When cars were first introduced in the 1890’s, they did not have roofs at all. Car riders were exposed to the elements. It would be around a decade before Cadillac first manufactured hard top vehicles, but early enclosed vehicles were often confined and uncomfortable, so people preferred open-top or, ideally, convertible vehicles. Early soft-tops were, in general, leaky, noisy and drafty, which didn’t matter in nice weather, but rain would have made it more difficult for people to travel without getting wet.
The 1934 Peugeot 601 Eclipse was an early hard top that was designed to avoid the problems of soft tops. The roof structure for the hard-top self-storing roof was stored in a space behind the driver’s compartment into a space revealed by the reverse-opening rear deck. That was nice, but required a huge amount of space, meaning the car had to be large to accommodate the passengers and the roof. By the 1950’s, many veterans of World War II remembered the small sports cars they saw in Europe, and wanted them homeside, so they called for similar innovation. When the Ford Motor Company introduced their Thunderbird in 1955, they made two types – the soft-top convertible and the hard top. The hard top was fully removable. To enjoy the air, the driver had to leave it behind. Simple and practical – unless it rained that day. Since then, technology has advanced. Soft-top leakage and draftiness has been reduced, and hard-top space requirements have also been reduced, so both styles can be found, but you have to be willing to pay for them!