The problem that engineers and designers face when creating a convertible out of a coupe or sedan is that roofs are usually an integral part of both the car’s structural integrity and overall styling. Cutting the roof and pillars out means that the body must be reinforced elsewhere or you will get “cowl shake” and other ways the car body will twist and deform. Then there is styling. While most cars’ designs can tolerate being turned into a roadster or phaeton by just removing everything north of the belt line, most open top cars look much better with that open top open, not closed. It’s a rare convertible that looks as good as a hardtop when the convertible’s roof is up. The Ferrari 458 Italia Spider is an exception to those generalities as it was designed from the start to be an open car. This convertible is not a converted coupe. The body is as stiff or stiffer than the coupe and it was styled from the outset as an open car. As a matter of fact there are lots of folks who think the 458 Spider looks better with the top up than the coupe version does. The flying buttress shaped sail panel C pillar structures also serve as fairings or cowlings behind the seats a la ’50s era sports racers or the 1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster, and they look great with the retractable hardtop up or down. Car stylists are not immune to influence and in those fairings I see a bit of the Porsche Carrera GT or the Bugatti Veyron. Even though it looks fine with the roof up, you’ll have a hard time finding photos of the 458 Spider in closed form. Car makers are aware of the auction saying, “when the roof goes down the price goes up” and photographers are just as swayed by an open car as auction bidders. You’re in luck, though.
Every Fathers’ Day, the Eyes On Design show is held at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford Estate outside of Detroit to benefit the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. This year the skies looked a bit threatening for most of the event and eventually opened up with a cloudburst just as the event was ending. As a result most of the exhibitors of convertibles, roadsters, phaetons and other open cars left their cars’ roofs up. The local Ferrari dealer, I suppose, didn’t want to risk damaging the handcrafted leather interior of the 458 Italia so they too left the car in closed form. That was fortunate because now you get to see, in 3D, what the 458 looks like with the roof up.