Landau (automobile)

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Landau, when used in referencing an automobile, generally means a simulated convertible.

The Nash Rambler Landau is a cabrio coach introduced in 1950.

A landau bar is an ornamental feature located on a car's rear quarter panel, mostly used on hearses.


The name "landau", like many other automobile terms, originates from coachbuilding (since coachbuilders began making motor car bodies instead, and because customers were familiar with coachbuilding terms).[1] However, the automotive equivalent to the horse-drawn landau carriage was not popular, since a forward view was generally insisted upon by passengers. Instead, the more popular body style for automobiles was the landaulet (half-landau), with its covered front seats and open rear seats.

The 1935 handbook of the Society of Automotive Engineers defines the landau as "a closed-type body with provision for opening or folding the rear quarter, by the use of landau joints".[2]

Simulated convertible[edit]

1957 Chrysler Windsor two-door hardtop with white "landau-type" roof
Simulated landau bar (with a faux landau joint in the center) on the C-pillar of a 1967 Ford Thunderbird

In the 1920s and 1930s, especially in the United States, "landau" became associated with cars where the fixed (eg metal) roof and rear quarter panels were covered with fabric or leather and fitted with S-shaped side landau bars, to make it appear like a convertible roof.[3][4]

The term landau fell into disuse from the mid-1940s until the late-1950s.[5] Again it was used to describe fixed-roof cars styled to resemble convertibles, this time using vinyl roofs. Some of these vehicles were called "landaus" by their manufacturers, and many were fitted with landau bars on the rear quarters (faux cabriolet).[4]

Some used the term "Town Landau" such as for one of the 1967 models in the Ford Thunderbird line.[6] This generally meant a wider rear pillar with no rear quarter windows, or a partial vinyl roof that was applied only over the rear seat area (and is thus reminiscent of a town car).

Nash Rambler Landau[edit]

1951 Nash Rambler Landau

In 1950, Nash Motors introduced the Rambler Landau model, which used a cabrio coach body style.[7] This model was described as a "convertible landau"[8] and the roof section from the top of the windscreen could be retracted into the trunk/boot. As per other convertible coupes, a "bridge beam" steel structure remained in place at the top of the doors and windows.[9] The Rambler's strong body structure eliminated the internal bracing that was normally needed on other open cars.[8]

Landau bar[edit]

A landau bar is an ornamental S-shaped metallic bar installed on the rear quarter panel of a car. Mostly used on hearses, the landau bar represents the folding roof structure on a Landau carriage.[10][11]

Since the mid-1940s, landau bars have been commonly used on hearses in the United States.[12]


  1. ^ Haajanen, Lennart W., Illustrated dictionary of automobile body styles, New York: McFarland Publishing, ISBN 978-0-7864-1276-1.
  2. ^ S.A.E. Handbook. Society of Automotive Engineers. 1935. p. 730. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  3. ^ Locke, William S. (2007). Elcar and Pratt automobiles: the complete history. Mcfarland. p. 87. ISBN 9780786432547. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  4. ^ a b The Merriam-Webster new book of word histories. Merriam-Webster. 1991. p. 359. ISBN 9780877796039. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  5. ^ "1957 New Car parade: Chrysler family makes debut". Popular Mechanics. 106 (5): 104. November 1956. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  6. ^ Gunnell, John. American Cars of the 1960s: A Decade of Diversity. Krause Publications. p. 87. ISBN 9780896891319. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  7. ^ Flory, Jr., J. Kelly (2008). American Cars, 1946-1959: Every Model, Year by Year. McFarland. pp. 295–298. ISBN 9780786452309. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  8. ^ a b "Rambler". Automobile Quarterly. 33 (2): 33. 1994.
  9. ^ Gunnel, John (2004). Standard Guide to 1950s American Cars. Krause Publications. pp. 162–163. ISBN 9780873498685. Retrieved 3 April 2014.
  10. ^ "Why Do Hearses Have Metal S-Shaped Scrolls Where the Back Windows Should Be?". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  11. ^ "Landau Bars On Hearses Are So Very Stupid". Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  12. ^ Schechter, Harold (2009). The Whole Death Catalog: A Lively Guide to the Bitter End. Ballantine Books. p. 119. ISBN 9780345512512. Retrieved 3 April 2014.

See also[edit]