Name That Roadster! Or Highboy? Or Phaeton?

What is a Highboy Hot Rod or Highboy Roadster?

As I journey along in the car world, little by little I’m learning. From mechanical issues to car culture history to just plain cars. Recently, while at the LA Roadster Show, I was able to learn a little about all three! It all started with the question “What makes a roadster a roadster?”

To help me answer that question I enrolled Lynn Houchin, longtime LA Roadster Club Member, to be my guide. He answered all of my questions (and was able to point out examples!) about important distinctions surrounding roadsters including the big questions:

  • What is a Model A?
  • What is a Model T?
  • What is a Highboy?
  • What is a coupe, phaeton, tudor, and more!

Read on to get schooled!

highboy hot rod, 32 ford highboy, highboy roadster

1932 Ford Highboy Roadster

First things first – What defines a roadster?

Sure, I know its got something to do with having a removable top… but that same definition would also define a convertible so there must be more to it than that. So here it is, two simple things. A roadster must have removable windshield posts, one that is not one with the body – and no roll-up door windows. Now that mystery is solved, let’s move onto the next.

Model A ford, model a roadster, what is a model a, la roadster show

Model A Hot Rod

Model A and Model T, what’s the difference?

Hearing car guys talk about this I’d always been confused thinking it was a model type. As it ends up, Ford only made one model of car (albeit with different variations) during these years. So Model T is the earlier Ford car made between the years of 1908 and 1927. A perfect example of a highly modified “Model T” would be our very own Pikesan’s 1927 “Bonnie” . In 1928 Ford switched things up a bit adding a splash apron, widening the fenders some, and changing the body style in places. The “Model A” was then produced between 1928 and 1931, and can be seen in the picture above.

1934 Ford, 1934 hot rod, hot rod roadster

1934 Ford Roadster

In 1932 Ford switched things up again!

This time it’s a little easier to notice – they added a radiator cover. 1932’s often get called “deuces” but you could also call them Model Bs (for some reason though I’ve never heard car guys use that term.) 1933s and 1934s are recognizable by their pointed grills – and a 1933 has curved louvers on the hood sides whereas a 1934 has a straight louvers. So the above picture is what year? That’s right, a 1934. At the LA Roadster show, you can get your roadster in up to the year 1936.

But enough of these nitty-gritty distinctions. Now that you’re on your way to being a schooled car buff, let’s learn some more vocab!

1932 Highboy Roadster, 1932 ford roadster, deuce roadster


Highboy. A roadster with the fenders removed. (Fender = those curvy things that go over the wheels.)


Define roadster, Phaeton, highboy roadster, 1932 highboy roadster

Phaeton: A 4-door roadster


Roadster Truck, roadster pickup, hot rod roadster

Roadster Truck, hot rod roadster pickupRoadster pickup, hot rod roadster, la roadster show

How about a Roadster Pickup?


True roadster trucks are rare, but they were made. On top is a  beauty done by Hollywood Hot Rods. I first saw it in October at Ultimate Street Challenge and it also made an appearance at LA Roadster Show… but it’s much funner to see it in action! Below that, I couldn’t help but add this cute aqua and black roadster truck sighted at the LA Roadster Show, I want a ride!

Channeled Rat Rod, what is channeled hot rod

Good example of a channeled rat rod

So What is Channeling at Hot Rod?


Channelling: Lowering the body over the chassis instead of on top of them. Most rat rod roadsters are channeled. This one was on display at SEMA this past November.


The following terms are NOT referring to roadsters. But they’re applicable to these years of cars – and sometimes, people apply them to roadsters improperly!


1932 Ford, ford 3 Window Coupe, 32 deuce coupe

1932 Ford 3 Window Coupe

What is a Coupe? Tudor? Sedan?


Coupe: A 2-door single-seat hardtop with windows. There are both 3-window and 5-window coupes. The 3-window also has suicide doors. (Suicide Door= a door that hinges at back instead of towards the front)

Tudor: A coupe with a back seat.

Sedan: A 4-door hardtop with a back seat.


Ford Cabriolet, not a roadster, LA Roadster Show

Good example of a Cabriolet

What is a Cabriolet?

Cabriolet: Fixed-post windshield (its connected to the body), soft-top, can have roll-up windows, 2-door, single seat.


Mercury Roadster, LA Roadster Show

Here’s one of my favorite roadsters of the show and it’s a Mercury!

And the final question: Does it have to be a Ford?


No! While the majority of roadsters you’ll see are Fords, it can be something different. Remember, to be considered a roadster a car must have:


  1. Removable windshield post
  2. Have no door windows or roll-up windows


With nearly 800 roadsters present at the LA Roadster show, I had plenty of opportunity to practice my new naming skills! Next time you see one of these beauties on the road (or looking through the LA Roadster Show gallery) see if you can properly name it…you’ll be on the way to being bonafide!


Want more learning opportunities? Check out Pikesan’s article on 13 of the Best Hot Rod Engines or the learning page at!