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Whether you’re a convertible owner, or maybe an aspiring one, here at Prestige Soft Tops, we understand your passion, and share it. We’re convertible fanatics and soft tops enthusiasts, and there’s nothing we enjoy more than some convertible facts. Keep reading to gain an insight into some of the history, terminology, features, and facts about the car we all know and love so much.

Close up of a soft top convertible

Convertible or Cabriolet?

What’s in a name? You have probably heard both of the terms “convertible” and “cabriolet” to describe a car with a retracting or foldable roof. So, which is the proper term? The simple answer is this: both.

Cabriolet is the term that came first and was originally used to describe a type of carriage. These carriages were first designed with two wheels, and a foldable roof, and were pulled by a single horse. Later designs had four wheels, and an extra seat for the driver. Have a look at Britannica for some interesting information about the origins of the word cabriolet.

The further you look into terminology, the more names and nicknames you get, from cabrio, open top, and even spider.

So, what is in a name? Well, when it comes to the convertible, almost anything goes!

Convertible Design Features

There are a number of structural and design features that work together in a convertible car, some of which may not immediately come to mind. Read on to learn about some of the lesser-known features of convertibles.

Rear Window: The rear window is an important part of the convertible car. In modern times, the rear window of a soft top convertible can be made of glass, though traditionally, they were made of plastic.

Wind Blocker: The function of a wind blocker can be found in its name: it acts to block wind from reaching the passengers in the car. Also known as a wind deflector, this feature attempts to solve one of the most common convertible complaints – exposure to wind and subsequent noise.

Tonneau Cover: A tonneau cover is commonly used to describe a hard or soft cover placed over the bed of a ute, though it also has another meaning. In the context of a convertible car, a tonneau is a cover that protects the passenger seats from the sun and other elements, when the soft or hard roof is retracted.

The Invention of the Soft Top Convertible

The history of the convertible is somewhat murky and some of the facts are a little hard to discern, but there are some things about the invention of convertibles that are clear. The very first cars invented were open-air cars, with no roofs and sometimes no sides, as they were modelled after horse-drawn carriages, or the cabriolets we mentioned above.

As early as the end of the 1800s, these first cars came to have roofs made of leather or fabric, that folded back to convert the car to its open-roof mode. It was not until the early 1920s that a manually retractable hard top roof was invented by Ben P. Ellerbeck, and not until 1934 that a fully mechanical retractable hard roof convertible was released by Peugeot.

It is these early 20th century models that paved the way for the convertible cars that we know today, and no doubt as technology keeps evolving and our needs keep changing, we will see many more advancements in these vehicles.

Types of Soft Tops

Did you know that there is more than one type of soft top? That’s right – your roof could belong in one of two categories. Read on to find out which one yours belongs in.

Vinyl: The use of vinyl for convertible tops dates back to those early convertibles that were modelled after carriages. Vinyl is still used today as it is a durable material that looks visually appealing and is fairly easy to clean and maintain.

Cloth: Comparably a little more difficult to clean than vinyl, cloth tops are used today as they too are durable and deflect noise slightly better than vinyl. They require slightly more effort when it comes to maintenance.

Whether yours is a vinyl or cloth roof, Prestige Soft Tops can help with all your maintenance needs. Check out our cleaning guide for all the information you could need on safely cleaning your roof and to discover our range of recommended cleaning products.

Looking for Soft Top Experts?

Look no further than Prestige Soft Tops. We understand and share your passion for your car, and we want to help you maintain and preserve the beauty and functionality of your soft top roof. Don’t hesitate to email us at or fill out our contact form, and we will happily get back to you.