Tassles. That is often what publically marks a successful man. Those little leather nostril hairs which adorn the leather biking jacket, with the chrome rivets, which its owner bought along with his Harley-Davidson “hog” in attempt to turn back the tide of the years.
But, if you’re not “born to be mild”, then you could always succumb to one of the other vainglorious ways the middle-aged Alpha male struts his stuff: Buy a droptop car. I am more of a Bravo male (the B grade) and also don’t have that much stuff to strut these days, so convertibles don’t appeal to me the way they used to.
When I was in my 20s, I bought one (oh to be single…), which I still have, although it is in worse physical condition than me these days.
When I bought that car, I had considerably more hair and I was not quite as sensitive to the sun (we Irish, apparently, have the world’s highest rates of skin cancer, so I have to be careful).
These days, I need a cap and sunscreen before I even think of going topless in a convertible. And it’s not only the sun which will batter your delicate skin – the wind can be murder, too.
Wind is something which you will notice, because a modern convertible almost always looks its best with the side windows rolled down. Having them in the “up” position looks more than just faintly silly, although the protection from the wind is good.
Another downside to al fresco motoring is that, well, this is South Africa, boet. A successful Alpha male certainly doesn’t want to make himself a target at the traffic lights – smash ’n grabbers operate from there and, even if they’re not around, the beggars are an uncomfortable reminder that you are on the right (or wrong) side of the social divide.
So, convertibles don’t make sense, then? Well, most of them don’t, but occasionally, along comes a car like BMW’s M240i Convertible, which makes me re-think my aversion to exposure.
There are a number of reasons for that re-assessment. Firstly, with the top dropped (and it takes less than 30 seconds before folding away completely), it is a gorgeous-looking machine (just leave the side windows down for the purest lines).
The lines are classic enough that this car is still going to look good in 15 years’ time. Secondly, it is motivated by one of the finest powertrains in the current BMW range: a twin-turbo, 250 kW six-cylinder engine and lightning-fast eight-speed autobox.
The M240i Convertible is one serious performer. Colleague Mark Jones, from Citizen Motoring, clocked the car at under five seconds for the 0 to 100km/h dash. And that at Highveld altitudes. That is seriously quick. It handles like a BMW should – that is to say, simply brilliantly.
That’s why I like it – it reminds me of my old Datsun Fairlady sportscar which, the cynics’ comments aside, I bought – not to be a poser, but for its performance.
With a 2.0 litre engine with twin side-draught carbs, and all of 115kW, that car was able to blow away a Golf GTi in its day.
The BMW M240i convertible is even better in terms of thrills … although again, to be honest, I’ve slowed down a lot as I’ve got older and generally prefer comfort to speed.
The M240i is also easy to drive and you can cruise along in it (the default mode for most convertibles) like it is the most natural thing in the world. It even has an “eco” mode! (How did they know I was coming?)
So, would I buy one? Well, there is the little matter of the price – just under R800 000 is a bit steep for an ego trip, to my mind.
And I would still feel a bit exposed. However, if I did have that sort of money, I would rather opt for the Convertible’s M240i two-door coupe sibling, which has a roof and is probably slightly quicker, because it is lighter.
Then again, nothing makes you feel quite as “top of the world” as sky-above-your-head motoring. Beats the hell out of tassles any day…