Definition of a Roadster

What is a Roadster (in terms of automobiles) ? Here’s my personal definition

A car with a sporting character and bias fulfilling the following criteria:

  • Two seated (maximum additional rumble seats aka dickey seats)
  • No weather protection or a removable soft or hard roof/top, can be operated manually or power-retractable
  • Original chassis/frame construction targeting a sporty character, not a chopped of platform convertible
  • Construction and equipment target on lightness and sporty drivability at the expense of comfort and luxury
  • Rear wheel drive. Yes, exactly this
  • The classical roadsters featured a front engine but mid-engined or back-engined cars should not be excluded

Hence a Roadster is not just a convertible! A Roadster is a convertible but most of today’s convertibles aren’t Roadsters 🙂 Don’t let names fool you. A “Mini Roadster” R59 has front wheel drive and is a platform car just like an “Audi TT Roadster”.

While the term Roadster is American-based and became popular in Britain the concept is also known as ‘Spider’ in Mediterranean areas (Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Renault), ‘Spyder’ (Ferrari, Porsche) or Speedster (Porsche).

There’s even DIN 70010 (‘System of road vehicles – Vocabulary of power-driven vehicles, combinations of vehicles and towed vehicles’) defining the term but it differs from my personal view in a number of areas (number of seats, doors and windows…)

Examples of Roadsters (making absolutely no claim to be complete)

Early days

  • MG T* Types
  • Triumph Roadster/TRA
  • BMW 328
Rudolf Stricker, MG TA side 20020707, CC BY-SA 3.0


  • Triumph TR2/3/4/5/6
  • Triumph Spitfire
  • Austin-Healey 100, 3000 (‘The big Healey’), Sprite (‘Mark I Frogeye’)
  • Jaguar XK 120/140/150, E-Type
  • MG A, MG B, MG Midget
  • Morgan *4*, *8*
  • Sunbeam Alpine
  • Alfa Romeo Spider
  • Fiat 124
  • Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California, 365 California Spyder
  • Lotus Seven -> Caterham Seven and derivates
  • Lotus Elite Type 14 (honourable mention due to innovative design although a coupé with fixed roof)
  • Lotus Elan
  • Lancia Aurelia B24 Spider
  • Porsche 356 Speedster, 550 Spyder
  • Porsche 914
  • BMW 507
  • AC Cobra
  • Honda S360/500/600/800
User Diego440 on en.wikipedia, Lotus-Elan-’66, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Roadster Renaissance

Madzda MX-5 (NA to ND), NA inspired by Lotus Elan, most successful Roadster ever
BMW Z1 (brave study), Z3 (successfull concept), Z4 E85, Z4 E89 (became big and heavy)
Honda S2000
Toyoata MR2 W3
Lotus Elise (mid-engine) & Opel Speedster
Mercedes SLK aka ‘The Comfy Chair’
Wiesmann Roadster
Porsche Boxter
Daihatsu Copen
Smart Roadster

steve lyon from los angeles, ca, usa, Mazda Miata (8228749589), CC BY-SA 2.0
Definition of a Roadster
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