By Paul Borden
June 14, 2012 @ Ritz Carlton Hotel - Key Biscayne, FL

It seems such a natural fit -- convertibles and South Florida -- you might think that it would have been the first thing to come to mind when the board of the Southern Automotive Media Association, which is based in Miami, began mulling over ideas for another event to add to its yearly calendar.

When the organization was formed in March of 2007, the first thing it did was work with the South Florida Auto Dealers Association to coordinate an awards program for the South Florida International Auto Show.

That fall, SAMA selected its first “Star of the Show” of the event, which draws more than 600,000 visitors annually in the fall to the Miami Beach Convention Center -- the Cadillac CTS.

The following year, SAMA held its first Rides-N-Smiles event, treating pediatric patients from Baptist Children’s Hospital who suffer from chronic childhood illness such as cancer, diabetes, Crohn’s and Colitis, and brain injuries, to a day of rides in luxury performance cars around the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.

In the last couple of years, that event has grown to add families from Miami Children’s Hospital and continues to grow thanks to the efforts of SAMA Vice President Bill Adam. The 2012 Rides-N-Smiles is scheduled for Nov. 10 at the Speedway.

But always in the back of everyone’s minds was the idea of a third event for the spring to balance out the schedule.

It would be loosely based on the Texas Truck Rodeo competition the Texas Auto Writers Association conducts in the Lone Star State but featuring another automotive segment. Though pickups and SUVs are popular in South Florida, especially when it comes to towing boats, they don’t really fit into the area’s image.

Consideration was given to luxury cars. After all, you can’t drive up and down Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive without encountering at least one and usually several exotics that make you stop and go “whoa.” That idea never got off the ground.

Then thoughts turned to the evolving “Green Car” market of hybrids and electric vehicles. But that didn’t take off either.

Finally, at a breakfast board meeting, someone broached the idea to feature a convertible competition, and that got unanimous and enthusiastic approval.

Thus “Topless in Miami” came into being. (From the name, you might think this meeting was held during cocktail hour, but coffee, orange juice and tea were the only beverages on the table.)

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne was also a unanimous choice as the headquarters as the hotel not only is in an exotic beach location but has an big area to serve as a staging area for the cars. A convenient, short driving area that presents several great photo backdrops is right there as well.

It works this way: Members take the cars out for quick spins and score them on design, driving experience, and the ease of raising and lowering the tops. One-button operations that secure themselves get high marks.

Several factory representatives are in attendance to answer questions and ride along to answer questions if the member desires.

The process begins in the morning and continues through late afternoon when all the scores are tallied, and winners in four categories plus an overall Convertible of the Year are announced at a banquet that night.

It is a fun, but not exactly an easy task. The quality of the 17 vehicles entered in the recent (June 14) second annual competition reflects the overall strides the industry as a whole has made in recent years in overall quality and design.

The other difficulty is getting the vehicles into a proper category as well as defining the categories. Luxury, small, and sports cars are somewhat obvious segments, but a fourth presented a bit of a challenge.

The decision was made to classify convertibles with four-passenger capacity as “family” vehicles. It worked out great in 2011 when the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet was the winner of the “family” category, but calling the 2012 winning Chevrolet Camaro as a family vehicle might be stretching things a big.

But those are details that are to be worked out in the future. The turnout of 71 members for 2012, nearly 20 more than the number who took part in the first year, would seem to be evidence of the enthusiasm SAMA members have for Topless.

Other winners for 2012 are the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster as Convertible of the Year; the Jaguar XKR-S as luxury convertible of the year; Camaro as best family; Audi TT S-Tronic Roadster as sports car; and the Gucci edition of the Fiat 500C as best small convertible.

The Fiat was a repeat winner in the category from the inaugural event last year, when the Audi R8 Spyder won the voting for 2011 Convertible of the Year. Other winners last year were the BMW 650i, Chevy Corvette, and, as mentioned, the Murano CrossCabriolet.

But considering the support from the manufacturers and the turnout of the members, a fifth winner on a bright, sunny South Florida day, a fifth winner was SAMA itself.

Adam Paige from Mercedes-Benz

John Kiskinis from the South Florida Auto Show

Mia Morandi, Jaime Florez

Tony Lesesne, Ron Beasley

Tony Serrato, Erin Ryder, Mia Morandi, Tony Lesesne

Marcello Serrato, Paul Borden

Johnny Tapanes, Javier Mota, Al Vásquez

Tony and Woodie Lesesne

Woodie & Tony Lesesne, Juan Robbin, Angelo Serrato

Ady Coutinho
Jaime Gabaldoni, Jaime Florez, María Ravani

Javier Storace.......................................................

Paul Borden

Ford Mustang Convertible

Jeep Wrangler, VW Eos, Jaguar XKR-S

Fiat 500 Gucci, Mercedes SLK 550, Chrysler 200, Ford Mustang

Mercedes-Benz  SL 550 - Miss Boca 2011

María Ravani







Also See: 2011 Topless in  Miami

Click on photos to enlarge

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Roadster - Video by Javier Mota


Topless in Miami FIAT 500c Cabrio Gucci- Video by Javier Mota


Topless in Miami - Video by Pepe Delfino


Topless in Miami  - Video by Javier Mota


Click on photos to enlarge

Past Presidents Ron Beasley and Paul Borden

Ron Beasley, Treasurer  Marcello Serrato, President Jaime Florez

Secretary Tony Lesesne, Marcello Serrato, Jaime Florez

xChevrolet Camaro

Erin Ryder from Audi

Ariel Gavilan from Fiat


Erin Ryder , Marcello Serrato

Gaby Delfino, Tony Serrato

Pepe Delfino, Jaime Florez

Pepe Forte, Jeffrey Ross

Tony Lesesne, Ron Beasley

Angelo Serrato, Giorgio Cerbocini, jaime Florez, Tony Serrato

Daniel Alvarez, Arturo Duran & Son, Pepe Forte


Audi TTS Roadster

Gaby Delfino , Pepe Forte


Mazda MX5 Miata

Nissan Murano Cabriolet

Jaime Florez, Eduardo Hapke, Ariel Gavilan

Pepe Forte, Luis González


Mini Cooper Roadster - Arturo Duran & Son