Runabout (car)

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1903 Oldsmobile Curved Dash on the 2009 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run Oldsmobile 1903 Curved Dash Auto on London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 2009.jpg
1903 Oldsmobile Curved Dash on the 2009 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

A runabout is a car body style that was popular in North America until about 1915. It was a light, basic style with no windshield, top, or doors and a single row of seats. Runabouts eventually became indistinguishable from roadsters and the term fell out of use in the United States. The approach has evolved into the modern "city car".

Automobiles' body styles are highly variable. Some body styles remain in production, while others become less common or obsolete. They may or may not correlate to a car's price, size or intended market classification. The same car model might be available in multiple body styles comprising a model range. Some distinctions, as with four-wheel drive vs. SUV models or minivan vs. MPV models, the distinction between body style and classification can be particularly narrow.

Roadster (automobile) open two-seat car

A roadster is an open two-seat car with emphasis on sporting appearance or character. Initially an American term for a two-seat car with no weather protection, usage has spread internationally and has evolved to include two-seat convertibles.

Contents

Description and history

The runabout was a light, inexpensive, open car [1] [2] with basic bodywork and no windshield, top, or doors. [1] Most runabouts had just a single row of seats, providing seating for two passengers. [1] [2] [3] Some also had a rumble seat at the rear to provide optional seating for one or two more passengers; [1] [3] those without rumble seats may have had a trunk platform, a box, or a fuel tank instead. [3] They differed from buggies and high wheelers mainly by having smaller wheels. [1]

Rumble seat Historical automobile element

A rumble seat, dicky seat, dickie seat or dickey seat, also called a mother-in-law seat, is an upholstered exterior seat which folded into the rear of a coach, carriage, or early automobile. Depending on its configuration, it provided exposed seating for one or two passengers.

Buggy (automobile) car

Buggy is generally used to refer to any lightweight automobile with off road capabilities and sparse bodywork. Most are built either as a kit car or from scratch.

High wheeler

A high wheeler is a car which uses large diameter wheels that are similar to those used by horse-drawn vehicles. These cars were produced until about 1915, predominantly in the United States.

Early runabouts had their engines under the body toward the middle of the chassis. [1] This sometimes made maintenance difficult, as on the Oldsmobile Curved Dash where the body had to be removed in order to access the engine. [4] The Gale runabout dealt with this problem by hinging the body at the rear of the car such that it could be tilted to access the engine. [4] [5] Some later runabouts had the engine in what became the conventional position at the front of the car. [1]

A mid-engine layout describes the placement of an automobile engine between the rear and front axles and generally behind the passenger compartment.

Oldsmobile Curved Dash car model

The gasoline-powered Curved Dash Oldsmobile is credited as being the first mass-produced automobile, meaning that it was built on an assembly line using interchangeable parts. It was introduced by the Oldsmobile company in 1901 and produced through 1907; 425 were produced the first year, 2,500 in 1902, and over 19,000 were built in all. When General Motors assumed operations from Ransom E. Olds on November 12, 1908, GM introduced the Oldsmobile Model 20, which was the 1908 Buick Model 10 with a stretched wheelbase and minor exterior changes.

Western Tool Works (automobile company)

Western Tool Works was a pioneering brass era automobile manufacturer in Galesburg, Illinois. The company made Gale automobiles from 1904 to 1910. Early Gale runabouts were notable for having bodywork hinged at the rear of the car that could be lifted to ease access to the engine, essentially making the entire body the hood.

1907 Cadillac Model K at AutoWorld in Brussels 1907 cadillac model k autoworld brussels.jpg
1907 Cadillac Model K at AutoWorld in Brussels

Runabouts were popular in North America from the late 19th century to about 1915. [1] They were designed for light use over short distances. [6] By the mid-1910s, they became almost indistinguishable from roadsters. [7]

Notable examples of runabouts include the Oldsmobile Curved Dash mentioned earlier, which was the first mass-produced car, [4] and the Cadillac runabout, which won the Dewar Trophy for 1908 by demonstrating its use of interchangeable parts. [8]

Mass production production of large amounts of standardized products

Mass production, also known as flow production or continuous production, is the production of large amounts of standardized products, including and especially on assembly lines. Together with job production and batch production, it is one of the three main production methods.

Cadillac Runabout and Tonneau The first Cadillac automobiles

The first Cadillac automobiles were the 1903 Model built in the last quarter, 1902. These were 2-seater "horseless carriages" powered by a reliable and sturdy 10 hp (7 kW) single-cylinder engine developed by Henry Martyn Leland and built by Leland and Faulconer Manufacturing Company of Detroit, of which Henry Leland was founder, vice-president and general manager.

The Dewar Trophy was a cup donated in the early years of the twentieth century by Sir Thomas R. Dewar, M.P. a member of parliament of the United Kingdom (UK), to be awarded each year by the Royal Automobile Club of the United Kingdom "to the motor car which should successfully complete the most meritorious performance or test furthering the interests and advancement of the [automobile] industry".

Later use of the term

The 1964 GM Runabout was a three wheel concept car first exhibited at Futurama II, part of the 1964 New York World's Fair. The car was designed specifically for housewives and had detachable shopping carts built into it. [9]

Three-wheeler vehicle with three wheels

A three-wheeler is a vehicle with three wheels. Some are motorized tricycles, which may be legally classed as motorcycles, while others are tricycles without a motor, some of which are human-powered vehicles and animal-powered vehicles.

Concept car an automobile manufactured to showcase design features that may be present in a future production model

A concept car is a car made to showcase new styling and/or new technology. They are often shown at motor shows to gauge customer reaction to new and radical designs which may or may not be mass-produced. General Motors designer Harley Earl is generally credited with inventing the concept car, and did much to popularize it through its traveling Motorama shows of the 1950s.

Futurama (New York Worlds Fair) exhibit/ride at the 1939 New York Worlds Fair

Futurama was an exhibit and ride at the 1939 New York World's Fair designed by Norman Bel Geddes, which presented a possible model of the world 20 years into the future (1959–1960). The installation was sponsored by the General Motors Corporation and was characterized by automated highways and vast suburbs.

The term "runabout" is still in use in the UK, denoting a small car used for short journeys. [10]

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Haajanen 2003, p. 116.
  2. 1 2 Georgano 1973, p. 216.
  3. 1 2 3 Clough 1913, p. 258.
  4. 1 2 3 Sedgwick 1972, p. 26.
  5. Georgano 1971, p. 86.
  6. Clough 1913, p. 325.
  7. Clough 1913, pp. 257, 258.
  8. Posthumus 1977, p. 48.
  9. Smith 1993, p.  238.
  10. Anderson et al. 2006, p. 750.

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