How To

Despite the chill weather, here's how to keep driving topless

If you like the feeling of losing the roof on a clear day (or a full-moon night), the technology is there to make the most of convertible driving. Some tips on extending the season for convertibles.

It’s cool today, huh? Time to pull out the warmer clothing and turn off the car’s air-conditioning. And time to think about the end of the season.

This really sucks, of course. In another couple of months, motorcyclists will be putting away the bikes, drivers will be putting on the winter tires and convertible owners will be faced with their annual dilemma: top up today, or top down?

Despite the frozen grins, convertible drivers really don’t like putting the top down when it’s cold, and especially not when the snow falls and the muck flies into their clean leather cockpits. Can’t really blame them.

But if you like the feeling of losing the roof on a clear day (or a full-moon night), the technology is there to make the most of convertible driving.

Here are some tips to stay topless as long as possible:

Keep a couple of hats and a scarf in the glove compartment. And gloves, too — there’s a novel idea. With the top down in cooler weather, it’s your head that gets cold and that lovely feeling of wind in your hair — or more likely, I’m afraid, over your balding scalp — is unpleasant when it changes from a warm caress to a chilly rub. But a toque and an extra layer will make all the difference.

If you’re in the market for a car, make sure it includes seat heaters. Some expensive cars include heated steering wheels, as well. It’s delightful, on a cool evening, to turn up the heat on your body when the air around you is fresh. Almost like an automotive hot-tub, but with fewer bubbles.

Modern convertibles include removable air screens and deflectors for behind the front seats. These keep the wind out of the cockpit if the windows are up, so the only turbulence is at the top of your head. They’re of varying effectiveness, though.

The Audi screens are glorious and allow very little wind inside, but in the four-seater A4 they block off the rear seats to make them inaccessible. The Mini screen is pretty much useless — there’s a blast of wind that’s off you but between the seats, which will freeze your coffee in minutes.

Different makes have different heating vent configurations to warm you with hot air.

The old Honda S2000 has a nice vent above the knees, warming your legs and not just blasting your feet. The best of all though, by far, is the Mercedes-Benz AirScarf, which blows heated air from just below the headrests against your neck. This is a glorious option, even when it’s not cold.

If you’re a real diehard, visit your local motorcycle or snowmobile shop, or go online to look for heated clothing. A basic, thin vest is about $100 and plugs into a cigarette lighter, but bikers can also stretch their season with heated pants, gloves and even socks. After all, where there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Mark Richardson is editor of Wheels.

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