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For other uses, see Flivver (disambiguation).

A flivver is an American slang term used during the early part of the 20th century to refer to any small car that gave a rough ride, esp. one that is small, inexpensive, and old. A contemporary term was a "Tin Lizzy" (referring to a Ford Model T).

The term started to go out of style by the late 1930s or early 1940s, replaced by the use of jalopy in the writings of John Steinbeck (In Dubious Battle, 1936) and especially by Jack Kerouac in On the Road (1957).


  • To the Easterner, a drive from New York to Cape Cod, over asphalt, is viewed as heroic, but here were cars that had casually started on thousand-mile vacations. She kept pace not only with large cars touring from St. Louis or Detroit to Glacier Park and Yellowstone, but also she found herself companionable with families of workmen, headed for a new town and a new job, and driving because a flivver, bought second-hand and soon to be sold again, was cheaper than trains. from Free Air Sinclair Lewis 1919 book.
  • From Brave New World, a novel by Aldous Huxley published 1932:

    Because our world is not the same as Othello's world. You can't make flivvers without steel — and you can't make tragedies without social instability. The world's stable now.[2]

  • From To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel set in the 1930s by Harper Lee (1960):

    One night in an excessive spurt of high spirits, the boys backed around the square in a borrowed flivver, resisted arrest by Maycomb's ancient beadle, Mr. Connor, and locked him in the court-house outhouse.[3]

  • From the Wall Street Journal (2012):

    It was, first of all, an advertising construct, a fiction created by the oil and lodging industries in the early 20th century to coax Americans out on the road in their flivvers and Packards.[4]

  • From "It's Nice To Go Trav'lin" By Frank Sinatra:
And the Hudson River
Makes you start to quiver
Like the latest flivver
That's simply drippin' with chrome

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (March 1931). "You Can Make Out Their Voices". New Masses. 
  2. ^ Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World. London: Vintage, 2004 [1932], p. 193.
  3. ^ Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
  4. ^ Neil, Dan, Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2012, page R2.
  5. ^ Hemingway, Ernest (March 18, 1922). "Flivver, Canoe, Pram and Taxi Combined is the luge, the joy of everybody in Switzerland". Toronto Star Weekly.