Car Type Definitions

I get sedan, estate (wagon), SUV- can someone point out the differences between:

  • Coupe
  • Cabriolet
  • Convertible
  • Roadster



coupe is a two door…

cabriolet is fancy euro-speak for convertable…

convertable has a fold down roof ( or rarely a removable one ) and is also generally two door…

roadster… got me there…

I’ll just jump in here with one distinction I’m reasonably sure about.

Any car with a soft retractable top is a convertible, but only a two-seater can be a roadster. In other words, a Cadillac Coupe de Ville can be a convertible, but a Miata is a roadster. (In fact the car’s name in Japan is Roadster, not Miata.)

I’d hazard a guess about the others, but I’d probably be contradicted by someone with more expertise within seconds. So instead, I’ll wait for someone to provide the answers, and then I’ll say, “That’s what I thought.” (I’m playing it safer in my old age.)

Sorry, I should have been clearer: only a two-seat convertible can be a roadster. Hard topped two-seaters are not roadsters.

Oh, and…

That’s what I thought.

Among certain car makers, especially the Italian ones (Alfa-Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati), another term for convertible is “spyder” or “spider.”

Then there are targas (removable roof section) and t-tops ( two removable roof sections, with a bar remaining across the middle).

Then there’s a sunroof. :slight_smile:

Back when I first got into cars, I was given the following as aguide
Roadster, an open car that may or may not have a top top is removable
Drop head (or drophead) coupe a roadster with a folding top see convertible
Convertible a closed car that has been made into an open car / a car with the top that folds, but remains attached to the car. Example my first MG had a top that I removed, and stored either in the trunk or my garage that was a roadster. The Volvo C70 at my training center is a convertible since when I fold the top it stays with the car.
Coupe 2 door
Cabriolet Fancy Euro speak for 'vertable
Spyder/spider Eyetalian for roadster.
GT a car designed to transport 2 people and a small amount of luggage at high speed and in comfort, not a convertible or roadster.
Here are some examples
drop head coupe (coupe visible in background)
Here is the same car in the roadster version
And for Johnny LA a couple of MG’s
A 1962 roadster
and a 1980 convertible (still called a roadster by the MG people but since the top is attached it is more properly a convertible or a drop head coupe)
and last but not least a GT version

Bad joke warning

Why does a chicken coop only have two doors?

If it had four it would be a chicken sedan.

I get most of the auto classes/types, but I still don’t have a concise definition of SUV. I’d really like a consensus on what exactly constitutes an SUV. Usages seems to range from: “any big vehicle I don’t like” to “large wagon-like vehicle with 4-wheel drive”.

Any takers?

I think that about covers it :slight_smile:

A cabriolet is a convertible coupe. (2-seater with a soft retractable roof).

Best definition I found for an SUV is…

Thanks for those, Rick. I need to call the body guy to insist he finish my car. 16 months! :mad:

IIRC, the MGBs with the folding hoods still retained the sockets for the removable hood. The folding version had always been available (unless they weren’t on the very early ones). They really look better with it stored in the boot, but I can tell you from experience it’s handier to have the folding version. My '66 had a removable hood, and the two '77s were folding ones. The '66 I’m having restored came with folding bows, but I’ve got the stowable bows to replace it. Anyway, since the option was alway there for the stowable hood, I think all MGBs (except the GT) are properly considered roadsters.

Incidentally, the GT you linked to is Old English White with a white-piped, red interior. That’s the colour scheme for my roadster… whenever the guy finishes it!

Properly, an SUV is a closed or convertible vehicle based on a truck frame, usually with four-wheel drive, and designed primarily for “utility” (i.e., “working” or “earning its keep”). The Jeep CJ/YJ/TJ may not seem to fit this definition since it is so small, but it is in fact an evolution of the Willys MB ¼-ton Truck; which is the proper nomenclature for the “army jeep”. (Ford made jeeps in WWII, which were called the GPW – “GP” meant “scout car”, and “W” meant “Willys pattern”.)

Early on, it was found that a truck-based, 4WD vehicle was useful not only as a working vehicle, but also for recreational use. Remember that not all attractive places have paved roads. Last year I took a trip to the western coast of Vancouver Island, which was only accessable by sea, air, or over 50 miles of unpaved washboard road. It was extremely handy to have my Cherokee. My friend’s cargo van would have been shaken apart! (And the kayaks would have been ripped from his flimsy roof mount.)

So in the 1960s and 1970s more and more SUVs started to appear. I was a kid in the late-'60s/70s, and it was in the mid-70s there seemed to be an explosion of Ford Broncos and Chevy K5 Blazers on the roads. Before that, there were the Kaiser-Willys Jeep Wagoneers. The idea was that people would have their “city cars” (sedans and coupés) and their truck-based utility vehicles for trips to the country. The SUVs (which they weren’t called at the time) were aimed at people who had the money for a second car dedicated to recreation. Other people would buy them as working vehicles.

In 1984 AMC-Jeep brought out the XJ Cherokee. While still truck-based, it had unibody construction. It was inexpensive, reliable, and very useful for camping, canoeing, and the like. But being small (about the link of a Honda Accord or similar coupé or sedan), it was also useful in the city. The 1980s were also a time of increasing affluence. (There was a bit of a craze for classic and new Porsches, too.) With extra money, people wanted to buy into the “tough-guy image” of the SUV; even if the vehicles never saw a dirt road or a rock, nor carried any more cargo than some groceries.

Since people were buing “image” and not all that concerned about ability, SUVs became more street-friendly and less offroad-capable. Car makers began offering independent suspensions that are great on the freeway, but not so good if you need to get over some big rocks in a creek. Utilitarian interiors became as plush as any luxury car’s. So nowadays an SUV is a “large wagon-like vehicle with 4-wheel drive”. (Or often, without 4WD.)

So what is an SUV, concisely? How about “a closed or convertible vehicle evolved from one based on a truck frame, usually with four-wheel drive, and designed primarily for “utility”, but often not used for its intended purpose as a “working” vehicle.”

Thanx, Johnny LA. I think your definition is the most comprehensive so far. It appears to exclude all pickups (with which I agree). Just curious, would you include the small “trucklets” with vestigial beds which have become so popular recently? They definitely qualify as “recreational-purpose” vehicles, but don’t fit the “closed” definition.

…or maybe they are covered by the word “convertible”?

Pick up trucks (or “utes”, in some places) are definitely utility vehicles, and many of them are used for recreational purposes; but they are different in concept from SUVs. SUVs generally have accommodation for four or more passengers, while trucks tend to have two seats or a single bench seat. There have been “crew cabs” and “extended cabs” for decades, but I think they are a subclass of a “utility vehicle” rather than a subclass of a “sport utility vehicle”.

Jeep CJ/YJ/TJs are convertible, and they do have beds (when the rear seats are removed). I think that a truck with a convertible hood would be called a “convertible truck” or “convertible sport truck”, rather than just a “convertible”.

IMO, the CJ/YJ/TJ-style vehicle (including FJ40s, Samurais and Land Rovers) are generically known as “jeeps” (lower-case “J”) and are a subclass of SUVs.

Hmm… my car, the Mazda RX-8, has been winning “coupe of the year” awards all over, despite one of its main selling points being the fact that it has 4 doors.