1962 Rambler Classic 2-door sedan
The modern implementation of sedans was introduced in 1912 and the body style has remained popular up to the present. The name "sedan" originates from the sedan chair, an enclosed box which was carried by porters to transport one person.
Car manufacturers in the United States up until the 1960s have marketed several models as variations of the sedan style, such as close-coupled sedan, club sedan, convertible sedan, fastback sedan, hardtop sedan, notchback sedan and sedanet/sedanette.
The current definition of a sedan is a car with a closed body (i.e. a fixed metal roof) with the engine, passengers and cargo in separate compartments. This broad definition does not differentiate sedans from various other car body styles, but in practice the typical characteristics of sedans are:
It is sometimes suggested that sedans must have four doors (to provide a simple distinction between sedans and two-door coupés). However, several sources state that a sedan can have two or four doors.(p134) In addition, terms such as sedan and coupé have been more loosely interpreted by car manufacturers since 2010.
When a manufacturer produces two-door sedan and four-door sedan versions of the same model, the shape and position of the greenhouse on both versions may be identical, with only the B-pillar positioned further back to accommodate the longer doors on the two-door versions.
Prior to the invention of the automobile, the "sedan chair" (also known as litter) was an enclosed box used to transport one person, which was carried by porters at the front and rear using horizontal poles. This style of transport dates back to ancient Egypt, India and China.
The name sedan chair originated in the 1630s, from either the southern Italian dialect derivative of Italian word sedia ("chair) or the Latin word sedere ("to sit"). All the names for these derived from the root "sed-" from the Latin "sella" - the traditional name for a carried chair.
The first recorded use of the term for automobiles was in 1912, when it was described as a closed automobile (i.e. with sides and roof) seating four or more. Prior to this, the 1899 Renault Voiturette Type B added doors and a roof to the Voiturette Type A body. This resulted in the first vehicle considered to be a sedan, although it was a two-door vehicle where the rear passengers sat outside the cabin. Other early cars which used a body style that would later be known as sedan are the 1905 Rational four-door limousine,(p573), 1907 Renault four-door limousine(p578) and 1910 Stella two-door saloon.(p649) At the time, the names saloon and limousine were used for cars both with and without fixed roofs.
The earliest usage of the name which is accordance with modern definition of a sedan (i.e. a fixed roof car seating at least 4 people) was the 1911 Speedwell Sedan, which was manufactured in the United States.(p87)
In American English and American Spanish, the term sedan is used (accented as "sedán" in Spanish).
In British English, a car of this configuration is called a saloon. Hatchback sedans are known simply as hatchbacks (not hatchback saloons); long-wheelbase luxury saloons may be referred to as limousines. The term Super saloon is commonly used to describe a high performance saloon car, though the term sports saloon has been used in the past. The British term saloon is sometimes used by British car manufacturers in the United States. For example, the Rolls-Royce Park Ward was sold as a saloon in the United States.
In other languages, sedans are known as berline (French), berlina (European Spanish, European Portuguese, Romanian, and Italian); although these terms also may include hatchbacks. These terms, besides sedan, derive from types of horse-drawn carriages. In German, the term limousine is used for sedans, and "Stretch-Limousine" for limousines.
Close-coupled sedans are a body style produced in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s. They are a sedan where the trunk/boot is approximately as thin (from the front to the rear of the car) as an upright suitcase.
Due to the reduced size of the steel body, close-coupled sedans were slightly lighter and less expensive than regular sedan models. The passengers in a close-coupled sedan sat forward of the differential, resulting in less interior space than a regular sedan. The rear suspension of a close-coupled sedan could not be a Hotchkiss drive.
Produced in the United States from the mid-1920s to the mid-1950s, the name club sedan was used for highly appointed models using the sedan chassis.(p44) Some people describe a club sedan as a two-door vehicle with a body style otherwise identical to the sedan models in the range. Others describe a club sedan as having either two or four doors and a shorter roof (and therefore less interior space) than the other sedan models in the range.(p44)
The term "club sedan" originates from the club carriage (e.g. the lounge or parlour carriage) on a railway train.(p44)
A term used in the United States in the 1930s for a four-door convertible car with a folding soft-top roof.(p50) As per the cabriolet models of the time, convertible sedans were fitted with side doors and windows to provide full weather protection when needed.
Although the term "fastback" is typically associated with coupé models, there have been various sedans produced with a fastback rear end, starting in the 1930s.
Pillarless hardtop cars, often called "hardtops", were produced in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Hardtops are manufactured without a B-pillar between the front and rear doors, which creates an impression of uninterrupted glass along the side of the car.
Hardtop cars that are a sedan body style are called hardtop sedans.
In the United States, the term "notchback sedan" has been used to distinguish models with a horizontal bootlid from the fastback sedans.
From the 1910s to the 1950s, several United States manufacturers have named models either Sedanet or Sedanette. The term originated as a smaller version of the sedan, however it has also been used for convertibles and fastback coupes.
Models which have been called Sedanet or Sedanette include: 1917 Dort Sedanet, King, 1919 Lexington, 1930s Cadillac Fleetwood Sedanette, 1949 Cadillac Series 62 Sedanette, 1942-1951 Buick Super Sedanet and 1956 Studebaker.
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The principal volumes of the traditional sedan can be split into separate compartments or boxes: the hood/bonnet is the first box; the passenger compartment the second, and the trunk/boot the third - i.e. it's a 'three-box' car.
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