The Landau Roof

Monday, August 07, 2017
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I had forgotten about the Landau roof --  the fake convertible tops that used to be ubiquitous. The style, which was meant to look like the movable tops of horse drawn carriages, started in the 1920s but quickly faded out of favor.

It returned in the 1960s and 70s as a styling touch which was meant to invoke luxury. As explained in Motoring Research's article A brief history of the vinyl roof, covered:
In 1955, Ford had created a so-called ‘Personal Luxury Car’ segment with the Thunderbird – a car majoring on style and luxury, rather than performance and handling. If any car was able to provide a suitable platform for the second coming of the vinyl roof, it was the T-bird.

Step forward the 1962 model, which offered more than 100 improvements compared to the previous Thunderbird, along with the option of a vinyl-covered hardtop coupe. It even re-introduced landau bars as a styling touch – a feature not seen since the 1920s.

Suddenly, the vinyl roof developed ideas above its station (certainly above a car’s roofline). No longer positioned as styling garnish, the vinyl roof was now a must-have option for the style-conscious and drivers of good taste. As least that’s what the manufacturers wanted us to believe.

Ford claims the Thunderbird “reached its pinnacle as a personal luxury car” with the 1975 model, offering features such as concealed windscreen wipers, an opera window, solid-state ignition, electric windows, automatic seat-back release, white-wall tyres and – you’ve guessed it – a dense-grain vinyl roof.

Tick the ‘Silver Luxury Group’ option box and “discriminating owners” could enjoy “exterior accoutrements” such as a padded Silver Odense grain half-vinyl roof, or a full-vinyl roof when combined with an electrically-operated glass moonroof. Opt for the ‘Copper Luxury Group’ and the vinyl roof was finished in a shade of copper. Americans had never had it so good.
However, like most ghastly 1970s styles, they again lost popularity and these days are mainly considered as pointless and faintly ludicrous details. Regardless, there is an aftermarket for Landau roofs if you have a hankering for one.