Runabout (car)

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".

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]

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]

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]

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]

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



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