Plastered on the likes of everything from the Cadillac Series 70 Eldorado Brougham, a gigantic 1950s coupe with epic features, styling, and performance (more on it tomorrow!), to the tepid, styled-like-a-fax-machine Daewoo Brougham (more on it Saturday!), the word brougham has, sadly, been changed over the years to mean whatever marketers want it to.
Originally, it came from the good ol' days of horses and carriages: the driver, up front, was exposed to the elements. Behind, passengers sat in a plush cabin with a squared-off roofline above the rear window. In the early days of motoring, "the help" sat up front in the elements, with the rear passengers covered by a hardtop.
It's this definition I'll use to introduce the Mitsubishi RVR Open Gear, a convertible crossover with a top that's more brougham than targa.
Unlike yesterday's (lame) Bertone Genesis (sorry, @ufarrochil), the RVR Open Gear is exactly the kind of ridiculous "innovation" that makes me excited.
Its top is split to accommodate a sliding roof panel that opens above the front seats, with the rear bench remaining fully enclosed–sort of like a backwards GMC Envoy XUV. (Actually, in a traditional sense, I suppose it's a landaulet in reverse.)
Although the rear seats aren't fully enclosed, it's the squared-off hatchback roofline that screams brougham, at least to me. Hey, if some vinyl and trim can be a brougham on a shitty '70s American barge, so can this.
Part of the zany reason for its existence was thanks to the 90s obsession with the "outdoors," with many models playing to different aspects of the theme. This is where the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 have roots, along with others as diverse as the Subaru Legacy Outback, Ford Explorer Eddie Bauer, Suzuki X90 and Isuzu VehiCROSS.
It wasn't limited to those, of course, but the Japanese were especially adept at unique features. The RVR Open Gear was based on a shortened Mitsubishi Chariot platform–known here in North America as the Mitsubishi Colt Vista Wagon and Eagle Vista Wagon. One of the first MPVs, the family used a bunch of compact car parts underneath a compact van body. Some variants featured sliding doors, to say nothing of the RVR Hyper Sports Gear R, with mechanicals from the Galant VR-4.
The Open Gear had a sliding top, making it a compact hatchback, crossover, and convertible all in one. With Mitsubishi's familiar 2.0-litre 4G63 4-cylinder engine under the hood, figure 158 horsepower–more travel hair dryer than Gone With The Wind.
But with Japan's network of rural routes, mountainous regions, winter snowfall, and centuries-old walking paths, a convertible crossover starts to make sense. Why not enjoy the sensation of being outdoors while commuting to work or taking the kids to school?
For me, what started as a horse-drawn mobile sanctuary for the wealthy is somehow made brilliant when the Japanese turn it into a lifestyle crossover.