Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How cold is too cold for driving a convertible roof down?

IT WAS somewhere near Bala, as the road climbed ever higher into the mountains, that the temperature really started to drop.

The outside temperature gauge in my friend's Saab - a car built to cope with a harsh winter if ever there was one - had dropped its reading from a toasty five degrees to just above freezing. Thing is, where his car had a powerful heater and a plushly trimmed interior, mine has a floppy roof that goes up and down and as a result the answer to a question I'm sure you've been itching to find out. How cold is too cold for driving around with the roof down?

I was, in the noble interests of Life On Cars research, more than kitted out for the job; whereas I'd happily drive my Mazda MX-5 in the climes it was designed for in jeans and a t-shirt, last weekend I had gloves, a big coat and the heater on at full blast. Logic dictates that tackling a snowy mountain pass with the roof down should be unbearably uncomfortable but here's the truth in the (very) cold light of day - it really wasn't the hellish experience you'd think.

True, the air was very cold that afternoon but the really chilly stuff was being whipped over the Mazda's windscreen, leaving me to enjoy the warmth whirling into the interior from the heater. It's a bit like going skiing, but with the added luxuries of electric windows and a CD player. It was only when I pulled over to take a few photos that the cold caught up with me, because as soon as I got out I was no longer in a cosy car interior, I was hundreds of feet up, in the middle of nowhere in the midst of the cold snap currently engulfing most of Britain.

In fact, being the motoring masochist I am, I was actually enjoying it. There are lots of things I love about Wales, like the unpronouncably brilliant names for the villages and the Welsh cakes on offer in just about every bakery, but best of all they do roads quite unlike just about anywhere else in the UK. Coming across a set of twisty roads draped over some stunning scenery and having a couple of great cars to tackle them in is one of the best feelings in motoring.

So the answer to the question is that it's never really too cold to drop your roof down, as long as it isn't raining - or in my case, snowing - of course. Blummin' freezing but big, big fun.

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