When we think of convertible-top body styles today, we generally think of two-door convertible coupes and roadsters. But in the Classic Era of the American automobile (the years 1925 through 1948, approximately, according to our friends at the Classic Car Club of America) there was another popular style, the convertible sedan—that is, a convertible with four doors.
Costly to manufacture and elegantly detailed, convertible sedans were typically regarded as the top of the line in the Motor City’s sales catalogs. But as times changed and tastes evolved, the body style gradually disappeared and by the 1960s, only Lincoln offered a four-door convertible among U.S. manufacturers. We don’t know this for certain, but we like to think that Bill Mitchell and his staff at the General Motors styling studios were thinking of the classic convertible sedans of days gone by when they conceived the Caribe, a four-door convertible dream car based on the Chevrolet Impala.
Green-lighted in late 1964 by the corporate brass, the Caribe (internal designation XP-834) was based on an Impala four-door sedan with 396 CID V8 and Turbo-Hydramatic transmission. The roof panel was surgically removed, a convertible windshield and A-pillar assembly were installed, and the cowl, rockers, and door posts were reinforced to stiffen the body structure as required. On paper at least, a folding convertible mechanism was nestled under the form-fitting top boot, but we don’t know if it was installed or functional.
The interior featured color-matched upholstery materials with elaborately filigreed trimming and a hybrid bench-bucket front seat arrangement that would be marketed by Chevrolet as the Strato-back option. At some point, the exterior sheet metal was updated from 1965 to 1966 spec, but reportedly, the Caribe never made it onto the show car circuit as planned and the sole example was scrapped. The name was then recycled for use on the 1968 Camaro Caribe concept, an El Camino-esque roadster pickup.
Photos courtesy of General Motors, article courtesy of Mac’s Motor City Garage.