Although it was no surprise when Ferrari recently announced an open-topped version of the 458 Italia would be in the offering, the company’s lack of clarity concerning the exact configuration indicated Maranello’s engineers may have a significant design challenge on their hands.
Ferrari’s convertible conundrum
Whereas Ferrari’s entry-level mid-engined cars have always had a convertible derivative (think F355, 360 and 430), these have all been canvas roof designs. The location of the engine makes it nearly impossible to package a folding metal-roof mechanism.
Ferrari does have folding hardtop technology though, aptly demonstrated on the front-engined California. The issue at hand is whether the 458 convertible’s engineers will try and do the impossible by transposing the California’s folding roof mechanism onto the Italia, or simply just seam in some canvas instead.
From a design perspective engineers will surely relish the challenge (and sense of achievement) in successfully completing a hard-top system for 458. Drivers will enjoy the negligible increase in torsional rigidity compared to a traditional canvas soft-top too, although there is weight gain to consider.
Ferrari’s greatest concern with a folding metal-roof 458 is the possible cannibalisation of California sales. Will engineering directives or marketing (il)logic guide the 458 design process? Decisions, decisions.