What Are Touring Cars?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

As the forerunner of the sedan and saloon cars that would follow, the touring car was an open-air vehicle that was very popular during the early years of the 20th century. While some examples of these cars were very simplistic, others were more ornate and considered ideal for use by visiting dignitaries or celebrities. The British version was especially popular, owning to the graceful lines and often ample seating found with the models. In fact, British touring cars often provide the inspiration for touring cars that continue be utilized from time to time in today’s world.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Some of the main features of early touring cars were the removable roof that allowed persons seated in the cab of the vehicle to enjoy the open air. On days when some sort of coverage was desirable, the roof could be easily attached and provide protection for anyone utilizing the car. These cars were popular for use in the countryside in an era when a Sunday afternoon drive along rural roads was considered to be a common respite from the workweek.

Over time, the removable tops to the touring cars were replaced with retractable roofs that could be lowered and raised within a few moments. This innovation quickly spread to other types of vehicles, and remained popular well into the latter years of the 20th century.

Touring cars usually included a seating area located behind the driver’s seat that included two rows of seating that were placed to face each other. An ample amount of legroom was often included, making the cab roomy and comfortable, especially in comparison to the mainly utilitarian cars of the day. Over time, these cars became the ideal vehicles to use when anyone of public note came to visit the city. Screen stars on tour, visiting political officials and other important people would receive the use of this type of car, making it possible for the visitors to interact with people around town from the comfort of the vehicle. Soon, touring cars became a staple of holiday parades and other celebratory events that involved an adoring public and a central public figure.

While the saloon car and the sedan have taken over many of the former uses of touring cars, they remain part of the culture today. These cars are still common sites at local parades, often being used for local political figures, homecoming queens and courts, the local football team, and other situations where cheering crowds and local celebrities come together.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


If you want to see some real racing action you should try and check out the British touring car championship. The touring cars nowadays are a far cry from the roomy luxury vehicles that used to carry around dignitaries.

The British touring car championship 2009 was an especially impressive race, with a lot of gorgeous and heavily modified cars making their way onto the track. I feel that touring car races have a lot more personality than some of the other popular races these days. I also love that most touring car races limit how much the drivers can change about their vehicles, which prevents anyone having too much of an expensive technological advantage over other racers.


My grandfather was quite the fan of historic touring cars and actually worked to restore an old touring car from the early 1900s. My grandfather used to take his touring car out to local car shows, as he loved talking shop with the other drivers.

It never ceases to amaze me how popular touring cars are when I go to antique car shows these days. While my grandfather is no longer around, whenever I see the sleek lines of an old British touring car, I always think back to all the work he did on his own vehicle.

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