There is a long history of the use of roof racks and their designs. They allow users of an automobile to transport objects on the roof of the vehicle without reducing interior space for occupants, or the cargo area volume limits such as in the typical car's trunk design.
The three most common components of a roof rack system are (side) rails (or tracks), towers which clamp or otherwise attach to the rails, and mounts, which secure the bulky items to the rack system.
Older roof racks were usually mounted directly to the gutter surrounding the roof line. More modern vehicles, which do not have gutters, can often have a roof rack installed by attaching hooks to the top of the door frames.
Some automobiles have fittings for proprietary racks which mate with reinforced lugs in the roof. Other vehicles have a factory-installed permanent roof rack.
Up until the late 70's all vehicles on which roof racks were used had rain gutters on which to attach the roof racks, making fitment of roof racks a very simple matter. One of the first vehicles to come out without rain gutters was the Mitsubishi Colt in 1979. Other vehicles began to appear on the market without rain gutters during the 1980's and by 1990 vehicles with rain gutters were becoming rare. This forced the roof rack industry to adapt what was once a simple product to enable attachment to all the permutations of roofs that appeared in the attempts to remove the gutters from the vehicle roof line.
- "ROOF RACK", Dictionary.com, WordNet 3.0, Princeton University, retrieved on 2009-11-15.
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