Convince Me This is(n’t) a Bad Idea

We’ve previous established the relative rarity of the various incarnations of the Prizm GSi – comparitively, the sedan is a dime-a-dozen model, while the hatchback would command, well at least a couple of dimes per dozen. Yeah, they are rare, but as a friend once pointed out, that doesn’t necessarily make them desirable or valuable.

So what if a guy wanted to do something crazy like cut a giant hole in the roof? Is there really that much to lose, other than a capable, but relatively innocuous subcompact unknown by a vast majority of the population?

Of course there is much to lose – weatherproofing, structural rigidity, security, personal relationships…

But so much to gain as well – the warm sun on the skin, gentle breezes on a warm day, car show adulation…

As the first in a series of potential GSi modifications, we start with possibly the most radical. Yes, busting out the sawzall and completing a roofectomy.

Metal replaced with canvas via

It looks so cool on a classic VW, why not on a classic GSi? No really – why not?

As noted briefly above, there are some pretty significant hurdles to overcome. Maintaining a leak-free, mildew-less interior environment would be challenge number one. While a precious few GSi models shipped with the factory electric sunroof, a vast majority were equipped with a solid metal roof – meaning that any modification will substantially increase the chances of leakage.

Structural rigidity is also a concern – the Corolla/Prizm, while well-engineered for their time, were still built to a price point. In other words, limiting cost and reducing weight were primary goals, ahead of vault-like strength. Removing a fairly large portion of the car’s structure certainly will do it no favors.

For about $450, sans any additional parts and labor, it would be a spendy proposition and a permanent modification – there would be no swapping it over to that hatchback you’ve always coveted. And that maybe the one thing that ultimately locks up the brakes in my mind.

But it’s so cool, you say! Of course it is – the thought of a nice jaunt down a country road with the roof peeled waaaaaay back is such a tantalizing concept, it makes one almost forget the stress of driving on those non-beautiful, distinctly wet days with random drops showering the formerly pristine passenger compartment.

The thought of cutting metal makes me tremble, even with a “measure 35 times, cut once” procedure. But the end result would be stunning – whether in a good way or bad way would be up to the eye of the beholder.

What say you? Leave your comments below – hack away or leave it intact?

3 thoughts on “Convince Me This is(n’t) a Bad Idea

  1. Well, it’s your car and your money, but I would definitely research the crap out of that roof before moving forward.

    What are the reviews like from people that have installed them (like the classic VW guys) regarding waterproofness?

    My biggest concern would definitely be maintaining the structural integrity. If there is/was a convertible version of the Prizm, Sprinter, or Corolla, or a similar derivative, you could look and see what the factory did to prevent the body from flexing, but I can’t seem to find evidence of such a car…

    Oh, and I love the website, by the way!

    I don’t own a GSi, but I do have a 1990 Taurus SHO, so I can appreciate a rare and not necessarily valuable 90’s sports sedan with an unusual engine choice and a low survival rate.

    Keep up the good work!


    1. Thanks for reading! Glad you’re enjoying it so far – it’s a little slow for now, but I’ll have more project updates soon, and hopefully there will be some out there for sale too.

      The SHO was another high school dream car – still love them. It’s a good thing I don’t have a longer driveway!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having done the sliding sunroof conversation with both factory sheetmetal VW sliding rag tops from a bug to a 64 double cab, and also used the “California Hot Tops” sliding kit into a 67 VW square back, I can tell you it is mostly easy, and the design of the ribs and canvas pulled tight when closed, seals rather nicely and has little wind noise.


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