Runabout (car)

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The Runabout was a popular car body style in North America from the late 19th century to about 1915.[1] They were light, inexpensive, open cars[1][2] with basic bodywork and no windshield, top, or doors.[1] Most runabouts had just a single row of seats, providing seating for two passengers.[1][2][3] Some also had a rumble seat at the rear to provide optional seating for one or two more passengers;[1][3] those without rumble seats may have had a trunk platform, a box, or a fuel tank instead.[3]

Runabouts mainly differed from buggies and high wheelers by having smaller wheels.[1] Early runabouts had their engines under the body toward the middle of the chassis, some later versions had the engine in what became the conventional position at the front of the car.[1]

Runabouts were designed for light use over short distances.[4] By the mid-1910s, they became almost indistinguishable from roadsters.[5]

The 1964 GM Runabout was a three wheel concept car first exhibited at Futurama II, part of the 1964 New York World's Fair. The car was designed specifically for housewives and had detachable shopping carts built into it.[6]

The term "runabout" is still in use, denoting a small car used for short journeys.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Haajanen 2003, p. 116.
  2. ^ a b Georgano 1973, p. 216.
  3. ^ a b c Clough 1913, p. 258.
  4. ^ Clough 1913, p. 325.
  5. ^ Clough 1913, pp. 257, 258.
  6. ^ Smith 1993, p. 238.
  7. ^ Anderson et al. 2006, p. 750.


  • Anderson, Sandra; Crozier, Justin; Gilmour, Lorna; Grandison, Alice; McKeown, Cormac; Stibbs, Anne; Summers, Elspeth, eds. (2006). "runabout". Collins Concise Dictionary & Thesaurus. Glasgow, UK: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 750. ISBN 978-0-00-722971-0. "n. 1 a small car used for short journeys" 
  • Clough, Albert L. (1913). A dictionary of automobile terms. The Horseless Age Company. LCCN 13003001. Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  • Georgano, G. N., ed. (1971). "Glossary". Encyclopedia of American Automobiles. New York, NY USA: E. P. Dutton. pp. 215–217. ISBN 0-525-097929. LCCN 79147885. "Runabout. A general term for a light two-passenger car of the early 1900s." 
  • Haajanen, Lennart W. (2003). Illustrated Dictionary of Automobile Body Styles. Illustrations by Bertil Nydén. Jefferson, NC USA: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-1276-3. LCCN 2002014546. 
  • Smith, Michael L. (1993). "Making Time". In Fox, Richard Wightman; Lears, T. J. Jackson. The Power of Culture: Critical Essays in American History. Chicago, IL US: University of Chicago. pp. 222–243. ISBN 0-2262-5955-2.