In simple terms, a roadster is a horse bred and groomed for the road. Wait a second, I’ve gone too far back, haven’t I? Moving forward a few decades, a roadster is defined as any two-door, two-seat, open-top car, and is usually a sporty model. A few Ford Model T and Model A variants, many early MG and Triumph vehicles, and a number of other early models fell into the original roadster definition. Today, there are still a number of vehicles available in – some would say – true roadster form, such as the Caterham 7 and Ariel Atom.
“True” roadsters, however, seems to indicate that something is off with the definition. Indeed, in the beginning, all vehicles were open, so many two-seaters weren’t particularly sporty and couldn’t really be considered roadsters. When closed vehicles were developed, some thought it would be nice to be able to choose, which led to the development of the convertible. Convertibles, of course, convert from open to closed to keep out the weather or let in sun and breeze. Depending on the model, it might be a removable hard or soft top or a retractable hard or soft top, and may be manual or automatic.
Because of this, it seems that the lines between roadsters have become slightly blurred, and there are some roadsters that are convertibles, but not all convertibles are roadsters. For example, the Mazda Miata, Pontiac Solstice, and Porsche Boxster would be considered roadsters that happen to be convertibles. On the other hand, the Fiat 500L Cabriolet, Lexus IS 250 C, and Range Rover Evoque are all convertibles, but they’d hardly qualify as roadsters. Even with the top down, these vehicles are still four-seaters, one a commuter and another an SUV. One could make the case that the Lexus SC qualifies as a convertible that happens to be a roadster, but that rear shelf *cough* back seat and rear seat belts make us suspicious. Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco definitely don’t qualify as roadsters.
In any case, shopping for a roadster, keep in mind that roadsters are sporty and have only two doors and two seats – Ariel Atom does with even less: one seat, no doors, no body, optional windshield! – and it may or may not be equipped with a removable top. Whatever you drive, have fun, watch the weather, and dress accordingly!Tags: roadsters