And you thought convertibles were just for summertime.
Not true. The most fun I've had so far in this long, gray and cold winter has been the three days I spent driving around topless (the car, not me) in a 1991 Geo Metro LSI convertible.With its brilliant, stoplight-yellow paint job and its black vinyl top stashed neatly behind the pair of yellow-trimmed seats, this car elicited grins all over town. And not just from its driver and passenger - who had the heat cranked to the max to offset the 10-degree wind-chill - but from everyone who laid eyes on it as well.
Instead of "Look at those fools, drivin' around with no top in this weather," the eyes of the folks buttoned up in their Jeep Wagoneers and other "sensible" machines, seemed to say "Go for it, pal. Maybe spring isn't so far away after all."
All this might not work on just any convertible, but the Metro is so . . . odd looking, so stubby and ungainly (especially with the top up; it looks sleeker when it goes topless) that no one feels like you're showing off or putting on airs, like maybe a Corvette driver would with the top down in winter. The Geo convertible elicits emotions not unlike those of a warm puppy.
The Geo is about as far removed in automotive philosophy from the Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite - the last car I evaluated on these pages - as it is possible to get. The Olds was large, roomy, quiet, had automatic everything and looked, sure enough, like your father's Oldsmobile.
The Geo is small, has room for only the driver and significant other (although neither is cramped), has automatic nothing (including transmission), thrashes around rather noisily, has a top that is about as easy to put up and down as it is to tune a Jaguar V-12 and the only thing your father might be willing to do with it is mow the lawn.
Having said all that, guess which one I liked best. More important, guess which one my wife liked best. Yep, we couldn't stop giggling over that little Geo. I don't know about owning one over the long term, but borrowing one for a few days is the best way to shake the deep-winter blues that I know of.
A word about the top. I exaggerated a bit concerning the difficulty of raising and lowering the beast, but it is definitely a grunt and push affair that requires what seems like 42 separate steps. And once I had taken it down I never could get it up correctly again. The rear support bow insisted on hanging down where it partially blocked the view out the rear isinglass (or whatever it is they make folding glass out of these days.)
Listen, Geo, if you can get the top to work like, for example, the one on the BMW 325i, come see me. You just may have a sale.
Did I mention that all this fun gets 46 mpg on the highway and 41 in the city? Did I mention that the whole improbable package, complete with air conditioning (in a convertible yet!) fancy schmancy sound system,an air bag, 5-speed transmission, electronic fuel injection and more horsepower than a 1 liter engine has any right to produce, can be yours for $11,121, including destination charge and color keyed floor mats? No? Consider it mentioned.
Oh, yeah, and did I mention that, top up or top down, the Metro is as much fun to drive as a Mazda Miata only for thousands of dollars less? And how about the Geo's trunk that, unlike the Miata's, will actually hold a full-size golf bag. The space behind the seats isn't bad, either.
So there it is. A stealth, rag-top nickel rocket is the Geo Metro convert. Low price, high mileage, fun to drive and fun to be seen in if you're not too stuffy about your self-image. This little buzzbomb could - maybe should - end up as a counter culture high status car. Like the Volkswagen Beetle in the '50s and '60s.
For the record, there's a slew of Geo Metros that don't drop their tops, including the XFi Hatchback Coupe, mid-level Hatchback Coupe and Hatchback Sedan and the up-scale LSi Hatchback Coupe and LSi Hatchback Sedan.
But, heck, those are just cars. The LSi convertible is a statement!