The LA Auto Show Gets Nostalgic

Several new convertible models were throwbacks to yesteryear

Fiat 124 Spiders on the stand in Los Angeles

Fiat 124 Spiders on the stand in Los Angeles

Kristen Hall-Geisler

Every auto show has its flavor. Detroit likes to showcase American manufacturing with lots of trucks and SUVs; Tokyo delivers tiny city cars with futuristic designs. Los Angeles as a city blends sunshine and a history of automotive obsessions, and manufacturers are happy to oblige by bringing drop-tops to the annual November show.

This year, the convertibles took a nostalgic turn, with a few automakers bringing back old nameplates with new designs. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • Fiat 124 Spider The 124 Spider designed by Pininfarina was originally sold in the United States in 1968 with a 1.4-liter engine and a 5-speed manual, and it had a good run until 1985 with few changes besides a power boost. The new 124 Spider also has a 1.4-liter engine, this time with turbo and a six-speed manual. This version was designed by Centro Stile in Turin, Italy, but like the original, it has an easy-up cloth top that can be put in place from the driver's seat.
  • Mercedes-Benz SL While the 300SL of the 1950s is maybe more famous in its coupe form thanks to those gullwing doors, the roadster held its own in the popularity and performance categories. There are four versions of the latest version of the SL going on sale in 2016, but the AMG SL 65 is the most powerful, with a 12-cylinder 6-liter engine making 621 hp. That's twice the size and nearly three times the power of the 1957 roadster's engine.
  • Porsche 911 Targa The 911 with the removable targa roof screamed 1970s cool -- until 2014, when it was resurrected. Porsche brought a pair of updated 2017 Targa 4 and 4S cars to the Los Angeles show with 370 hp and 420 hp, respectively. In the reboot, the roof is automatic rather than manual. Now if they'd just give us another of those monstrous and iconic whale tails …
  • Kia A1A Optima This roadster doesn't have a real history to draw from, but the turquoise-and-white concept certainly pushes all the nostalgia buttons. The A1A Optima is named after a highway in Florida, but it fit right in on the stand in California. It's even got Rolls-Royce-style rear-hinged doors so passengers can actually get into the back seat.