Top Always Down
I distinctly remember my first drive in an S2000 and the thoughts that went through my head regarding owning a convertible – a type of car I’d never owned before, and the type of driving that goes with being al fresco at the touch of a button. Top-down driving offers a level of involvement and experience that just isn’t matched by open windows. You are exposed, integrated, and in the moment, not encased in some glass bubble watching the world go by.
Needless to say, I loved it, and after a three month search, when I finally did find the perfect S2000 for me, a mere four-hour drive away, that return trip home was top down, despite the cool fall weather and highway speeds. I’ve been driving top-down ever since, despite the temperature and climate I find myself in. From 100° sweltering heat to mid-20° chills where I dared not operate the top for fear of it tearing, I’ve now driven through all weather conditions in the S as it was meant to be driven – open to the world around me. Convertibles offer an entirely unmatched way to experience driving a car, and as a driver, this experience shouldn’t be limited to specific times of the year.
One thing I learned on that first cool fall evening as I drove home in my new car is that being in a convertible like the S, when you go top down, you are very much exposed to the world around you. Personally, I love it, and don’t want to let a little cold air or rain affect my enjoyment. With that in mind, there are some things any convertible owner should keep in mind to maximize the fun when minimizing the roof.
First, treat top-down driving in the S like any other outdoor activity, and prepare appropriately. Driving top down in the middle of summer is pretty easy – make sure you have sunscreen applied, maybe a hat, and good sunglasses. Wear cool clothing and appropriate shoes for the task at hand. Every so often, you’ll also get that perfect opportunity where the weather is not too hot, not too cold, and the day just calls for a convertible. It’s the perfect day where you can hop in your car, drop the top, and just revel in the S2000 and roadster life in general. Done and done, but what about those not-so-nice days? No reason to keep the top up just because everything isn’t perfect, right?
The biggest imperfection to topless driving is rain and, as a convertible owner, you’ve probably been caught in a shower at least once when you had the roof down, so you should know that so long as you can keep your speed up to around 40 mph or so, you will not really get wet. Having a towel in the car can help with those errant drops that seem to find their way in, especially from the top-left of the windscreen where water tends to accumulate from the wipers. One trick to keeping the cabin dry is to roll up the windows and create a bubble that helps to protect you from side splashes – be mindful of the semi that’s coming your way; it will throw a lot of dirty water!
At some point, it can rain so heavily that no amount of speed will keep you dry (or safe), and you will have to put the top up. When that time comes, having your S modded with the speed bypass for your convertible top can be a life saver. While Honda dictates that you be at a complete stop and have the emergency brake up in order to operate the top, a simple mod can bypass the speedometer requirement, or both, to allow you to operate the top while moving at a slow yet safe speed that will not damage the car. This can be a life saver when you’re getting rained on and those last few seconds to come to a stop mean you and the car’s interior getting drenched. Check out the DIY mod here – http://www.s2ki.com/s2000/topic/138773-soft-top-speed-sensor-bypass/
Despite how wet or dry it is, as winter approaches, the air is getting cooler and driving top down requires a bit more preparation and commitment, but if you seek that topless driving experience, it’s easy to achieve it and be comfortable with some easy prep to your winter driving attire and car.
First, and most obvious, is to get yourself a good jacket. You will want something comfortable, wind proof (and possibly water proof), and versatile. A good leather jacket will do the trick, as will some good wind-proof textile jackets and coats. Unarmored motorcycle jackets are a good option to consider, as their waist-length works well in the S2000’s driver’s seat, the arms are usually cut to be a little long – perfect for reaching the steering wheel, and they are designed to stand up to wind and the elements. If you have a jacket with a collar, don’t be afraid to pop it up to protect the back of your neck from the cold – just be sure the collar goes down when you get out of the car…
Beyond a basic jacket, you will need some good gloves to keep your fingers from getting cold and numb (or roasted by the heater). Even though the S2000’s air vents are ideally positioned to blow hot air on your fingers while they are grabbing the steering wheel, you will appreciate the added protection when operating the car’s other controls and shifter. Leather is a good option as it will protect well against wind and offers high grip.
More than anything, cold ears will quickly ruin your top down experience in the cold, so make sure you at least cover them up. Either a hat you can pull over them or some ear warmers will keep the cold from creeping into your brain as you drive top down on those cold days. While there are some S2000 owners who have been known to wear full face helmets to keep themselves warm in the winter, keep in mind that law enforcement does not usually look kindly on this for some reason. I personally like the ear muffs that wrap around the back of your head and allow you to wear a hat or not depending on mood, speed and conditions.
Finally, a good scarf that you can wrap around your neck and tuck into your jacket will keep your neck warm, and pretty much ensure you’re sealed up and ready for top-down driving through even the coldest days of the year. Just remember, cold days mean cold tires, and under about 40° Fahrenheit, summer tires are NOT very effective, so adjust your driving style accordingly.
Beyond your personal customizations, there is also a great S2000 mod to keep you toasty – heated seats. Many owners have installed, or had installed, a set of seat heaters, and that alone can make a huge impact on your level of enjoyment and willingness to drop the top when the weather gets chilly. Sound interesting? Check out the DIY posted in our forums (one of several) – http://www.s2ki.com/s2000/topic/450364-diy-heated-seat-install/
Looking for a cheap mod? The S comes with power windows – don’t be afraid to raise them when you want to create a warm bubble in the cabin.
Hopefully this article will give you some ideas on extending the top-down enjoyment of your S2000 or even becoming a hardcore, top always down owner. As well, if you have any ideas of your own, let us know by adding a comment.
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And remember, if the top’s up, the storm better have a name!