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The roadster [ ˈɹoʊ̯dstɐ ] originally referred to the open body shape of a two-seater sports car that had no fixed roof or folding top, but could be closed with simple aids if necessary. Roadsters are primarily used for driving enjoyment, comfort takes a back seat in favor of low weight.


The term was coined by British manufacturers such as Triumph , Jaguar or MG . Italian manufacturers such as Alfa Romeo , Fiat and Ferrari refer to this construction method more often as Spider . The terms Spyder and Speedster are less common . The Porsche 356 Speedster is a German classic and the Renault Sport Spider is a French rarity.

In DIN 70010 the appearance of a roadster is defined as follows:

  • Body: open structure, roll bar possible,
  • Roof: fixed or flexible with at least 2 positions; 1. closed, 2. opened or removed
  • Passenger compartment: 2 or more seats in at least one row of seats
  • Doors: 2 or 4 side doors, luggage compartment lid possible
  • Windows: 2 or more side windows.

Pre-war models

Chrysler 65 from 1928 with the jump seat open

The term roadster changed over the course of automotive history. At the beginning of the 20th century, when cars began to become more comfortable, simply equipped two-seaters were deliberately referred to as roadsters or runabouts . Most of these cars had no convertible top and no windshield, but sometimes had emergency seats for one or two people in the rear. In the 1920s and early 1930s, the term roadster mainly stood for two-seater with a large-volume engine with a luggage compartment or, instead, a fold-out emergency seat as an essential component. They differed from corresponding convertibles (UK: Drop Head Coupé; USA: Convertible Coupé) in that they had a foldable windshield (fixed in the convertible) and a light, mostly unlined hood. At this time, crank disks for convertibles also appeared; Roadsters had impregnated fabric parts as lateral weather protection that were attached to the hood and the door. But there were also the small two-seaters (for example DKW F5 , BMW 328 or MG TA-TD ). The concept of these vehicles was the basis for the roadsters of the 1950s to 1970s, as they were mainly built in England.

The 1950s and 1960s

The heyday of the roadster began with the end of the Second World War . The demand for corresponding fun vehicles developed in many European countries .

English roadster

The English roadsters have a long tradition. Special design features are small, low doors or just door cutouts. They resulted in the so-called hip swing (hip bend) in the body . This created the widespread curved lines of the body. The overhangs were kept short in favor of the long wheelbase . The front engine was located under an elongated bonnet, the rear, however, was very short and a trunk was usually quite small.

Since they were mostly driven open, there was often only an emergency roof, insertable side windows and not a complete windshield, but so-called Brooklands windows , small windows directly in front of the driver and front passenger to deflect the wind.

The body was not self-supporting, but consisted of a load-bearing chassis with an attached body .

The cheaper models like the Austin-Healey Sprite , MG Midget and Triumph Spitfire were often referred to as pocket roadsters because of their small size .

Further examples:

Italian spider

In addition to Alfa Romeo , Fiat and Lancia usually also had Spider in their delivery program. In addition, the manufacturers of premium brands such as Ferrari and Maserati built high-quality Spiders. Compared to the classic English roadsters, the equipment of the Italian Spider is usually less Spartan and the technology is more demanding. The design and mostly also the manufacture of the body or the assembly of the entire vehicle are or have often been outsourced to manufacturers such as Pininfarina or Carrozzeria Touring .

Examples are:

German models

Porsche produced the first models after the Second World War . In contrast to English roadsters, the engine was typically behind the driver, in the 356 Speedster as a rear engine , in the 550 Spyder and the 356 No. 1 Roadster as a mid-engine .

Examples are:

American models



Modern roadster

A renaissance of the open two-seater began in 1989 with the Mazda MX-5 . BMW presented its Z1 as early as 1987 , of which exactly 8,000 were produced between the beginning of 1989 and mid-1991. The BMW Z3 presented in 1995 was produced in larger numbers , and in 1996 Mercedes-Benz entered the roadster market with the SLK (R 170) . The successor model, the SLK (R 171) , appeared in 2004 . Today the term roadster is also used for sporty, yet comfortable, open two-seater vehicles with an independent body. However, not every convertible automatically becomes a roadster - the latter still has to show some attributes in order to be classified as such:

  • independent design and development, i.e. it must not be a modified version of an existing model,
  • pure two-seater, also no "jump seats",
  • Retractable or removable hood, when open, only the A-pillar , the seats and any roll-over protection that may be present may protrude over the shoulder line. Active rollover protection systems are also sometimes used.

Examples of "modern" roadsters:

The Spyder , referred to as the Roadster by Bombardier Recreational Products , is not a roadster in the strict sense of the word, as there is no convertible top to be fitted, but a three-wheeler .

Classic roadsters that are still in production

A current manufacturer of traditional roadsters is, for example, Caterham Cars in England, which has been producing and developing the Lotus Seven originally developed by Lotus since 1974 . Providers of replicas ( replicas ) and vehicles where the concept to that of the Seven is based more or less closely, include Birkin , Westfield , Robin Hood , Tiger , Rush , Milan , Seven Plus , Irmscher , RCB , HKT and Donkervoort .

Furthermore, Morgan and Wiesmann (until 2014) offered or offered traditional roadsters based on independent concepts. In spite of its mid-engine concept, the Lotus Elise also embodies the classic roadster concept, according to which a vehicle must have sufficient power and, above all, the lowest possible weight.



  • Alfred Prokesch : Knaur's great book about the car. History, models, technology from A – Z. Droemer Knaur Verlag Schoeller & Co., Ascona 1980, p. 295.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b c Alfred Prokesch : Knaurs big book about the car. History, models, technology from A – Z. Droemer Knaur Verlag Schoeller & Co., Ascona 1980, p. 295.

Web links

Commons : Roadster  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Roadster  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations