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And the coolest convertibles ever designed are ...

Ilya Terentyev | Getty Images

There's nothing quite like a convertible to embody the power and sex appeal of which car design, at its best, is capable. Consider that even during the heights of the Great Depression, American designers dreamed up some of the most luxurious, unforgettable convertibles of all time.

Convertibles infiltrate our lives in ways few cars can. They have tested patience (and marriages), strained finances and yet, they have remained beloved even when their beauty far surpasses their functionality. There's a reason why James Bond, Benjamin Braddock (of "The Graduate") and Ferris Bueller, among many of our screen idols, are synonymous with iconic drop-tops.

The catalog of great convertibles is so thick it's difficult to come up with a "best" list. But not impossible. The debate, in fact, is of the never-ending man cave conversation variety that's right up their with greatest hitters of all time and coolest rocks bands. Car geeks never run low on passionate opinions, and that can jack up the prices of some of the best convertibles—one on the list below has a value near $9 million.

(Read more: Why the Prius's 'ugly" is as pretty as the Tesla Model S)

We've previously asked some of the design chiefs at the major auto manufacturers to weigh in with their favorite all-time convertible designs. We couldn't stop there. Now we've rounded up some of television and the media's top car geeks to select what they consider the best convertible designs of all time:

  • CNBC's very own "Car Chasers"—Jeff Allen and Perry Barndt
  • Classic car auctioneer extraordinaire Dana Mecum
  • Yahoo! Motoramic blog editor Justin Hyde
  • Dan Short—owner of Fantomworks (the largest auto restoration company in the United States and star of a Velocity TV show)
  • Mega car fan and ex-WWE and WCW wrestler Bill Goldberg

(Unless otherwise noted, average current values are sourced from either Hagerty.com valuation tools or NADAGuides.com)

By Robert Melstein, CNBC Development Producer
Posted 11 August 2013

Jeff Allen, left, and Perry Barndt.
CNBC Prime
Jeff Allen, left, and Perry Barndt.

Jeff Allen
CNBC's "The Car Chasers"

1967 Shelby Cobra Roadster
Average current value: $1,401,450 (Competition model)
You can tell from day one, it was always designed to be driven topless.

1962-63 Ford Thunderbird Roadster
Average current value: $33,948 (1962 model)
These were designed during the jet age and it shows. The convertibles flow really well and even though I like the coupes, the roof line takes away from the design a bit.

Jaguar XK-E Convertible
Average current value: $68,654 (1964 model)
This one should only have been made in a convertible with its sleek styling. Adding a top seems like an afterthought on this car.

1962 Chevrolet Corvette
Average current value: $52,334 (340 horsepower model)
I picked this one because of the designers' attention to detail on what the car would look like with the top down. The simplest thing like the seat partition puts this one on my list.

Mercedes SL Convertible
Average current value: $43,144 (1968 model)
Through all the years, this one has stayed true to its convertible roots. Since the beginning to the current model, every time they redesign this model it gets better and better.

(Read more: What will drive your car's design? Fuel efficiency)

1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster
Source: Herranderssvensson | Wikipedia
1962 Ford Thunderbird Sports Roadster

1964 Lincoln Continental Convertible
Average current value: $24,715
This one makes the list as a tribute to Ericʼs (our assistant) Lincoln fascination. Seriously, the "suicide doors," long lines with the top down, make the Lincoln an unmistakable ride.

1963 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder
Average current value: $7,665,500 (1963 SWB closed headlight model)
Ferrari ... enough said!

1957 Porsche Speedster
Average current value: N/A
The "bathtub" may not appeal to everyone but its style is all about being roofless.

Cadillac XLR-V
Average current value: $43,875 (2009 model)
In the modern convertible market, this car stands out to me because the design allowed it to look as good with the top down as when it is up.

Lamborghini Aventador J
Average current value: $2.8 million (only two produced)
My list wouldn't be complete without a Lambo and what better than one without a top and a windshield!

(Read more: Auto company design chiefs' favorite convertibles)

CNBC Prime

Perry Barndt
CNBC's "The Car Chasers"

1935 Duesenberg SJ Convertible
Average current value: $4,510,000 (sold at auction March 2013)
A tribute to the time that it was made. It set the standard for the rich and the famous in the 1930s. An amazing automobile considering it was conceived and built during the Great Depression.

1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster
Average current value: N/A
An all-time classic and one of my personal favorites.

Bugatti Figoni et Falaschi
Average current value: N/A
Flowing Art Deco design, utilizing a rare Bugatti chassis.

1958-60 Chevrolet Corvette
Average current value: $60,823 (1958 270 horsepower model)
Just a beautiful example of the American sports car at its finest.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage
Average current value: $153,015 (2013 V8 S model MSRP)
There is a reason James Bond drives Aston Martins. It may not be a Vanquish, but it is stunning in its own right.

Maserati GranTurismo
Average current value: $144,600 (2013 Sport model MSRP)
Maserati … enough said.

(Read more: Classic car showdown: Sexy curves versus pure muscle)

2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible
Joshua Paul | Bloomberg | Getty Images
2011 Maserati GranTurismo Convertible

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Average current value: $70,404 (245 horsepower model)
Classic American style.

1934 Voisin C15 Saliot Roadster
Average current value: N/A
A rare and classy example of one-off craftsmanship.

1959 Ford Galaxie Skyliner
Average current value: $42,238 (retractable hardtop 300 horsepower model)
Maybe not the most beautiful on this list, but in my opinion some of the most advanced convertible engineering for its era.

Ferrari 250
Average current value: $4,696,500 (1958 250 GT Cabriolet closed headlight model)
In my opinion, the pinnacle of Ferrari designs.

Jaguar F-Type
Average current value: $92,000 (2014 V8 S model)
Jaguar's latest offering, a beautifully executed design for the convertible world.

Mercedes-Benz SSK Convertible
Average current value: N/A
Another example of 1930s classic elegance from Mercedes-Benz. I have always had a thing for those pontoon fenders.

(Read more: Anxiety in Detroit over prized car trove)

Justin Hyde, Yahoo Motoramic editor
Source: Yahoo Inc.
Justin Hyde, Yahoo Motoramic editor

Justin Hyde
Yahoo Motoramic managing editor

To me, the best convertibles are cars that are hard to imagine without the top down, whose allure mixes the freedom of the open air and the beauty of their design. They don't have to be fast or luxurious, but they have to capture a feeling that no closed-roof car can copy. Here are my favorites ...

Alfa Romeo Spider
Average current value: $23,288 (1967 Duetto model)
Built for nearly 30 years, this car defined the idea of a fun, inexpensive European convertible for many Americans—especially after its role in "The Graduate." It's one of the auto industry's most lasting designs.

Mazda MX-5 Miata
Average current value: $31,145 (2013 Hardtop Grand Touring model)
The modern interpretation of the Spider; no modern convertible has quite the enthusiastic fan base as Mazda's rear-wheel-drive sports car. Ironically, the next generation of Miata also will be shared with Alfa Romeo, which may use it to revive the Spider.

Jeep Wrangler
Average current value: $23,390 (2013 4WD Sport)
Some overlook the Wrangler in lists like these, and yet it's the most popular convertible vehicle sold in the United States. Occasionally imitated but never surpassed, the Wrangler defines off-road, open-top fun.

1961 Lincoln Continental
Average current value: $27,741
Older convertibles had many flaws, and often were compromised by their fabric roofs. The '61 Continental was the rare luxury car for its era that's better as a drop-top, and Lincoln has long tried to recapture its magic.

1963-67 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
Average current value: $45,018 (340 horsepower model)
Every Corvette has been designed as a convertible, and while modern editions can out hustle those from the '60s, the '63 to '67 Sting Ray drop-tops remain works of speeding art.

(Read more: GM cuts Volt price by $5,000)

1997 Porsche Boxster Convertible
Source: AP
1997 Porsche Boxster Convertible

Jaguar E-Type
Average current value: $81,285 (1965 model)
I've heard people refer to E-Types as the "divorce car," because so many buyers attracted to its body had their finances and marriage tested by the stress of its mechanical failures. Still, when even Enzo Ferrari calls it the most beautiful car ever, it's hard to turn away.

Or, as fictional ad guru Don Draper in TV's "Mad Men" said when trying to come up with an ad campaign for a Jaguar (which he was told had to be sold with a tool kit given its propensity to break down): "Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own."

Mercedes-Benz 250 SL
Average current value: $43,144 (1967 model)
If we needed more proof of the mid-1960s as the pinnacle of convertibles, the Mercedes-Benz "Pagoda" line should close the case. A better car in many ways than the iconic 300 SL, the Pagodas burnished Mercedes' reputation among American luxury enthusiasts.

2013 Ford Shelby GT500
Average current value: $59,955 (MSRP)
Mustang and Camaro fans battle daily for bragging rights. The Camaro ZL1 convertible has house-pulling power, but the Shelby GT500 has history to back up its rumble, and its design lends itself more naturally to a soft-top.

Porsche Boxster
Average current value: $4,560 (1997 with hardtop)
The first-generation Boxster was seen by some enthusiasts as a sub-Porsche, a diluted 911 or a poor man's 356. It's been refined over the years into one of the best-handling roadsters available today, and a model that needs no apologies.

1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider
Average current value: $8,555,500
If you're going to buy one convertible with your Mega Millions winnings, you might as well wait for one of the 10 copies of the 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 coupe that Ferrari's U.S. importer, Luigi Chinetti, had custom ordered as convertibles for his N.A.R.T. racing team. If you argue against calling it the most beautiful Ferrari convertible, bring backup; if you want to buy the one going on sale this month in Pebble Beach, Calif., bring several million dollars—but you won't be alone.

(Read more: Age of cars in America climbs to all-time high)

Dana Mecum, classic car auctioneer of Mecum Auctions and star on Velocity TV
Source: Discovery Communications
Dana Mecum, classic car auctioneer of Mecum Auctions and star on Velocity TV

Dana Mecum
Mecum Auctions founder

Here's my list of the most memorable convertibles I've ever sold:

1952 Ferrari Barchetta 225S
Average current value: N/A
This is the only 225S built in the world. I had it early on when I started my business and it sold for $1,000,000.

1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Average current value: N/A
It was a first generation model and only one was built. No one knew it existed. It was the first muscle car that I sold for $100,000. The next time it came up, it sold for $1,000,000.

1973 Porsche 917
Average current value: N/A
This Can-Am race car is one of the most iconic cars in automobile history. It sold for $5.5 million at the Monterey, Calif., Mecum auction in 2012 and set the record for highest price on record for Porsche.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Average current value: $70,404 (245 horsepower model)
True Americana, at the top of collectors' lists. It has timeless style with its chrome and fins. The first time one of these appeared in my auctions, I scheduled it to be the last car up. It attracted more '57 convertibles for sale.

1963-64 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Average current value: N/A
This was Carroll Shelby's original promotional car. The guy who had it didn't want to take it to auction. But I finally convinced him to sell it—and it got $1.5 million.

1965 Pontiac GTO Hurst Riverside 500 Pace Car
Average current value: $57,028 (1966 Tri-Power model)
My father sold Pontiacs—we had a family dealership, so this one means a lot to me. There were only two built. The GTO is a memorable muscle car—and I believe this one is the best GTO convertible in existence.

(Read more: Cheapest and most expensive cars to drive)

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Source: General Motors
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

1967 Shelby Mustang GT 350
Average current value: $102,465 (fastback couple model)
There was only one of these built in 1967. It existed in a suburb of Chicago. I chased it for years but never could get the guy to sell it—but I finally convinced him. It sold for $800,000.

1957 Chevrolet Corvette
Average current value: $79,153 (283 horsepower fuel-injected model)
This was the car that Chip Miller, the co-founder of Corvettes at Carlisle—the biggest Corvette event in the world—donated to raise money for amyloidosis, the disease that eventually claimed his life. I bought this one myself—and it's the only car my wife likes and will ride in.

1931 Miller
Average current value: N/A
I collect these. I'm actually the president of the Miller club. It's memorable to me because it won the Indianapolis 500 in 1931. I sold it for $2 million at one of my auctions.

1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88
Average current value: $262,715 (L89 model)
Chevrolet only built 20 of these. I sold the first one that was built.

1966 Chevrolet Chevelle "Joe Pike"
Average current value: $41,701 (SS 360 horsepower model)
This one has never been restored. I got it from Joe Pike's son—Pike was the national sale promotion manager for Chevrolet, who helped create a market for Corvettes. This was his personal car.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette (the "Harley Earl Car")
Average current value: $57,998 (360 horsepower fuel-injected model)
This was the car that was given to Earl—the original head of design at General Motors. I think he's the second-most important person in the auto industry behind Henry Ford. He was known for putting color in cars. I own this one now.

(Read more: Look what the ladies are driving!)

Dan Short, owner of Fantomworks, the largest auto restoration company in the United States and star of Velocity TV
Source: Discovery Communications
Dan Short, owner of Fantomworks, the largest auto restoration company in the United States and star of Velocity TV

Dan Short
Fantomworks founder

Here's my list of favorite convertibles that I've worked on …

1962 MG MGB Roadster (restored in 1995)
Average current value: $10,870 (1963 model)
I restored this one with my dad. They are extremely rare.

1958 MGA Roadster (restored in 2007)
Average current value: $22,190
This was my first ground up restoration and it's stunning. The owner still drives the car to this day.

1958 Jaguar XK140 (restored 2008-09)
Average current value: $74,920 (1957 Roadster model)
This one has clean, beautiful lines.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS SS Convertible (started restoration in 1982; ongoing)
Average current value: $36,421 (SS 325 horsepower model)
A Camaro RS SS coupe was the first car I've ever owned. This convertible was the second. I still own both. I've been restoring the convertible off and on for about 30 years. In my opinion, the Camaro is better than the Ford Mustang.

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 (restored 1999-2011)
Average current value: $1,401,450 (Competition model)
This one is pure testosterone. Most of them didn't have heaters or radios. Just total excess in terms of power and voluptuous curves.

(Read more: BMW's appeal to the tree-hugging urbanites)

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible
Source: General Motors
1959 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible

1964 Chevrolet Impala Convertible (restored 2012)
Average current value: $42,000 (425 horsepower model)
I think the Chevrolet Chevelle convertible was a mistake. It worked better as a coupe. But when it came to the Impala convertible, this one had a natural look.

1964 Mini Cooper Convertible (restored 1999)
Average current value: $23,973 (sedan model)
This one supposedly doesn't exist, but it does. There are two in the world. I own one of them. It weighs less than 900 pounds. Because of its size, it's the ultimate clown car.

1963 Lincoln Continental Convertible (started restoration in 2008; ongoing)
Average current value: $24,524
This four-door convertible (with its famous "suicide doors") was an exercise in luxury and options, with features way ahead of its time. But, it's nightmarishly hard to work on. Aside from appearing in many TV shows and movies, a 1961 Continental is the car President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in.

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible
Average current value: $123,297
General Motors executives originally said "no way" to the now-famous double-bulleted wings, which were extreme—even for the time. I've worked on the '59 Biarritz, but never have restored one.

1963 Chevrolet Corvette Split Window Convertible (restored 2012)
Average current value: $77,734 (360 horsepower fuel-injected version)
I think the 1963 Corvette coupe is the most beautiful Corvette of all time. What we've done at Fantomworks is take the '63 Corvette convertible—and created a removable hardtop for it.

(Read more: Tesla's stock run just beginning)

Bill Goldberg, Former WWE and WCW Wrestling champion
Source: Bill Goldberg
Bill Goldberg, Former WWE and WCW Wrestling champion

Bill Goldberg
Former WWE and WCW Wrestling champion, and avid car collector

1965 Shelby Cobra
Average current value: $1,298,000 (427 semicompetition model)
A perfect combination of elegance and power … providing a terrifyingly wonderful experience! Not to mention famed racer Carroll Shelby's relationship with Ford.

1959 Ferrari 250 GT California
Average current value: $4,677,050 (LWB closed headlight version)
Drop-top Italian beauty.

1935 Peugeot 402 Eclipse Decapotable
Average current value: N/A
First production model with power-operated retractable top

1971 Plymouth Barracuda
Average current value: N/A
Only 11 convertible Hemi models were ever built. Pinnacle of American muscle collectibility.

1961 Jaguar XK-E
Average current value: $92,178 (flat floor model)
Distinct and unparalleled lines. I feel like I'm cheating on my wife when I wash ours! And then there's the fact that Enzo Ferrari once remarked, "this is the most beautiful car in the world." Enough said.

1940 Ford Deluxe Convertible
Source: Stephen Foskett | Wikipedia
1940 Ford Deluxe Convertible

1932 Ford "Deuce" Roadster
Average current value: $35,800 (V-18 model)
This was a one-year only car. First low priced, mass produced V8.

1965 Ford Mustang
Average current value: $51,284 (271 horsepower, 4-barrel model)
Defined a new class of automobile dubbed a "pony car." Timeless design still produced today. When the car grew up, it transformed itself into my '67 Shelby GT500!

1967 Chevrolet Corvette
Average current value: $113,215 (435 horsepower L71 model)
Dubbed "America's Sports Car" the '67 was the big daddy on the block. I long for one to this day!

2009 Bugatti Veyron GS
Average current value: N/A (current model sells for approximately $2,5000,000)
255 mph drop-top!! Need I say more?

1940 Ford
Average current value: $47,100 (Deluxe model)
The car played a pivotal role in the births of both NASCAR and the hot-rodding movement. When I think "moonshine," I think '40 Ford!

—By Robert Melstein, Special to CNBC.com

Agree? Disagree? We want to you to weigh in with your favorite convertibles of all time. Post your comments below. And be sure to check out more top convertible car designs of all timeas picked by our panel of designers from BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen.

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