In 1949-50, a hot new fad was sweeping through the auto industry: the hardtop convertible. Here’s Dodge’s contribution to the styling trend, the 1950 Coronet Diplomat.
When first you hear it, the term “hardtop convertible” sounds like an oxymoron—like “constant variable” or “jumbo shrimp.” Hold on, and we’ll make some sense of it. In the late ’40s, industry product planners discovered that many new car buyers, especially young people, purchased convertibles but then seldom if ever took down the tops. Perplexed by this curious fact—convertibles were significantly more expensive than sedans—they investigated further.
Through interviews, they learned that many owners simply preferred the convertible’s sporty styling and its lower, sleeker roof. Buyers also appreciated the lack of a fixed pillar between the front and rear side glasses. With both windows rolled down, the long, open expanse created the fresh-air feel of a convertible without the exposure to sun and wind that resulted when the top was folded down.
Armed with this knowledge, the automakers quickly responded with a new body style called the hardtop convertible: It had a low roofline and roll-down windows with no center post, but with a fixed steel roof replacing the folding fabric top. This new two-door body type offered both a price savings for customers and a tidy profit for carmakers. The public quickly shortened the awkward term “hardtop convertible” to simply “hardtop,” and a popular Detroit body style took root.
Dodge’s version of the hardtop, the handsome 1950 Coronet Diplomat, matched the traditional soft-top convertible in sales in its very first year. The hardtop model was renamed Sport in 1954, then rebadged again in 1955 as the Lancer. While they no longer refer strictly to hardtop body styles, the Diplomat, Sport and Lancer nameplates have appeared and reappeared on various Dodge models throughout the brand’s history. The most recent Lancer and Diplomat models were offered in 1989.