Piston Slap: A Panther Lover is a Folding Hardtop Lover

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap a panther lover is a folding hardtop lover

Frank A. writes:

It’s been a while since you advised me on Town Car engine cleaning. I’ve still got the TC, but I’ve got an itch to add something less practical to the fleet–a retractable hardtop. Probably anybody who is old enough to have been frightened by a Ford Skyliner as a child has had this impulse now and then.

I’m interested in the Pontiac G6. They were made ’06-’09 and are percolating down into a practical price range. I can’t spend the bucks on a high dollar retractable, so the VW Eos and Chrysler Sebring would be my only other choices.

Gee whiz: Pontiac quality, Volkswagen quality, or Chrysler quality: what are you gonna choose?

So, what do you think, of retractables in general and the G6 in particular? Are they reasonably reliable? What kind of maintenance does the top require as it ages? (Assuming Pontiac dealer support is going to recede into the past.) And how loopy an idea would buying one be?

Before you reply that this is too bizarre a kink for a Panther guy to take up, just remember–the Skyliner is a direct ancestor of the Big Cat. It must have left a few retractable genes in there somewhere.

Sajeev answers:

Having recently spent time in a restored 1958 Skyliner, these systems aren’t exactly the stuff of rocket science. And my goodness, the Skyliners are one of the high points in Detroit’s history: when you consider the historical implications of Panther Love. It is a truly stunning machine.

I get it. You need a folding roof.

And a few unique hinge pieces, custom rubber bits and the appropriate electrics is all that’s in play. That said, retractable tops will be a nightmare if a greenhorn with a wrench and a shop manual gets their hands on it. As time goes by, the rubber bits are my biggest concern. Unlike most droptops, I suspect the G6’s folding hard top has a fair bit of unique molded rubber that will be tough to find. But this won’t be a problem if Steele Rubber Products stays in business for the next 30 years. If they go away, start crying: I know I will.

But go for it, life’s too short to drive nothing but a Lincoln Town Car. Compared the out-of-warranty repair costs of a VW and the stunning crappiness of Chrysler, the Pontiac G6 is a smart move. If any vehicle shall be blessed with an overabundance of replacement bits and service expertise, it will be a GM product. But that’s discounting the G6’s unique folding roof.

Whatever. Just do it, but much like your Town Cars dirty engine, be proactive about cleaning the hardtop’s moving parts. Get the dirt out of the rubber and finish them off with a touch of silicone spray lubricant. Clean and lubricate the hinges, conservatively. Overdoing it might let more dirt and grime build up. Buy the GM factory service manual, read the specifics about the folding top and learn how the experts tune and tweak these things as the ravages of time do their duty.

And if you get into a significant accident, don’t get too attached: I suspect any insurance company will total a depreciated G6 with a jammed roof. This ain’t a valuable Mercedes SL, as you well know.

Good luck, the Town Car and the G6 will be a fun Detroit pairing.

Send your queries to sajeev@ttac.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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2 of 52 comments
  • Biglots1977 Biglots1977 on May 24, 2011

    All this talk about the G6 reminded me of a very funny quote from Dan Neil's review of the Sebring convertible: "The Sebring drop top does something I thought impossible: It makes me long for the exquisite craftsmanship of the Pontiac flipping G6."

  • Towncar Towncar on May 24, 2011

    I'm the questioner, and I appreciate all the replies! 51 (currently) is pretty good. I would have lost my bet if I had taken any odds on what Sajeev was going to title this--I was sure it would be "Panther Lover Goes Topless!" Well, there’s a lot more G6 love around than I expected. I didn’t figure we had many Sebring boosters here, but I really thought the VW fans would form an Eos cheering section. Either they didn’t think this thread was worth replying to, or the car is not much loved amongst the company’s fan base. Anyway, FYI, I live in the south, and in a halfway decent neighborhood, so snow and security are not strong factors. Basically, I just want to push the button and see all that metal go away. Watching canvas fold just doesn’t give me the same rush. As regards the suggested alternative tintops, the Miata feels too small to me, and anyway I think part of the fun of a convertible is taking some friends along for the ride. The same thing would bias me against the XLR--along with a suspicion of Northstars that is absolutely native to a Panther guy. Quite a few of my friends have urged me to consider the SC 430, just on the question of quality. I admit, V8 and rear drive are not things I object to. However, 1) the backseat is a joke, and 2) in order to get a price I consider reasonable for a fun car, I’d have to get one nearly 10 years old. Right now it’s a distant #2 choice, but still in the running. BTW, somebody mentioned the European Focus retractable. It’s cute, and I’ve googled up a number of other retractables that don’t appear in the US. The most amazing one, IMHO, is the Vauxhall/Opel Twintop. It’s an amazing thing, and the mechanism makes the G6’s look simple. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ITZZb5cQcY So, currently, I’m basically still in the hunt for my G6. I think I want a 2009.5—in GM’s usual way, the up-to-date features like Bluetooth were held until just before the car was discontinued. It’s going to be hard to find a suitable one from that scanty six months of production, and the ‘09s aren’t really down in my price range yet. So I’m thinking next spring may be my retractable moment. This year, I’ll just open the TC’s sunroof and dream.

  • Wolfwagen I see my comment was deleted (BTW nice way to censor) so i will say it again:GTFO here with the pseudo "wealth distribution" BS. A crime is a crime is a crime.Its a slippery slope, what happens next, Jail a rich guy when he kills a pedestrian and let the poor guy who kills a pedestrian walk? What about if the poor guy is a crappy driver and has the record to prove it then what?Or we could go crazy and just institute the death penalty across the board for every driving infraction. That will make people better drivers or stop driving altogether which will make the greenies happy (damm it I just gave them an idea - SOB!!!)
  • Wolfwagen No. Bring back the J80 with an inline six and reduced electronics (i.e. no giant touch screen) and they will probably sell like hotcakes
  • David S. " test vehicles sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic."??? Test vehicles are programmed by humans, HUMANS sometimes make sudden stops when uncertain about how to navigate traffic, Duh!!
  • Frank The last guy was doing fine, this is a sales emergency that they're hoping Tim can fix. They want to hang onto the crazy margins from the covid era, which now in the face of abundant inventory, insane interest rates and inflation are a long distant wet dream. Its time to start offering value again, cash on the hood and 0% financing. Move the metal!
  • Gimmeamanual The new Wrangler isn't that new, it's still a JL and so is limited to what the platform can handle as far as addressing on-road handling. One thing Jeep should have done is increase the length of the front lower control arms by using the ones THEY ALREADY SELL with the Mopar lift. That 1/4" makes a big difference.