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An overview of body style descriptions: nomenclature. 
(credits: Mark Theobald & Michiel van den Brink)


ALL WEATHER or ALL WEATHER TRANSFORMABLE (British) – a term used in the twenties and rarely in the thirties for a Cabriolet. In England it can denote a four door CONVERTIBLE SEDAN.

ALL-WEATHER PHAETON or AWP – a convertible body style which offered adequate protection for driver and passengers even in the most inclement weather.

BARCHETTA (Italian) – “Little boat”, a small, lightweight, two-seater roadster with flowing lines. Any small, envelope-bodied car with no top or window fittings.

BARE CHASSIS – a “bare chassis”, as delivered by car makes to custom coach builders, consisted of frame, motor, transmission, wheels, radiator, hood, cowl and instrument panel.

BAROUCHE - a carriage term very rarely used for automobiles. The driver sat in an open front seat with two couples facing each other inside a closed cabin. There was a folding top over the rear seat.

BARREL-SIDE – a British coachbuilding designation to describe a style in which the sides of the body curved outward with a pronounced rounded inward roll at the top instead of a flat sill, and a lesser inward curve at the bottom.

BEACH WAGON – a term for station wagon used mostly in New England.

BERLINE (French) – a closed sedan or luxury car, often with a small window which permitted the occupants to see but barely to be seen. Sometimes used to describe a four-passenger close coupled luxury 4dr sedan (usually of sporting design) with or without Imperial division. There is also some cases of use of the term Convertible Berline – see CONVERTIBLE SEDAN.

BERLINA (Italian) – a Sedan.

BERLINETTA (Italian) – a Sport Coupe.

BISHOP TOP – a “one-man” top with interior-operated side curtains for full winter protection in a standard open car.

BOATTAIL – a speedster with a tapering (i.e. V-shaped) rear section.

BODY IN THE WHITE – bodies delivered to a chassis manufacturer minus trim, paint, varnish and hardware.

BREACK (French) or BREAK (British) or BRAKE (British) – station wagon.

BROUGHAM – in early motoring a broad term signifying a closed car for two or four persons.  In later forms often with an open front driver’s compartment. When with sharp lines and flat surfaces it was called a PANEL BROUGHAM.

BROUGHAM DE VILLE (French) – French equivalent of Town Brougham.

BUGGY TOP – a 3-bow affair as used on early horse-drawn buggy or runabout. This is where a child’s buggy with a folding roof got his name from.

BUSINESS COUPE – a simple two door coupe without a rumble seat.

CAB – a term taken directly from horse-drawn carriage vocabulary and used to define a vehicle in which two passengers were enclosed while the driver was situated some distance away, usually in front and unprotected. But there were also electric cabs with the driver seated high up at the rear.

CABRIOLET (French) - French word, derived from the verb “cabriolet” describing the movements of a prancing horse. It was used initially to describe a light-weight, open, two-seater, horse-drawn carriage generally fitted with a top that could be raised to protect the occupants in inclement weather. Later, among French coachbuilders, it came to designate a convertible automobile for 2 or 3 passengers. Some coachbuilders adopted the term to designate custom-bodied closed cars with a leather or cloth covering applied to the roof. The term went out of style in the mid-Thirties but made a reappearance in the 1980s.

CALIFORNIA TOP – a fixed rigid top applied to a touring car replacing the regular folding top, usually with sliding glass windows for weather protection.

CHARABANC or CHARRABANC (French) – a vehicle carrying many passengers; typically used for sightseeing. Early charabancs used for public transportation were often seen without a top. In Britain, charabanc is an earlier synonym for bus or omnibus.

CHASSIS (French) – derivation French; a frame in wood or metal; the frame work of a wagon; later the term was applied to the frame-work of a locomotive; then to the longitudinal and transverse frame members of a motor car. By extension it also designates the whole of the mechanical portion of a motor car. More correctly, however, the word chassis should only apply to the metal framework receiving the engine gearset and controlling mechanism.

CLUB COUPE – a two door closed car with a rear seat.

COACH – a two door sedan.

COLLAPSIBLE – on certain body styles, this was an indication that all or only the rear part of the roof could be folded away, thus enabling the occupants to enjoy the breeze in their hair in fair weather.

CONDUIT-INTERIEUR (French) – interior-drive or enclosed-drive limousine.

CONTINUOUS COWLING (also see DUAL COWL) – this kind of “cowling” formed the border of the passenger compartment, mainly of open cars; in essence it was composed of narrow front, rear and side panels forming a rectangular “frame” around the seating area; continuous cowling looked like absence of cowling; the hood flowed back to the trunk area without any visible molding or beading to mark off the seating compartment.

CONVERTIBLE – a car with a folding top and permanent windows.


CONVERTIBLE ROADSTER – a convertible is an open car with windows; a roadster is an open car without windows, hence a term which contradicts itself. Used by Lincoln, Chrysler and others about 1930 to emphasize sportiness.

CONVERTIBLE SEDAN – interchangeable in some cases with the term All Weather (all weather sedan) and sometimes also considered a TRANSFORMABLE, usually without a division. Typically feature fixed or removable window frames with roll-up or pull-up glass side windows and a folding top with rigid sections of weather seal.

CONVERTIBLE TOP – early cars had either leather, rubber or mohair tops that could be raised to keep out inclement weather or lowered to take in the sun or sights. Leather tops were almost always made with a black patent leather exterior backed by a cotton-wool padded rubber impregnated cloth. Rubber tops were made of high quality, rubber-covered 3-ply cloth with heavy jean backing; it was web-reinforced and padded with cotton wool. The mohair top was stitched from black mohair Mackintosh cloth. Many customers preferred the rubber top as it held its shape well and gave the car a smooth top line when raised unlike the leather and mohair tops which were permanently wrinkled and uneven.

CONVERTIBLE VICTORIA – a four passenger two door two window cabriolet.

COUPE – a closed car with two doors for two or three people. May also have a rudimentary rear seat in which case it is usually called a Club Coupe. Originally a vehicle ‘cut’ by a glass division, fixed or moveable, behind the front seats. The driving position was only partially protected by the roof whilst the totally enclosed rear was very luxurious. According to American stylist  J. Frank de Causse, the word Coupe is pronounced “Koo-pay”; a “Koop” is where the chickens stay.

Nowadays the term Coupe is used for any car with two doors and a sporty roof line. It has become more of a marketing term for automotive manufacturers, than a fact of the vehicle’s design and technical makeup. The term has been ascribed to vehicles with two, three, or four doors, for their perceived luxury or sporting appeal. This is because coupés in general are seen as more streamlined and sportier than those of comparable four-door sedans. Hence a coupé would be marketed as a sportier vehicle than a two-door sedan.

COUPE-CABRIOLET or DOUBLE CABRIOLET – A long vehicle, the front part of which was designed as a coupe, whilst the rear part had the collapsible hood of a cabriolet. There were often two supplementary seats.

COUPE CHAUFFEUR (French) – chauffeur driven car with passengers fully enclosed and the chauffeur exposed. Body has a blind rear quarter.

COUPE de VILLE – “town coupe” – applied imaginatively to various body styles Usually a four passenger two door car with a permanently closed roof over the rear seats and a removable top covering the front seats. But Renault and Bugatti used this term for a Panel Brougham. See SEDANCA.

COUPELET – a term used especially by Ford to describe a Model T two-seater Cabriolet.

COUPE LIMOUSINE (French) – chauffeur driven car with the passengers fully enclosed and the chauffeur exposed. Body has rear quarter windows.


COUPE ROADSTER – a term used by Packard to describe a Convertible Coupe or Drop Head Coupe – see CONVERTIBLE COUPE or DHC.


DEMI-TONNEAU – An open body style that consists of a runabout with a detachable tonneau in the rear.

De VILLE (French) – From the French de la ville or de ville meaning “of the town”. In French coach building parlance, a coupé de ville, from the French couper (to cut) and ville (town or city), refers to a town car that is “cut” by a division between the passenger and driver compartments.

De VILLE EXTENSION – a sliding roof over the front seat with side arms that folded back into the remaining roof thus producing a Sedanca configuration in metal rather than the usual fabric.

DICKEY (British) – This is the English name for the “rumble” seat. It is also known as the “Mother-in-Law” seat and is a folding seat built into the trunk area of many pre-war automobiles.

DOORS and DOOR HINGES – look closely at the door configuration of coachbuilt cars and you’ll notice that they differ from one style to another in the way they open. The various configurations are as follows:

  • center-hinged (both front and rear doors are hinged to the “B” pillar, aft of the front seat)
  • forward-opening doors (front doors are hinged at the “A” pillars and the rear doors at the “B” pillars)
  • rear-opening or so-called “suicide” doors (front doors are hinged at the “B” pillars and the rear ones at the “C” pillars)
  • center-opening or rear “suicide” doors (front doors hinged at the “A” pillar and rear doors at the “C” pillar), resulting in the widest gap possible into the cabin, made for easy access of passengers or loading of parcels.

DORSAY – a car with two additional fenders in the running boards between the wheels.

DOUBLE BERLINA – a lengthened berlina with the driving position enclosed but separated from the rear part of the vehicle.

DOUBLE LANDAULET – a lengthened landaulet with two permanent seats plus two occasionals in the rear, and a driving position in front.

DOUBLE PHAETON – a phaeton with two double seats, including that of the driver.

DOUBLE TONNEAU – a lengthened tonneau in which the front seats were completely separate from the rear.


DUAL COWL – a touring car with a rear windshield mounted on a folding cowl which covers part of the rear compartment.

DUAL COWL or SECONDARY COWL – it divides the front and rear seating areas of an open car (touring car) into two distinct compartments. Some secondary cowls were fixed, other hinged. Some included a secondary windshield that could be cranked down or folded forward, flat against the cowl. On a few bodies the cowl and windshield raised automatically when the rear door was opened.

ESTATE CAR – a Station Wagon. Body-style variant of a sedan with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door (the liftgate or tailgate), instead of a trunk lid. The body style transforms a standard three-box design into a two-box design, to include an A, B, and C-pillar, as well as a D-pillar. Station wagons can flexibly reconfigure their interior volume via fold-down rear seats to prioritize either passenger or cargo volume.

The common names in American, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian English are STATION WAGON and WAGON, while ESTATE is common in the rest of the English-speaking world. Both names harken to the car’s role as a shuttle, with storage space for baggage, between country estates and train stations. In Germany the name KOMBI is commonly used. Kombi is a German abbreviation of “Kombinationswagen” (Combination Car). Since Germany is a major producer of cars for many European countries, the term Kombi in this meaning is also used in Russian, Swedish, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Slovenian, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Bulgarian and Afrikaans.

Many car brands use their own name for their Station Wagons. Aerodeck (Honda), Avant (Audi), Break (Peugeot & Citroën), Caravan (Opel), Combi (Skoda), Sportwagon (Alfa Romeo), Tourer (Rover), Touring (BMW & Mercedes), Variant (Volkswagen), Vario (Seat), etc.

FASTBACK – a design where the roof slopes at a smooth angle to the tail of the car, but the rear window does not open as a separate “door”. Commonly used for two-door Sport Coupes.

FAUX CABRIOLET (French) – a fixed head coupe made to resemble a cabriolet usually by using landau bars and a patent leather or vinyl covering.

FIXED HEAD COUPE (British) or FHC – a closed coupe.

FORMAL – a car with enclosed rear quarters and, often, a leather-covered roof.

FOUR-DOOR COUPE – a luxury sedan with classic coupé-like lines and proportions. The low roof design reduces back seat passenger access and headroom. The designation was first applied to a low-roof model of the Rover P5 from 1962 until 1973, but was revived by the 1985 Toyota Carina ED, the 1992 Infiniti J30 and finally by the first model Mercedes-Benz CLS. The term was used for marketing reasons and the German press accepted the concept of four-door coupé and adopted it to similar models from other manufacturers. Also, other manufacturers like Volkswagen, Audi and BMW accepted it, producing recent competing models.

GLASS SALOON – a large closed vehicle, generally similar to a double berlina but with very large windows.

GOUTTE d’EAU (French)- a body with a “tear drop” design, flowing down to the rear.

GRAN TURISMO (Italian) – grand touring. Used for sporty two-door coupe cars. In short: GT.

GTO (Italian)- Grand Turismo Omologato, a racing car that had to be homologated (produced in a limited number) in order to qualify for a racing series. Also used as a model name by Ferrari, Pontiac and Donkervoort.

HARDTOP – originally a convertible body with a non-removable hardtop installed at the factory. The main feature that distinguishes a hardtop from a sedan is that when the front and rear windows are rolled down, there is one large open space with no frame or post between the front and rear seat area. Another feature is that the doors do not have any external frames to support the windows. Nowadays a Hardtop is a hard cover offered as an option to be used instead of a Convertible’s folding roof, mostly during winter.

HATCHBACK – a passenger car that has a sloping back with a hinged rear door that opens upward. The rear deck lid and window lift open as one unit. The rear door leads into the car. This does not apply to SUVs, Trucks, Crossovers, Station Wagons, or Vans.

IMPERIAL – an enclosed body featuring a fixed or mobile glass division between front (driver) and rear (passenger) compartments.

IMPERIAL CABRIOLET – a sedan with enclosed or blank rear quarters and a leather top covering simulating a “cabriolet”, that is a convertible, with its top up.

IMPERIAL FRONT – a Town Car with a convertible chauffeur’s compartment that included a temporary roof for use during inclement weather.

IMPERIAL LANDAULET – a sedan featuring glass division and opening roof portion over the rear seat passengers.

INNENLENKER (German) – interior-drive or enclosed-drive limousine.

INSIDE-DRIVE LIMOUSINE – a fully-enclosed, chauffeur-driven limousine. Previously these cars had been open or partly open in the driver area.

JUMP SEATS or OPERA SEATS – two, wide auxiliary seats that folded into the division partition or the rear of the front seat and could accommodate up to 3 adults in relative comfort for long-distance travel. They were fitted in a number of the larger sedans, limousines and touring cars.

KAMM TAIL – refers to the very specific aerodynamic design of the back of the car. Originally a car with a tapered rear that cuts off abruptly. Named after the shape’s inventor Wunibald Kamm. Especially seen on some Sports Cars in the sixties.

LANDAU – derived from the name of the German city of Landau. It was used in earlier times to describe an open, 4-wheel, horse-drawn carriage with front and rear suspension, having two opposite-facing seats aligned in parallel to the wheel axles, and one or two folding tops for both the front and the rear seats (in France the term “landau” describes an infant carriage – a pram – with a folding top). Also can be any two seated vehicle which could be fully converted by a two section opening convertible top.

LANDAU BARS (or IRONS) – these could be functional or purely decorative; they are to be seen on many formal sedans and limousines fitted with a leather roof covering. They could be painted, nickel-plated or chromium-plated according to customer preference. When functional, they formed an integral part of the folding mechanism for all or part of the roof covering. The decorative irons were attached to the rear roof quarters whereas the functional ones reached down below the belt line. Some folding tops featured concealed bows built inside of the roof.

LANDAULET (French) – In automobile parlance, a “landaulet” describes an automobile in which the driver’s compartment is separated from the passenger area by a fixed or mobile glass division. This was generally a formal body style with a leather or cloth roof portion over the rear seating area that could be folded back to afford the occupants the pleasure of an open air ride. Landaulet feature (folding roof) was reserved mostly for town cars although it was used also occasionally on sedans and limousines.

LANDAULETTE (French) – a two door car with a Landaulet roof (the top over the rear seats folds down).

LIFTBACK – a style of Coupé with a Hatchback; this name is generally used when the opening area is very sloped (and is thus lifted up to open).

LIGHT – a side window. Cars are often described by their numbers of windows; four-light (meaning a total of four windows), six-light, eight-light, etc.

LIMOUSINE (French) – plural LIMOUSINES – From the French limousin and limousine, belonging to or originating in the French town of Limoges. The limousine generally differed from the sedan in having a glass partition or division between the front (chauffeur) and rear (owner/passenger) compartment. Early partitions were fixed and the rear-seat occupant could hail the driver through a microphone and horn speaker; other partitions had a hole drilled in them. Later partitions were in two parts that slid open to left or right; others wound down into the partition by means of a crank or, later, an electric motor. Nowadays, the term Limousine is used for any lengtened sedan car.

MINIVAN – a modern term for a type of Van designed specifically for personal use. Minivans are typically either two-box or one-box designs for maximum interior volume and are taller than a sedan, hatchback, or a station wagon. They also offer more seats and increased load capacity than Hatchbacks or Estate Cars. Worldwide, Minivans are also marketed as Multi-Purpose Vehicles (MPVs), People-Carriers, People-Movers or Multi-Utility Vehicles (MUVs).

MOTHER-IN-LAW SEAT – a single seat attached to the back of a two-seat car, the forerunner of the rumble seat. It can also denote a seat placed on the opposite side of the car from the driver.

NOTCHBACK – originally, a sedan or possibly a coupe with a backlight (rear window) which slanted backward, so that the top of the roof extended further backward than the bottom of the window. Later, it became used for sedans where it refers to the typical “three-box” design of sedans – three clearly separate areas for engine, passengers, and cargo. A notchback, unlike a hatchback or fastback, is characterized by a near-vertical drop-off from a car’s roof to its trunk.

OPERA COUPE – a two door closed car with a small folding seat beside the driver. This allowed easy passage to a rear seat for two, usually offset to the right in left-hand drive cars.

OPERA LIGHTS – side lights mounted on center pillar or quarter panel.

OPERA SEATS or OPERA CHAIRS –  fitted in some short wheel base sedans to increase passenger capacity from five to seven for short distances.  An explanation of the origin of the name is provided in the Fleetwood color portfolio of 1930 models; these opera seats were designed on the same principle as the strapontin (the small, folding seat that is mounted on the end of many of the rows of seats in the Paris Opera) only more comfortable! The so-called “opera seats” could consist either of two side-facing seats or more commonly the LH seat facing sideways and the RH one facing the rear; these occasional seats were not as luxuriously finished or as comfortable as the full-width “jump seats”.


PHAETON – (Carriage teminology) The word comes from Greek mythology. Phaethon was the son of Helios, who drove the Chariot of the Sun so recklessly that Zeus, fearing he would set the earth on fire, struck him down with a bolt of thunder.  The first known use of the term to identify a carriage comes from 1735 when the French applied it during a period when it was much in vogue to use such classical pseudonyms. The term spread rapidly to England and then America.

The term is generally applied to four wheel vehicles that are a bit lighter than standard carriages.  Generally, the body is a single piece and can be either for two or four passengers.  There is no specific driving seat; for this would be an owner-driven vehicle that was considered to be sporty. Usage of the term became so general and loose toward the end of the era, that often there was little distinction between certain phaetons and a carriage bearing some other name.

PILLARLESS – usually a prefix to Coupé, Fastback, Hardtop or Sedan with frameless side windows. Completely open above the doors at the sides when the windows are down, without a central pillar.

PROFESSIONAL CARS – Ambulances, Flower Cars, Funeral Vehicles, Hearses and Limousines are all considered to be Professional Cars. With few exceptions, hearse and ambulance bodies were sold by coach-builders and not chassis builders. While Cadillac offered a commercial chassis specially built for those purposes, and published literature on same every year, this was more of an effort due to the prestige and high visibility associated with funeral cars than anything; and commercial chassis sales themselves were always a small percentage of Cadillac production. It was the coach-builders who handled marketing of professional cars, and that’s why the proper terminology for them lists the car by coach-builder before mentioning the chassis builder, such as a Superior-Cadillac rather than a Cadillac-Superior. Hearses and ambulances were a market in their own right where chassis builders only worked with the coach-builders to provide what they needed in most cases. Some hearses are more collectible than others because of who built them or how the car differed from other coaches. Years ago, a distinctive hearse was a matter of pride to many funeral directors, and it’s not uncommon for people to prefer one make of professional car over another. Every brand of coachwork had its advantages and disadvantages; this affected a buyer’s decision as to what make of coach they bought. There’s a lot more to hearses than meets the average person’s eye.

PULLMAN – The name Pullman alone is suggestive of the noble character of the new VIP limousine: In the mid-19th Century the American industrialist George Mortimer Pullman from Chicago (Illinois) made a name for himself by building particularly luxurious railway cars. Since then the name “Pullman” has stood for the highest level of comfort on wheels. In 1928 the standard German reference work “Kraftfahrer und Kraftfahrzeug” defined the Pullman limousine as a “large, comfortable touring and VIP car with a partition between the driver’s seat and passenger compartment”.

RETRACTABLE HARDTOP –  a type of convertible that forgoes a folding textile roof in favor of an automatically operated, multi-part, self-storing hardtop. Also known as Coupé Convertible or Coupé Cabriolet. The first commercially successful retractable hardtop was from France when in 1934 Peugeot introduced the 601 Éclipse, designed by Georges Paulin.

ROADSTER – an American term referring to an open body with one wide seat capable of taking tow or three abreast, possibly also having a dickey seat. The American equivalent of the British 2-seater.  From the 1930s on it has come to mean the same thing as an open-top 2-seater sports car.

ROI DES BELGES – an ornate tulip phaeton, quite popular in Europe during the early 1900s. The body style was named after the topless limousines favored by King Leopold II of Belgium, the Belgian Monarch who had a much celebrated affair with the notorious Parisian dancer and post card pin-up Cléo de Mérode.

RUMBLE-SEAT or DICKEY SEAT – a folding seat in the rear of an open roadster. or convertible coupe body.

RUNABOUT – a very early 2-passenger automobile body style closely resembling a horse-drawn carriage; by adding a demountable “tonneau” behind the front bench, it could be turned into a 4-passenger vehicle.

SALAMANCA (British) – a style of fast touring TRANSFORMABLE (usually five-passenger) limousine popularized by Rolls-Royce. Named after the the Marquis de Salamanca (Don Carlos de Salamanca), a Spanish nobleman and Rolls-Royce agent who won the Spanish Grand Prix of 1913 in a Silver Ghost.

SALOON – a vehicle with the driving seat inside the enclosed car with no separation from the rear seats. Also the English modern term for a SEDAN.

SEDAN – a passenger car in a three-box configuration with A, B & C-pillars and principal volumes articulated in separate compartments for engine, passenger and cargo. Mostly with four doors and a separate boot lid. Two-door Sedans are often marketed as a Coupe.


SHOOTING BREAK (British) or SHOOTING BRAKE – a station wagon, in Britain a break used for hunting or shooting, hence shooting break or shooting brake. The definition for “break” as a noun reads “a large wagonette: a carriage used in breaking horses.” Later, the term became common for sporty two-door cars with a station-wagon-shaped rear end. Luxury sport Coupes were often converted into a Shooting Brake to carry golfclubs and other sporting gear.

SKIFF or CAB-SKIFF – an open sports car with streamlined, light bodywork.

SPEEDSTER - a type of car body closely related to the ROADSTER:  a light, open car built for speed and adventure. Usually a one- or twoseater. Various names were given to early versions of speedsters: runabout, raceabout, racy roadster, semi-racer, torpedo, submarine, jack rabbit, and so on. More info here.

SPORTIF – a very tight or narrow Phaeton. Used by Locomobile among others.

SPORT COUPE – a closed coupe with a cloth top and sometimes landau irons resembling a convertible. Nowadays: any sporty two-door car with a flowing roof line.

SPYDER or SPIDER – mostly used for Italian and British open-top two-seater sports cars. Similar to a Roadster but originally with less weather protection. The term originated from a small two-seat horse cart with a folding sunshade made of four bows. With its black cloth top and exposed sides for air circulation, the top resembled a spider.

STATION WAGON – originally a utility car built of wood, typically with four doors. Nowadays a body-style variant of a sedan with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door (the liftgate or tailgate), instead of a trunk lid. See also ESTATE.

SUBURBAN – a seven passenger limousine.

SUICIDE DOOR - a door hinged at the back and opening at the front, aka rear-hinged door, typically for the front seat. At speed any chance opening would cause the door to whip backward with great force. However, there were sound reasons for the practice. On long chassis of the day – with engines mounted further back than is now usually the case – the front edge of the front door came close to the center of the wheelbase, at a point where the chassis was most flexible. Hinging the door at this area could produce considerable distortion and develop unwanted rattles and squeaks.

SUPERLEGGERA (Italian) – super light, usually referring to aluminium bodies. Also the name of a type of body construction used by Italian coachbuilder Touring.

SURREY – a body style from the early 1900s that replaced the tonneau with a full width rear seat and entrance from both sides (no doors).

TARGA TOP or TARGA – a semi-convertible car body style with a removable roof section and a full width roll bar behind the seats. The term was first used on the 1966 Porsche 911 Targa and it remains a registered trademark of Porsche AG. The rear window is normally fixed, but on some targa models, it is removable or foldable, making it a convertible-type vehicle.

The Targa became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, when there were fears that the Department of Transportation in the United States would ban convertibles, due to concerns over the safety of occupants when a car rolls over. As a result, manufacturers adopted Targa tops. As Porsche helped to popularise this body style, they took out a trademark for the Targa name and manufacturers sought for alternative names for their removable tops. Porsche got the name “Targa” from the Targa Florio, the famous road race in Sicily where Porsche was very successful. Targa means “plate” in Italian. Although the word Targa first came into use by Porsche, it was not necessarily the first to use the removable hard top system. The first appearance was five years earlier with the 1961 Triumph TR4, where it was commonly called a SURREY TOP.

T-TOP or T-ROOF – similar to a Targa Top, but with a solid, non-removable bar running between the top of the windscreen and the rear roll-bar. T-tops generally have two separate, removable roof panels above the seats that fit between the window and central t-bar.

THREE POSITION COUPE – A Coupe De Ville which may be presented as a fully closed coupe, a deVille Coupe with the front section open or a fully collapsible convertible.

TONNEAU – plural, TONNEAUX (French) – the rear compartment of a car body, usually an open touring body. Originally a French word meaning a barrel; a wooden vessel formed of staves and hoops and made to contain a TONNEAU (1,000 kilogrammes) of oil. Later, a horse-drawn carriage, known in England as a governess car, having a rear entrance.

Also a removable passenger compartment that offered additional seating for two or more passengers and was mounted at the rear of a body behind the front seats. It comprised a single door at the rear and was available on “Runabout” models during the 1900s.  In later cars, the TONNEAU was the passenger area behind the front seat; the term also may describe the piece of cowling sometimes installed behind the front seat to protect the occupants of the rear compartment; the second cowl could be raised to facilitate entry to and exit from the rear seat.

TORPEDO (French) – a very smooth touring car without horizontal moldings. The French equivalent of Phaeton. Also a long sports vehicle with hood, which was attached to the windscreen.

TOURER (British) – the British equivalent of a Touring car or Phaeton. Also used for any sporty open-top car with 4 or 5 seats.

TOURING or TOURING CAR – an early body style designating an open car accommodating at least 4 persons; fitted with a folding top (and occasionally waterproof side curtains) for use in inclement weather; more generally, a large family-sized convertible automobile with 4 doors and a seating capacity for 5 to 7 passengers. Later also used as an alternative name for an Estate car or Stationwagon.

TOWN CABRIOLET – A town car in which the covered rear section converts to an open car.

TOWN CAR – generally a chauffeur-driven automobile with an open front compartment and, sometimes, a metal or makeshift leather covering to protect the chauffeur in inclement weather. The passenger compartment, separated from the driver by a fixed or mobile glass division, usually had exceptionally luxurious appointments. Many town cars had a “speaking-tube” mounted on the “B” pillar, the outlet of which stood close to the left ear of the driver; the driver’s seat and front door panels of most town cars were finished in fine grain black leather; a waterproof foul-weather cover was stored in a special compartment in the division, behind the front seat; it could be pulled out and buttoned on the windshield to protect the driver. Also known as a SEDANCA de VILLE or TOWN BROUGHAM.

TRANSFORMABLE (French) a four door convertible with windows – see ALL-WEATHER.

TULIP BACK (Br.) – a Panel Brougham or Coupe deVille (very early type) with quarter panels and rear body panels that flare outward at the top to a flat sharp edged roof line. Also, an early vehicle whose Tonneau is shaped like the body of a tulip.

TULIP PHAETON – an early vehicle whose Tonneau is shaped like the body of a tulip.

VAN – a large covered Wagon with a one-box design used for transporting goods or people. The word Van originally meant a large covered wagon found at the front of an army (compare vanguard, the advance guard of an army). In English usage, it can be either specially designed cargo vehicle or based on a saloon or sedan. Van is commonly used to describe a minivan, a passenger minibus, or a Panel Van.

VESTIBULE SEDAN – a closed body style with an arched rear compartment door extending into the roofline. The high door allowed distinguished owners to enter and exit the vehicle without removing their hats.  Popular from the early teens through the early twenties.

VICTORIA – a close coupled two door sedan or an enlarged coupe with a rear seat also knmown as an OPERA COUPE. Also a four door open car with folding top over the rear seat only. Known in France as a COUPE MILORD.

VOITURETTE (French) – an early touring car with two seats only and no hood.

WEYMANN – developed by Charles T. Weymann and patented in 1922, it consisted of a nitrile coated fabric that was stretched over an ash frame that was fastened together by small strips of perforated steel plate. The body was incredibly light and the metal strips prevented the wood from rubbing together and squeaking (a major problem with many coachbuilt bodies).

WOODY – a motor vehicle incorporating natural finished wood for structure and all exposed parts of the body. The term has been loosely applied to any car which uses wood on the exterior.


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