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Car body style


Cars can come in a large variety of different body styles. Some are still in production, while others are of historical interest only. These styles are largely (though not completely) independent of a car's classification in terms of price, size and intended broad market; the same car model might be available in multiple body styles.

Styles in current use

Cabrio coach or Semi-convertible 
Style of automobile roof. A car that has a retractable textile cover for what amounts to a large sunroof. Used on several older cars such as Citroën 2CV and Fuldamobil.
Cabriolet 
Another term for a convertible, rarely used in North America.
Convertible 
Style of automobile roof. A body style with a removable or retractable roof and rear window.
Coupe (US) or Coupé (UK/EU) 
A 2-door, 2 or 4 seat car with a fixed roof. Its doors are longer than those of a sedan. In some cases the rear seats are small and not intended for regular use; this is often called a 2+2.
Coupe convertible 
A type of convertible with a rigid roof (as opposed to a fabric or vinyl roof) that retracts into the lower bodywork.
Crossover SUV (or XUV) 
A type of SUV which is based on a car platform rather than truck chassis.
Estate car 
A British English term for what North Americans call a station wagon.
Fastback 
A style of coupe in which the back slopes at a smooth angle from behind the front seats all the way to the tail.
Hardtop 
A style of automobile roof. Originally referred to a removable solid roof on a convertible; later, also a fixed-roof car whose doors have no fixed window frames, which is designed to resemble such a convertible. A pillarless hardtop (the most common kind) is completely open on the sides with the windows down.
Hatchback 
Identified by a rear door including the back window that opens vertically to access a storage area not separated from the rest of the passenger compartment. May be 2 or 4 door and 2 or 4 seat, but generally called in British English 3 door, 5 door.
Liftback 
A style of coupe with a hatchback; this name is generally used when the opening area is very sloped (and is thus lifted up to open).
Limousine 
By definition, a chauffeur-driven car with a (normally glass-windowed) division between the front seats and the rear. In German, the term simply means a sedan.
Minivan 
A car usually containing three rows of seats, with a capacity of six or more passengers. Often with extra luggage space also. As opposed to a van, a minivan is styled as a car, though is more van-like than a station wagon. In Britain, these are generally referred to as People carriers.
MPV 
Multi-purpose vehicle, a large car or small bus designed to be used on and off-road and easily convertible to facilitate loading of goods from facilitating carrying people.
Notchback 
A cross between the smooth fastback and angled sedan look.
Pickup truck 
Medium sized truck-like car featuring a separate cabin and rear load area, combining functions of a car and a truck.
Roadster 
Originally a two-seat open car with minimal weather protection. A folding top might be fitted, along with side curtains, but there was no side glass. Modern roadsters still have two seats but have tops and side windows; the term means simply a convertible sports car, similarly to spyder.
Saloon 
The British English term for a sedan.
Sedan 
A car seating four or more with a fixed roof that is full-height up to the rear window. Normally a 4 door; 2 door is rarer in the US but they do occur (more so historically). This is the most common body style. In the U.S., this term has been used to denote a car with fixed window frames, as opposed to the hardtop style where the sash, if any, winds down with the glass. As hardtops have become rarer, this distinction is no longer so important.
Sports utility vehicle (SUV) 
Derivative of off-road or four-wheel drive vehicles but with car-like levels of interior comfort and drivability. Also sometimes called a "soft-roader".
Spyder (or Spider
Similar to a roadster but originally with even less weather protection. Nowadays means simply a convertible sports car.
Shooting brake 
A two-door estate car/station wagon in (somewhat antiquated) British usage. Often based on a higher-end car.
Station wagon 
A car with an full-height body all the way to the rear; the load-carrying space created is accessed via a rear door or doors.
Targa top 
A semi-convertible style used on some sports cars, featuring a fully removable hard top roof panel which leaves the A and B pillars in place on the car body. (e.g. Fiat X1/9). Strictly, the term originated from and is trademarked by Porsche for a derivate of its 911 series, the Porsche 911 Targa, itself named after the famous Targa Florio rally. A derivative arrangement, called a T-bar roof, has two removable panels and retains a central narrow roof section along the front to back axis of the car (e.g. Toyota MR2 Mk 1.) (A related styling motif is the Targa band, sometimes called a wrapover band which is a single piece of chrome or other trim extending over the roof of the vehicle and down the sides to the bottom of the windows. It was probably named because the original Porche Targa had such a band behind its removable roof panel in the late 60's.)
Utility vehicle (ute) 
Australian English term for a pickup truck.
Van 
In the context of a car type, this is usually a car body with no passenger capacity or windows at the rear. Such models are a utility vehicle with a fully enclosed load area, with seating usually for two people.

Non-English terms

Some non-English language terms are familiar from their use on imported vehicles in English-speaking nations even though the terms have not been adopted into English.

Barchetta 
Italian term for a roadster. The name means, roughly, "small boat".
Berlina 
Italian term for a sedan.
Berline 
French term for a sedan.
Berlinetta 
Italian term for a sports coupe.
Break 
French term for a station wagon.
Kombi 
Swedish term for a station wagon, also used in Germany as abbreviation of "Kombinationswagen" (Combination Car).
Turismo 
Spanish term for a sedan. Literally means tourism, used mostly in Latin American Countries.

Alternative names

Car manufacturers sometimes invent names for the body styles of their cars for the purpose of differentiating themselves from other manufacturers. These names are often, but not always, adaptations of other words and terms. The body styles themselves correlate closely to those listed above.

Avant 
A name used by German maker Audi for their station wagon/estate car models.
Combi coupé 
A name used by Saab for a cross between a saloon and an estate car, essentially a hatchback. Called "Waggon Back" in the US.
Coupe Roadster 
The Mercedes-Benz name for their convertibles with a removable hardtop.
El Camino 
A half-car (front) and half-truck (back), usually with low walls surrounding the bed. Derived from the Chevrolet El Camino, it is currently more or less a generic term.
Caravan 
Used by Opel for its station wagon/estate car models.
Fordor and Tudor 
These names were coined by Ford Motor Company in the 1950s to describe four-door and two-door bodystyles respectively. These terms were used sporadically into the 1960s.
Giardinetta 
Name used in Italy in the 70s and early 80s in models for an Autobianchi three-door station wagon based on Fiat 600, as well as a similar version of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud.
Hardtop Convertible 
The 1958 Ford whose solid roof retracted into the trunk (boot) and which would class as a Coupe convertible above was advertised under this name.
HPE 
Short for High Performance Estate, a name used by Lancia for a station wagon version of their Beta model.
Kammback 
Originally, a car with a tapered rear that cuts off abruptly, after that shape's inventor Wunibald Kamm, commonly seen especially on sports cars. However, this usage is rare nowadays. Better known is the usage of it during the 1970s by both General Motors and AMC in North America as another word for "station wagon" or "hatchback" respectively.
Nevada 
Very popular station wagon version of the Renault 21, so much that people dropped the 21 when referring to it.
Panorama 
Used by Fiat for station wagons during the late 70s and early 80s, notably the 127, 128 and 131. Replaced by the Weekend designation in the mid 80s.
Pillared Hardtop 
This name was used by Ford in the 1970s to describe its bodies which had frameless door glass like a hardtop, but retained a center pillar like a sedan. The '72-'76 Torino sedans and wagons were of this type, as were the '75-'79 Lincoln Town Cars. When GM introduced a similar style on their intermediates for '73-'77, they called the two-doors Colonnade Hardtop Coupe and the four-doors, in a triumph of ad agency gibberish, Colonnade Hardtop Sedan. The '76 Buick Century sedan used this configuration.
Prairie 
a high roofed station wagon.
Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) 
This name is used by BMW for their sports utility vehicle models. It was first used on the X5 and later on the X3.
Sportshatch 
This term, which has been used by General Motors for several European models, has been applied to a number of body styles: A sporty liftback or hatchback (e.g. Opel Manta), and a sporty variant of a 2-door estate car (e.g. Vauxhall Magnum Sportshatch).
Sports Wagon 
A term used by a number of manufacturers in the North American market for their station wagon models. Auto manufacturers in recent years perceive a stigma attached to the term 'station wagon', and attempt to make these models sound more exciting. In Europe, a few manufacturers, notably Alfa Romeo, have used the name Sport Wagon.
Touring 
Used by BMW in Europe for its station wagon/estate car models. In North America, 'Sports Wagon' is used instead.
Turnier 
Used by Ford in Europe for its station wagon/estate car models.
Variant 
Used by Volkswagen for its station wagon/estate car models.
Verso 
Used by Toyota for MPV versions of the Yaris/Vitz, Corolla and Avensis.
Weekend 
Used by Fiat for station wagons since the mid 80s, introduced in the Regata and later used by its replacements Tempra and Marea, as well as the Brazilian small estates Duna and Palio.

Historical body styles

Most early body styles were derived from those available in horse-drawn carriages and used the coachbuilding terms for them, although often their application in the automobile differed from the carriage use. Other types were soon invented, and either used modifications of earlier terminology or wholly new terms to describe them. Some of these terms are occasionally used in modern model designations, but almost always inaccurately with respect to their historical meaning (e.g. Lincoln Town Car, Volkswagen Phaeton).

Brougham 
Generally equivalent to a sedan, but more likely to have closed rear quarters and sometimes more luxuriously trimmed.
Coupe convertible 
A coupe with a convertible top, naturally. Fully enclosed with the top up and side windows up. Called a drophead coupé in the United Kingdom.
Drophead coupé 
As a coupé, but with a full convertible top. British terminology, and dropping out of use for most modern cars, though luxury British makes occasionally still use it. Compare American use of coupe convertible; contrast with fixed-head coupé.
Fixed-head coupé 
British term for a standard coupé with a fixed solid roof, as opposed to a drophead coupé.
Hansom 
A fixed-roof car with a mostly-enclosed cabin in front and a high-mounted open drivers seat in the rear.
Landau  
In automobiles, generally (inaccurately) synonymous with landaulet; also used for a car with a simulated folding top and false landau bars. This latter usage is still current.
Landaulet 
A car in which there is a roof over the front seats and the rear doors (possibly with a center row of seats) but with a folding convertible roof over the rear quarters.
Phaeton 
An open car, normally describing a double or triple-row phaeton. There is often a folding fabric top but no side weather protection. Early Phaetons had a high-mounted rear seat for the driver. The modern VW Phaeton derives its name, but nothing else, from this style.
Runabout 
A popular open light body style, normally with a single bench seat but sometimes with a rear tonneau. Most cars in the first decade of the 20th century were either runabouts or touring cars.
Stanhope 
A car with a single bench seat mounted at the center, a folding cloth top, and only a buckboard at the front.
Tonneau 
A car in which the rear compartment passengers enter through a rear, rather than side, door. Often completely open (no top).
Touring car 
A larger car, normally with two rows of seats (with a tonneau) and a large compartment at the front.
Town brougham 
Equivalent to a town car, but, as with the brougham, more likely to have closed rear quarters.
Town car 
A car in which the front seats were open and the rear compartment closed, normally with a removable top to cover the front chauffeur's compartment. The modern Lincoln Town Car derives its name, but nothing else, from this style.
Town landaulet, Town landau 
Combining the town car and landaulet, this car is open over the driver's compartment, closed over the rear doors, and with an opening convertible top over the rear quarters.

See also


External links