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2000 Toyota Camry Solara Photo
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Four years. That’s how long Chrysler’s Sebring Convertible has ruled the roost in the sub-$30k... Read more »
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by Howard Walker

Four years. That’s how long Chrysler’s Sebring Convertible has ruled the roost in the sub-$30k, four-seat ragtop market.

What’s remarkable, in these days of the never-ending quest to fill every automotive niche possible, is that for all this time, the Sebring has gone largely unchallenged.

That all changes this month with the arrival of Toyota’s Solara Convertible, a car that largely clones the Chrysler’s attributes.

Even though the folks at DaimlerChrysler are putting-up a serious fight with a heavily-facelifted Sebring Convertible — unveiled at the New York Auto Show this week — the Solara will prove a formidable adversary.

Why? One word: Camry. While the Solara Coupe provides the basic body styling for the convertible, the car is essentially Camry-based. Similar platform, similar suspension, similar engines. And, for hundreds of thousands of buyers, that means two things; top-notch quality, and bullet-proof dependability.

Like the Solara Coupe, the new ragtop was styled at Toyota’s Calty Design Center in sunny California, and is being built at the carmaker’s Cambridge assembly plant in Ontario, Canada.

Convoluted convertible-ization

If there’s a prize for the most convoluted assembly process, then the new convertible would surely win it, hands down. Because ASC – that’s the American Sunroof Company – is responsible for fitting the new top, Solara Coupe bodyshells are taken off the Cambridge assembly line and shipped to ASC’s new factory close by.

Here, the coupe’s roof is sliced off and extra reinforcement added to beef up the body. Then it’s back on the truck to Cambridge, where the bodies are painted and the powertrain and interior added. Then, it’s off again to the ASC factory to have the power top and retractable rear-quarter windows fitted, along with the remainder of the trim. It’s a wonder the car doesn’t get dizzy.

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