The trunk or luggage compartment is most often at the rear of the vehicle. Early designs had an exterior rack on the rear of the vehicle to attach luggage trunk. Later designs integrated the storage area into the vehicle's body, and eventually became more streamlined. The main storage compartment is normally provided at the end of the vehicle opposite to which the engine is located.
Some mid-engined or electric cars have luggage compartments both in the front and in the rear. Examples include the Porsche 914 and Boxster as well as Toyota MR2. The mid-engined Fiat X1/9 also has two storage compartments, although the rear one is small, easily accessible, and practically cuboid in shape.
Rear-engined cars like Volkswagen Beetle or Porsche 911 have the trunk in front of the passenger compartment. The Volkswagen Type 3 featured a rear engine design that allowed for a shallow conventional trunk in the rear as well as space in the front for luggage.
Sometimes during the design life of the vehicle the lid may be restyled to increase the size or improve the practicality and usefulness of the trunk's shape. Examples of this include the Beetle redesign to the 1970s 'Super Beetle' and the pre-war and 1950s post war Citroën Traction Avant.
The door or opening of a cargo area may be hinged at the top, side, or bottom.
If the door is hinged at the bottom it is called a tailgate, particularly in the United States. They are used on station wagons and pickup trucks, as well as on some sport utility vehicles (SUV). Traditional drop-down station wagon and pickup tailgates can also serve as a mount for a workbench.
Traditional U.S. station wagons included a roll-down window retracting into the tailgate to load small items or to allow the tailgate to be opened down on its bottom-mounted hinges. Because of the potential for carbon-monoxide fumes, the tailgate window on station wagons should be closed whenever the engine is running.
Two-way station wagon tailgates may be hinged at the side and the bottom so they can be opened sideways like a regular door, or drop downwards as load platform extenders. They are designed with special handle(s) for opening in the selected direction on special hinges after the window is lowered.
A three-way design that was also used by Ford allows for the tailgate to be opened like a door with the window up.
General Motors developed a clam shell style "disappearing" design where the rear window rolls up into the roof and the tailgate slides down and beneath the load floor.
The trunk lid (in the U.S. automotive industry sometimes also called decklid or deck lid) is the cover that allows access to the main storage or luggage compartment. Hinges allow the lid to be raised. Devices such as a manually positioned prop rod can keep the panel up in the open position. Counterbalancing torsion or other spring(s) can also be used to help elevate and hold open the trunk lid. On cars with their trunk in the rear, lids sometimes incorporate a center-mounted third brake light. A rear lid may also have a decorative air spoiler. On many modern cars, the trunk lids can be unlocked with the car's key fob.
- In 1950, Ford introduced a trigger catch to allow for one-handed lifting until the trunk lid was automatically caught in the open position.
- In 1952, Buick marketed its counterbalanced trunk lid that "practically raises itself" and the automatic locking mechanism.
- In 1956, the Packard "Predictor" show car designed by Dick Teague debuted at the Chicago Auto Show featuring innovations such as a power operated trunk lid.
- In 1958, the remote activated electric trunk release was introduced by U.S. automakers in production vehicles.
- The 1965 AMC Cavalier concept car featured a trunk lid with dual-action, scissor-type hinges allowing the panel to be opened like a normal trunk lid, or to be horizontally elevated even to the height of the car's roof line for greater utility when hauling large and bulky items. Both the hood and trunk lid were made from identical stampings and interchangeable.
The locking of the trunk may be achieved together with the passenger compartment.
Some cars include a function to remotely open the trunk. This may be achieved through a variety of means:
- release of the latch whereby the door seals push the decklid away from the lock, the trunk is then open, and the lid may not have revealed the opening.
- release of the latch whereby a spring pushes the decklid away from the lock and open, the trunk is then open, and the lid reveals the opening.
- release of the latch and actuation of a drive, whether hydraulic (BMW 7 Series) or electric (BMW X6), which pushes the decklid away from the lock; the trunk is then open, and the lid reveals the opening. This may then be electrically closed again.
The usage of the word "trunk" comes from it being the word for a large travelling chest, as such trunks were often attached to the back of the vehicle before the development of integrated storage compartments in the 1930s; while the usage of the word "boot" comes from the word for a built-in compartment on a horse-drawn coach (originally used as a seat for the coachman and later for storage). The usage of the word "dickie" comes from the British word for a rumble seat, as such seats were often used for luggage before cars had integrated storage.
In France, from 1900 onwards, the luggage maker Moynat became a market leader in automobile luggage, for which the company developed a number of patented products including the rear-attached limousine trunk with custom-fitted suitcases. In 1928 came the side or lateral sliding trunk, a mechanism that foreshadowed the development of integrated trunks in vehicles from the 1930s onwards.
- Open or closed compartments
Open compartments are those found in station wagons and SUVs, while closed compartments have a trunk lid and are typically found in saloon (sedan) or coupé bodies. Closed compartments are separated from the passenger compartment by rigid body elements or seats, and are generally trimmed in simple materials, whereas many station wagons are trimmed with better-looking materials as the space is an extension of the passenger compartment. In order to hide the compartment content of station wagons or hatchbacks from thieves or sunlight, a cover may be fitted. On hatchbacks this often has the form of a rigid parcel shelf or a flexible sheet with hooks on the corners, while station wagons and many SUVs have a roller blind in a removable cassette.
- Increased variability
To give the space more flexibility, many cars have foldable rear seats, which can increase the size of the trunk when needed.
Active safety by luggage retention
The trunk space can contribute to the active and passive safety of the vehicle. Active safety may be promoted in vehicles that are partially loaded. Here the use of lashing eyes to restrain luggage can prevent or reduce damage to the vehicle and its occupants in severe maneuvers. In driving while cornering 'in-extremis', the prevention of sudden weight transfer due to poorly loaded luggage can be enough to prevent the vehicle from losing grip, and potentially avoiding thereby an accident; active safety.
Passive safety by luggage retention
If a crash should occur, lashing eyes can reduce the severity of the outcome of the accident by keeping the luggage in the loadspace compartment and thereby preventing projectiles from harming correctly restrained passengers in the passenger compartment. These lashing features may be in the form of fixed or foldable loops, or in the case of certain European vehicles combine sliding loops in a rail system to allow optimal positioning of the lashing eyes. At the same time, this eases the integration of accessories for loadspace management; dividers, bike carriers, etc. into the interior of the vehicle, a principle that has been applied in cargo vans and air transport for many years.
In vehicles with open luggage compartments, some are fitted with metal grids or guards to retain loose items in case of collision, or to simply create a bulkhead between the load in the trunk – for example, animals – separated from the otherwise unprotected passenger space.
Another solution for items that have not been restrained is the loadspace barrier net. These may be directly attached to the body structure or, in vehicles with loadspace cover cassettes, as a combined loadspace cover and barrier net. The net confines luggage to the loadspace in case of emergency braking and minor traffic collisions. These nets have the advantage over metal guards in that they can be rolled-up when not in use, taking up much less space than a comparable guard. A guard may however be tailored for an even tighter fit to the body interior contours than a roll-away net.
Inside trunk release
Children – and sometimes adults who climb inside to work on the vehicle – who become trapped in trunks can die of suffocation or heat stroke. Once in the trunk, they may not be able to get out, even if they entered through the interior, because many rear seats release to the trunk only from inside the passenger area. Beginning with the 2002 models, a glow-in-the-dark inside trunk release is required on all vehicles with conventional trunks sold in the United States. Hatchbacks, wagons, vans, and SUVs are exempt from this requirement because it is assumed a trapped person can kick out any cargo cover or parcel shelf to gain access to the main interior and passenger doors.
Riding in the trunk
Beyond carrying luggage, the trunk of most passenger vehicles commonly contains various other components often behind the trimmed surfaces of the interior. These components may be accessed by the customer or the service personnel through (in some cases lockable) hatches in the trim, or by removing carpet and support boards etc. Typical components:
- Emergency supplies
- Spare tire
- Jack and lug wrench
- On-board tool kit for do it yourself repairs
- Electronics for sound, video, GPS, etc.
- Battery and hybrid energy store (see plug-in hybrids).
- Fuse boxes
- CNG/LPG tanks (for bivalent engines)
- Additional folding, or 'third-row', seating (increasingly in open loadspaces)
Some vehicles offer configurable cargo conveniences such as a shelf or board. They often serve various purposes. In addition to its 65/35 split fold-down and removable rear seat, the multiposition rear shelf on the Chrysler PT Cruiser can be used as a table for a picnic, a second cargo layer, or a security screen. The Citroën C3 has a foldable segmented false floorboard that compartmentalizes the cargo area, makes loading easier, and evens out the load floor when the back of the rear seat is folded down.
- Fletcher, David H. (2002). The Portland Company, 1846–1982. Arcadia Publishers. p. 79. ISBN 9780738511405. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Peerless (automobile advertisement)". Automobile Journal. 66: 7. 1919. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Madden, W. C. (2003). Haynes-Apperson and America's first practical automobile: a history. McFarland. p. 61. ISBN 9780786413973. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Scharff, Robert, ed. (1990). Complete Automotive Estimating. Delmar Publishers. pp. 34–35. ISBN 9780827335851. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Hartford, Bill (September 1973). "The X1/9: Fiat has a deal you can't refuse". Popular Mechanics. 140 (3): 26B, 26D, and 26F. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Unveiling the Tucker". Popular Mechanics. 88 (3): 136–138. September 1947. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Gunnell, John (2005). Standard Catalog of Volkswagen, 1946–2005. Krause. p. 15. ISBN 9780873497619. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Hayes, Russell (2020). Volkswagen Beetles and Buses: Smaller and Smarter. Quarto. pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780760367667. Retrieved 25 January 2022.
- The World Book Dictionary. World Book. 2003. p. 2137. ISBN 9780716602002. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Norbye, Jan P.; Dunne, Jim (May 1975). "Intermediate Wagons". Popular Science. 206 (5): 38. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Thomas, H.M. (May 1973). "Tailgate workbench for your station wagon or pickup". Popular Mechanics. 139 (5): 67. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Autos". Boys' Life. 59 (4): 15. April 1969. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Norbye, Jan P.; Dunne, Jim (May 1974). "The Big Wagons". Popular Science. 204 (5): 18–24, 26, 28. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
- Norbye, Jan P.; Dunne, Jim (April 1973). "Intermediate Wagons: Big enough for most jobs". Popular Science. 202 (4): 58, 64, 66, 70, 72. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
- Binder, Alan K., ed. (2000). General Motors in the 20th century. Ward's Communications. ISBN 9780910589529. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
- Hartford, Bill (November 1971). "Front wheel drive to the fore!". Popular Mechanics. 136 (5): 128. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Decklid". dictionary.com. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Title 49 – Transportation: Department of Transportation Parts 400–599. Federal Register. 1 October 2006. p. 115. ISBN 9781577857778. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Ford quiets engines in '50s". Popular Science. 156 (1): 153. January 1950. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Gunnell, John (2004). Standard Catalog of Buick, 1903–2004. Krause Publications. p. 79. ISBN 9780873497602. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Mort, Norm (2010). American 'independent' automakers : AMC to Willys 1945 to 1960. Veloce. p. 32. ISBN 9781845842390. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Berger, Michael L. (2001). The automobile in American history and culture: a reference guide. American popular culture. Greenwood Publishing. p. 421. ISBN 9780313245589. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "1966 American Motors Cavalier". Car Styling. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Cranswick, Marc (2012). The Cars of American Motors: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7864-4672-8. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
Project IV Cavalier identical; so were the hood and trunk lid.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (4 December 1998). "Fatal car trunk entrapment involving children—United States, 1987-1998". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 47 (47): 1019–1022. PMID 9853938.
- "A kit makes trunks in older cars safer". Consumer Reports. February 2013. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
- "Vehicle Ccode -VEH Division 11. Rules of the Road [21000 - 23336]". leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. 5 September 2007. Retrieved 23 July 2021.
- Hughes, Cedric (5 September 2007). "Teenage Trunking Trend – Road Rules". roadrules.ca. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser Review & Ratings". Edmunds. Retrieved 25 January 2022.