When the top goes down, does the price always go up?

by Conner Golden
9 June 2023 4 min read
Broad Arrow

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 best of both worlds for value and open-air motoring? The 348 TS slots under the TB coupe but above the Spider in value. RM Sotheby’s

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.”

RM Sotheby’s

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!”


  • Boomvang says:

    Beg to differ regarding G body Porsche Targas. lately the prices have been close or even with the coupes, judging from recents on BAT.

  • Norm Johnson says:

    In my search for a 911, especially air cooled, the data (based on various auction sites and private listings throughout NA) does show values for Coupe’s is obviously the highest, Targa’s pricing can come within 10-25% of the Coupes. The Convertible’s are substantially lower especially when equipped with an automatic. This appear to back up my personal opinion that air-cooled 911 owners want the best performance 911 and a manual Coupe, without a sun roof, is at the top of the pile. This logic does not necessarily follow through into the water-cooled 911’s. To me, personally, I live the look of a Targa 911 and that is what I have been search for.

  • Russ says:

    It’s true especially in air cooled 911’s but functionally, especially in the south, the AC is so mediocre it can be miserable in the coupe. I bought the cab because of that major price difference – nothing better than a Carrera with the top down carving some mountain roads in NC. When I bought mine about 7 years ago the difference was saved me about $10 to $15k. Same engine, same suspension and handling, same wonderful sound.

  • Woodrow says:

    I always laugh when I read that buyers of closed coupes “prioritize the added rigidity and performance cred of a coupe over the open air of a targa or full-on convertible.”
    Show me the person driving any of these cars on the street at or near 10/10ths – where the advantages of a closed car might come into play – and I’ll show you a person that’s either a professional racer, or their local body shop’s best friend.
    I say this as some that’s had four open-topped mid-engine cars spanning the last forty years, in addition to a 2L sports racer that I use for track days. With respect to the street cars, never once have I said to myself, “Man, I wish I had a tin-top right now so I could have taken that last corner 5 mph faster.” On the other hand, I cannot count the number of times I’ve felt the sun on my face or looked up to see a flock of geese/ducks/pelicans/B-52’s! flying overhead.
    Absolutely will take that closed-coupe for the track, but there’s nothing better on the road then letting the outside in.

  • hyperv6 says:

    Much depends on things.

    #1 how good is the convertible? some are really bad.

    #2 how will the car be used? Street driven often?

    #3 track time?

    Then also what is the top condition and is it functioning. Repairs and replacement can get expensive.

  • Walt Boehme says:

    The 63 Corvette Coupe worth way more than the convertible, of course due to the famous Split Window.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    I prefer coupes or over convertibles so for me it was never a coup or convertible thing. If it has a targa roof or a sunroof that is fine but not a requirement as I rarely would use it.

  • louis giordano says:

    let’s not forget that 911s’ beautiful lines are ruined when top’s down, making it less appealing aesthetically than coupes or targas

  • Mark Lecrone says:

    If you look at early Mustangs, you will find the fastbacks are much higher than the convertibles. The regular coupes are less. This may just be due to supply as fastballs had lower production.

  • paul s murray says:

    The first car that came to mind was the 300 SL . Seems rather obvious to me but…oh, right not a Ferrari. Honestly ,given the choice between the gullwing or the convertible I’d take the latter, value be damned. The expression really should be ‘When the top goes down the smile goes up’. I had a girlfriend who had a 65 Malibu SS convertible that had been bought new off the lot and passed down through the family. Strictly a weekend car, low miles, one repaint of the original buttercup yellow, always ‘wintered’ down south. It had the straight six / powerglide combination ( the SS being only a styling package then, bucket seats floor mounted shift with console etc. ) so needless to say not a car meant to be driven sportingly. Still it was reliable, fairly well built and fun to just cruise around in . I miss that car, her not so much but I miss that car.

    • kevin thomas says:

      If your girlfriend lived in Maryland, I know that car! My 65 SS convertible had the superior drivetrain, but everything else about it was markedly inferior.

  • Uberfun says:

    Don’t forget convertible advantage with increased headroom! Especially with the top up, there has been, in the 911’s and other ragtops I’ve owned much better headroom. Being tall or having a long torso reduces some hardtop choices.

  • paul s murray says:

    Kevin T – No, NY. Only driven in and out of the city and garaged there which probably cost more than my studio apartment at the time. When I said it was fairly well built I meant in terms of what it was. No shakes, rattles, small items breaking and so on. ‘Must have been built on a Friday’ as the expression goes ( although they say that it is in actuality one of the worst days because of a higher absentee rate ). Needless to mention the low horse option wasn’t putting much of a demand on that chassis which probably helped. Not one of those cars that the doors don’t seem to close right and on inspection the floors are starting to rot out because of a leaky top and so the center has stated to droop . Those are the ones that I usually suggest, since you’re spending the time and money, putting in subframe connectors couldn’t hurt.

  • Bob Van Essen says:

    I think you miss the point with the F355 Ferrari. The convertible roof is like an afterthought, it doesn’t flow with the body lines. When down, you have to cover it with a vinyl cover to try and hide this big lump of a roof.
    The GTS targa on the other hand looks identical to the Coupe, particularly, when it is color coded to the car. So it’s simply the best of both worlds. The flowing lines of the coupe, and open air motoring when you want it.
    Thats why it demands a higher price.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More on this topic

Hagerty Insider Newsletter

Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.

Thank You!
Your request will be handled as soon as possible
Hagerty Insider Newsletter
Your weekly dose of auction reports, market analysis, and more.