Roadster rage: 12 fun cars for the ages

They may break down a lot, get lousy mileage, and are about as safe as a gum wrapper on wheels, but so what? These two-seaters have always been a hoot to drive.

Have fun, will travel
roadsters - 2013 subaru brz
The 2013 BRZ

The news that Subaru is planning a convertible version of its new BRZ for the 2014 model year comes at a welcome juncture. At a time when car are increasingly encumbered with all manner of electronic nannies, the revival of the traditional open-top, rear-drive, two-seat roadster is a tonic for enthusiasts. With its chunky good looks, eight-speed transmission, and 200-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the upcoming BRZ convertible, like all proper sports cars, will be aimed at a single emotion: fun.

The spiritual ancestors of the BRZ go back 65 years to the European roadsters that began arriving in the U.S. after World War II. Rakish in design, frisky on the road, and near zero in practicality, they expressed the optimism of a new generation. Over the years, they became more civilized, replacing plastic side curtains with roll-up windows and undependable electronics with more reliable ones, as Japanese and American manufacturers have developed their own interpretations of the classic formula.

Today, most of those early roadsters are parked under tarpaulins or collecting dust in museums. Some better-known marques are pictured below. Among them is one that remains on the market. Like the coelacanth, it is a living fossil -- a visible reminder of how the convertible sports car has evolved and a source of inspiration for Subaru to follow.

  @FortuneMagazine - Last updated August 23 2012 11:08 AM ET
Join the Conversation
Find Your Next Car

Get the latest car news:

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer LIBOR Warning: Neither BBA Enterprises Limited, nor the BBA LIBOR Contributor Banks, nor Reuters, can be held liable for any irregularity or inaccuracy of BBA LIBOR. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.