cabriolet.

For now, it means that in a rising market, a Porsche cabriolet can be a relative bargain in addition to being a fair bit of fun on a sunny summer day.

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