Name That Roadster

As I journey along in the car world, little by little I’m learning. From mechanical issues to car culture history to just plain cars. Recently, while at the LA Roadster Show, I was able to learn a little about all three! It all started with the question “What makes a roadster a roadster?”

To help me answer that question I enrolled Lynn Houchin, longtime LA Roadster Club Member, to be my guide. He answered all of my questions (and was able to point out examples!) about important distinctions surrounding roadsters including: Model A, Model T, highboy, coupe, phaeton, tudor, and more!

LA Roadster Show 1932 Ford

First things first – What defines a roadster? Sure, I know its got something to do with having a removable top…but that same definition would also define a convertible so there must be more to it than that. So here it is, two simple things. A roadster must have removable windshield posts , one that is not one with the body – and no roll-up door windows.

Model A with Fenders at LA Roadster Show

Now that mystery is solved, let’s move onto the next.  Model A and Model T, what’s the difference? Hearing car guys talk about this I’d always been confused thinking it was a model type. As it ends up, Ford only made one model of car (albeit with different variations) during these years. So Model T is the earlier Ford car made between the years of 1908 and 1927. A perfect example of a Model T would be MyRideisMe’s Pikesan’s 1927 “Bonnie” . In 1928 Ford switched things up a bit adding a splash apron, widening the fenders some, and changing the body style in places. The Model A was produced between 1928 and 1931, and can be seen in the picture above.

1934 Ford at LA Roadster Show

In 1932 Ford switched things up again, and this time it’s a little easier to notice – they added a radiator cover. 1932’s often get called “deuces” but you could also call them Model Bs (for some reason though I’ve never heard car guys use that term.) 1933 and 34s are recognizable by their pointed grills – and a 1933 has curved louvres on its body whereas a 1934 has a straight louvres. So the above picture is what year? That’s right, a 1934. At the LA Roadster show, you can get your roadster in up to the year 1936.

But enough of these nitty-gritty distinctions. Now that you’re on your way to being a schooled car buff, let’s learn some more vocab!

1932 Highboy at LA Roadster Show

Highboy. A roadster with the fenders removed. (Fender = those curvy things that go over the wheels.)

Phaeton at LA Roadster Show

Phaeton: A 4-door roadster.

Roadster Truck seen at Optima Invitational 2009

Roadster Truck at LA Roadster Show 2010Back of Roadster Truck at LA Roadster Show 2010

Truck: True roadster trucks are rare, but they were made. On top is a  beauty done by Hollywood Hot Rods. I first saw it in October at Ultimate Street Challenge and it also made an appearance at LA Roadster Show…but it’s much funner to see it in action! Below that, I couldn’t help but add this cute aqua and black roadster truck sighted at the LA Roadster Show, I want a ride!

Channeled Rat Rod Roadster Seen at SEMA 2009

Channeling: Lowering the body over the chassis instead of on top of them. Most rat rod roadsters are channeled. This one was on display at SEMA this past November.

The following terms are NOT referring to roadsters. But they’re applicable to these years of cars – and sometimes, people apply them to roadsters improperly!

3 Window Coupe At LA Roadster Show

Coupe: A 2-door single-seat hardtop with windows. There are both 3-window and 5-window coupes. The 3-window also has suicide doors. (Suicide Door= a door that hinges at back instead of towards the front)

Tudor: A coupe with a back seat.

Sedan: A 4-door hardtop with a back seat.

Cabriolet at LA Roadster Show

Cabriolet: Fixed-post windshield (its connected to the body), soft-top, can have roll-up windows, 2-door, single seat.

Mercury Roadster at LA Roadster Show

And the final question: Does it have to be a Ford? No! While the majority of roadsters you’ll see are Fords, it can be something different. Remember, to be considered a roadster a car must have a 1.)Removable windshield post and 2.)Have no door windows. Here’s one of my favorite roadsters of the show and it’s a Mercury!

With nearly 800 roadsters present at the LA Roadster show, I had plenty of opportunity to practice my new naming skills! Next time you see one of these beauties on the road (or looking through the LA Roadster Show gallery) see if you can properly name it…you’ll be on the way to being bonafide!

Want more learning opportunities? Check out this article from Pikesan over at on 13 of the Best Hot Rod Engines or the learning page at!

2 Responses

  1. Modo

    Fantastic! This really helps. Next time I go to the Roadster show, I’m going to practice!


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