Is That a Roadster? Know Your Car Terms!


When people discuss automobiles, particularly famous models, there are many terms that invariably get thrown around. One collector may list with pride their perfect AC Cobra replica, while another boasts about the custom roadster they had built. But what do these terms actually mean? Can they not be used interchangeably? The truth of the matter is that while there is quite a bit of overlap in the definitions, the car terms themselves do have some key variances that show some terms do not apply to just any car.

Let’s define the custom roadster. A roadster is a class of convertible. It is a topdown car that will only have two seats, and is exclusively sporty in design. A convertible can be a two-seat, four-seat, or a five-seat topdown car. It can have a boxy frame or be sporty and sleek. To put it another way, all roadsters are convertibles but not all convertibles are a roadster. An easy test is to remember Danny Tanner from Full House: he had a five-seat convertible to hold his family. If you see a topdown car and wonder which it is, ask yourself, “Could Danny Tanner would drive that convertible?” If yes, it is certainly not a roadster.

A term you will certainly hear if you spend any time amongst car enthusiasts is the AC Cobra. It was designed to be a “Corvette Beater.” The Cobra belonged to Ford, and the company wanted to compete with Chevrolet’s Corvette sales. The Cobra weighed roughly 500 pounds less than the Corvette, helping its reputation as a fast car to have in a race. In one infamous race on a British motorway in 1964, an AC Cobra Coupe was recorded as having reached speeds of 186 mph. A fairly impressive feat that still has automobile collectors dreaming of owning this sporty car.

This presents an interesting disconnect in conversation and car enthusiast blogs across the internet. At times, any sporty car will be referred to as a roadster, perhaps even proudly called a custom roadster. It seems a small concern, but when ordering a car kit it can become a big concern. It would be a great disappointment to order what one believes will be a sporty convertible and instead receive the parts for a nice but definitely hard-topped automobile. If the company has a good return policy, everything is alright (unless shipping was exorbitant). This is why it is always a good idea to have details clearly stated and in writing.

There is a market for individuals who enjoy vintage cars. They frequently like to show them off too, which inspires others to seek out their own. But to avoid potential embarrassment down the line, it is wise to know the proper terms for what you are talking about. A sporty car can mean something different from one person to another. If you are unsure of what automobile someone is driving, they are called enthusiasts for a reason. Most vintage car lovers will happily discuss their passion with just about anyone.