Our recent market rundown of 2+2 coupes provided a new variation on longtime auctioneer Dean Kruse’s proverb of “when the top goes down, the price goes up!” It seems that for the most part, values plummet inverse to inches added to the wheelbase. So, logic prevails—as it largely does with Kruse’s original convertible v. coupe aphorism. Largely is the key word there—there are some notable exceptions.
What happens when the market bucks this drop-top logic? There are some models out there that have us scratching our heads. What makes a selection of fixed-roof cars more valuable—in some cases, significantly so—than their retractable roof siblings?
We’ll start with the weirdest first. The Ferrari 348 (1989-1994) and Ferrari F355 (1994-1999) could be ordered in three distinct bodystyles; coupe, soft-top retractable convertible, and a manual targa roof. Logic dictates that the soft-top convertible would be the more expensive, right? After all, there are few daydreams more evocative than costal cruising in an open-air exotic—a sentiment supported by the majority of that segment.
Except, everything goes wonky when you chart the 348 and F355. Sticking with the non-limited “base” 348, the “TB” coupe is most expensive, followed by the targa-roofed “TS” and finally by the soft-topped Spider. The F355 value hierarchy is even goofier; the targa-topped GTS’ commands a not-insignificant eight-percent premium in Condition #2 (Excellent) over the Berlinetta coupe.
The F355 Spider trails both by a significant margin. It’s down 40 percent against the coupe, and a whopping 53 percent when compared to a GTS in the same Condition #2. In more tangible figures, you’ll pay an average of $69,000 more for the GTS ($202,000) than Spider ($133,000).
Raw data alone can’t explain this discrepancy, so we rang up noted Ferrari expert Colleen Sheehan of Ferraris Online for some insight. The truth is a lot simpler than we expected.
“The tops on [F355] Spiders are really, really bad,” Sheehan tells us during a phone interview. “Even when the Spider’s tops do work, they’re horrendous. You must have the car on, have the doors closed, have the windows down, and then you can try the button and pray to the gods it works.”
We ask her if it’s common for Spider owners leave the car parked in the garage with the top-down, driven only on fair-weather days to avoid the hassle. “Pretty much, and when it’s down all the time, the elastic bands in the top get bent out of shape, and this furthers the issue,” she says.
This drives buyers in search of an open-top F355 to the GTS, as the manually removed roof centerpiece is mostly fuss-free. Now, simple supply-and-demand comes into effect; “They also simply made more coupes,” Sheehan explains. Sources indicate 4871 coupes, 3817 Spiders, and 2577 GTS before production closed—so, nearly twice the number of coupes to targas.
Sheehan indicates supply-and-demand production imbalance is familiar amongst certain Ferrari models. “It’s funny, since the 308 GTB [coupe] is more valuable since they made so many less than the targa-roofed GTS,” she laughs. “Dinos are the same but flipped, as they made more coupes than targas.”
Now, fast-forward to the F355’s successor. The 1999-2004 Ferrari 360 ended production with 8800 coupes and 7565 Spiders produced, so the numbers are already in favor of the Spider. Then consider the 360’s retractable top is far superior to the F355’s, and there is no targa-roofed example to spread out demand, and the 360 Spider’s 48 percent premium fits squarely into the traditional narrative of the collector market. Mystery solved.
Or is it?
A general overview of the collector car market indicates that yes, anomalies notwithstanding, convertibles do sell for premiums over coupes—up to a point. “Open cars being worth more in the majority of cases is true up through the 1980s, but then there’s a switch to the majority of closed cars worth more,” says John Wiley, Hagerty’s manager of data analytics.
Wiley posits this might come down, at least in part, to the same factors dictating the Ferrari market, and that convertibles from and before the 1970s have lower rates of survival than more modern drop-tops. And, since air conditioning was less common in older cars—think muscle cars and larger mid-century European tourers—a drop-top appeals to more people in a wider variety of climates.
The standout exceptions to Kruse’s saying, Wiley notes, are 1980s and newer German and Japanese performance cars—two segments on the rise. Buyers of these cars almost overwhelmingly prefer coupes to any sort of removable or retractable roof. Porsches, BMWS, the original Acura NSX, and the Mk. IV Toyota all prioritize the added rigidity and performance cred of a coupe over the open air of a targa or full-on convertible. It’s only when there are particularly rare or collectible convertible variants when this trend flips. For Porsches, this means going back to earlier production years with soft-window 1967-1969 911 Targas and soft-top 356s.
Things return to “normal” with American cars. Our data indicates that with the exception of the imminently-collectible 1963 Chevrolet Corvette “Split-Window” coupe, mainstays like the Mustang, Camaro, and Corvette are generally worth more as convertibles.
All this to say:
“When the top goes down, the price usually goes up!”