JRHaelig

Rumble Seat Coupes

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I gotta tell you...I never got the "rumble seat coupe" thing.  Not snubbing it...I just don't understand it.  Especially in the mid to late '30's.  There's a beautiful '38 Desoto for sale here that got me pondering again.

 

In the early years the difference between inside and outside was much closer together, so inside, outside....whatever.

 

But the deco years are just hard for me to figure out, especially from my perspective as a northeasterner.

 

"No, Daddy....don't make me ride outside!!!" 

 

Or "Now, Darling....it is the 'mother in law' seat.  So when I drive it's your mother......"

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I always wondered why someone that purchased a rumble seat car, just didn't purchase a sedan. I guess that they wanted a "sportier" vehicle like a coupe or roadster and used the rumble seat for unexpected passengers. Many cars of the era had roll down rear windows to be able to communicate with the rumble seat occupants, but in bad weather the occupants were in trouble.

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1 hour ago, JRHaelig said:

I gotta tell you...I never got the "rumble seat coupe" thing.  Not snubbing it...I just don't understand it.  Especially in the mid to late '30's.  There's a beautiful '38 Desoto for sale here that got me pondering again.

 

In the early years the difference between inside and outside was much closer together, so inside, outside....whatever.

 

But the deco years are just hard for me to figure out, especially from my perspective as a northeasterner.

 

"No, Daddy....don't make me ride outside!!!" 

 

Or "Now, Darling....it is the 'mother in law' seat.  So when I drive it's your mother......"


I agree with you and I have one. Personally a trunk would be more useful to me. 
 

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This sign may help clarify things !  Displayed in a friend's '29 Hupmobile roadster's rumble seat.

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Rumble seats don't seem too bad to me.  The ones that I can't understand are the little slide out seats that will barely hold an average size person.

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Coupes and roadsters, with or without rumble seats, generally were less expensive than sedans.  And like today, they were considered "sporty".  But rumble seats are hard to get in and out of, cramped, of questionable safety, and subject to the elements.  They were dying out by the mid-30s and gone by WWII.  Nowadays they're fun for parades, etc but the novelty wears off quickly - they're pretty much useless otherwise.

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From a modern perspective, the odd part is that a 2-door coupe in that era was ordinarily just a two-seater, instead of a four-or-five seater with all 4-or-5 seats under a roof.   I think a rumble seat makes sense if your baseline is a two-seater, as it gives you more seating in a pinch.  But I agree it's a bit odd if your baseline is a four-or-five seater.  I have to say, though, my experience is that people love rumble seats at car shows.  I usually open up the rumble seat on my Packard, and I'll let kids sit in it.  They love it.

Edited by 1935Packard (see edit history)

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The rumble seat I figure was largely an after-thought. When the early coupes/roadsters/2 seat convertibles were developed as in essence a sporty personal car, for 2 people, the back quarter varied including the desirable boat-tail, turtle back and trunk. While initially most had a trunk, I suspect at some point someone suggested a pop-up seat to enable carrying a couple of people (likely children) might be an added sales option, and an accessory rack/trunk would solve the luggage problem. Although they are seen in most circles today as highly desirable ( partly due to their rareness and quirkiness), they were not a huge seller, as they are not really practical for adults. So their usage/marketing was short term. Other than an occasional parade ride, I have never seen people riding the roads in one. I have a 1931 Chrysler CD8 Roadster under restoration, and once finished, I cannot imagine letting anyone crawl/climb over the body work to get into the rumble seat, not even my grand-kids. As for the previously mentioned "mother-in-law" seat, if I recall that was a term for the earlier cars that had a single occupant seat in center rear of car, and was not a reference used for rumble seats. 

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I've only rode in a rumble seat twice.  Back the 80's, my old friend, Vince Marra, gave me a ride from downtown San Diego to La Mesa in the rumble seat of his 33 Plymouth.  I loved it.  People were giving us the thumbs up and I could talk to Vince the whole way with the back window rolled down.  The other time was in a Model A roadster.  I think the key to understanding the rumble seat is with kids.  I think it was mainly for carrying kids.  I remember the movie Boys Town 1938, where the little kid, PeeWee, asks Mickey Rooney a question about a car coming to pick him up.  "Does it have a rumble seat?".  

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47358781_IMG_3518(1).thumb.JPG.b0af80b6fac37df98598e6b89c509204.JPGIMG_1787.thumb.JPG.e9d115293013f4fec99bddbab07f58fb.JPG

 I guess there are all kinds of opinions about rumble seats and their usefulness. Of course a 4 door closed car made more sense for travel sheltered from weather. Why have an open car? Yet as a collector they have more value than a closed sedan. I have a 1930 DeSoto CK6 coupe with a rumble seat. What a special treat for the grand kids to go for a ride in grampa's old car with the rumble seat! I have installed seat belts and only drive slowly on quiet roads. Kids love the attention they get. It is so special to them! My grand daughter said after a short trip "Grampa, 35 people waved at us". The back window cranks down so we can talk to each other. Isn't the intent of the old car hobby to enjoy it. How do we get the next generation interested in this old hobby if our cars are just for show?  have actually crawled into the back and found it very comfortable. Does anyone know of a second DeSoto like this one?IMG_1782.thumb.JPG.e55d042c3dadb02f291f80b722ca5cd2.JPG

Edited by ckowner (see edit history)

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The terms "rumble seat" and "mother-in-law seat" have been used somewhat interchangeably since about 1906. A friend of mine, researching his 1908 Ford model K 6-40 roadster found "rumble seat" used as a description for the single removable seat added behind the main driver/passenger seat on roadsters as early as 1906. Common usage of "mother-in-law" seat seems to have come about soon later. Both terms were used to describe both single and dual seats added in the back during the bras era. The model T Ford offered several variations of roadsters from 1909 through 1912 model years. While the "torpedo" and "open roadster" had no rumble seat, the more common roadster style did, and was generally called a "Mother-in-law" roadster, although that was not its official title. Advertising sometimes called them the "commercial" roadster (either with or without the MIL seat). In the 1920s, the roadster with the more familiar rumble seat in the trunk became somewhat popular, and the term "rumble seat became the preferred nomenclature. By the late '20s, the coupe was also commonly offered with a rumble seat. Primarily for people that usually traveled alone, or with one other person, the coupe was considerably cheaper than a sedan, but offered much more comfort than a touring car. With a rumble seat, the coupe could carry four adults if needed.

Remember, people in those days compared their "inconveniences" to much greater inconveniences just a few years before. Most of the year, that rumble seat ride was just fine. No worse than the back seat of a touring car.

 

The 1929 Reo I had when I was still in high school had a rumble seat. I rode in it a few times with my dad driving, and really enjoyed it. I wish I had a car now with a rumble seat. It was a lot of fun!

Edited by wayne sheldon
spotted a typo :( (see edit history)
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Rumble seats served a very important service that many, many young people needed. It was a great way to go on a date and hide from others where your hands were..........I know I enjoyed many drives in a car with young ladies while my “elders” were up front driving my car. As the announcer says at the beginning of the show.......Are you ready to rumble! 😎

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Kids love them and I can see the advantages of dating. My mother rode in one from Long Island to Estes Park in 1934 she was 20. Wish I could ask her about that adventure.

 

 

jc rumble 2.jpg

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I find rumble seat cars bring a premium over trunk cars.

 

I prefer the rumble.............

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I rode in Sam Barnett's Marmon a few years back. I insisted on riding in the rumble seat just for the experience. I enjoyed it so much that my next car was a rumble seat coupe.     John

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My 1928 Whippet Cabriolet has a rumble seat and with the fact it is smaller than a Model A, should come with a shoe horn! 

We had a visitor come from Germany and just had to go for a ride... A unique experience but wouldn't want to have to travel far in it.

1818976446_Whippet-July302013-CompanyfromGermany-pic4.thumb.jpg.e0bd62c262457c00bc0bb977b61119ca.jpg

 

And for a perspective on the actual size of the car...

1378856321_Whippet-July302013-CompanyfromGermay-pic1.thumb.jpg.da6354665f51d8044c723fc67c11fbd8.jpg

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They are one of the most popular rides during our Club's week long tours....... except if it's raining.   But if the weather is nice, every rumble seat will be full that week, while the back seats of some sedans may not be.  Kids especially love riding in the rumble seat !!!!!

 

My parents told of a weekend day trip for a picnic out Sunrise Highway from Brooklyn to a park somewhere on Long Island. They rode in the rumble seat, with my Father's parents in front. That was back in the early 1930's when they were engaged. The weather turned nasty, and the ride home was in heavy rain. They had to duck down and sit on the rumble seat floor and close the lid. They said it was a very uncomfortable trip jammed into such a small space.

 

Paul

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My brother and his boy enjoying a ride in the rumble seat. My driving companion Harley who is no longer with us. I sure miss that boy.

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Our Great Uncle Al own my 31 before my father bought if from him in the late 80's.

I still remember to this day when our Great Uncle Al would take us for a rides in the Rumble Seat around Marquette Park in Chicago.

What fun it was......

Edited by Packin31 (see edit history)
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Locke Coachbuilders in NY made a convertible three door coupe body. The third door was forward of the right rear fender!. You stepped from the running board to 

enter the rumble seat! The car's 145 inch wheelbase made this possible!!   Have only seen one in last 90 years.  A Chrysler.  A must for dignified ladies!!!!

Edited by Willie Wurke
to correct math (see edit history)

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A friend had a brother who was in the rumble seat of Model A coupe that went off the road and overturned. The two people inside the car survived. The brother in the rumble seat was killed.  

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Hi Bill ! How are you ? That 185" wheelbase would have been not only uncommon, but also somewhat unusual to drive. From having owned  a '96 extended 6 door Fleetwood Brougham, I noticed that the rear end seemed to take a moment before deciding to follow the front end  🤔😏 !

 

Barry' , your example is a sad reminder that our old cars are dangerous, no matter what the configuration. Out having fun with family and friends, and in a second, irreversible tragedy strikes. Please be careful everyone, particularly with those VERY cool rumble seats.

 

A number of you have mentioned rides to the park. Dave39MD writes about what really was an EPIC ride to the park. Estes Park is half-way across the country in Colorado ! In 1934 ! With all the dust and dirt, baking in the hot sun, rain ?, exhaust, etc, that "jaunt" sounds like several orders of magnitude more strenuous than a "walk in the park"! 

 

         Aging, fading, too ill to walk through the park anymore, having to drive it these days,   -  Carl 

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I had the best time riding with my kids in a 1929 Graham-Paige rumble seat coupe.  Getting out was another story.  Sedans were considerably more money.

 

On the dangerous topic, driving is most likely the most dangerous thing any of us do, last year there were 40,000 deaths in the US in car accidents (third year in a row).

 

https://www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/fatality-estimates

 

 

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Rumble seats were intended only for occasional use when more than two need to go and then not for long distance.   In the 1920's, roadsters were generally the cheapest body style; for buyers with only a periodic need for more passenger accommodation a rumble seat was a good solution.    As the closed car became affordable, roadsters assumed a sporty aura, a rumble seat felt dangerous and fun.   

 

One of my favorite lines from M*A*S*H is when Henry Blake returned from R & R in love with young Nancy Sue Parker, Hawkeye tells him "Henry, You just spent a week in the rumble seat of the time machine!"

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I have been asked to do 2 weddings using my 1929 Chrysler 75, the bride and father and then bride and groom rode in the rumble (dicky in G.B.) seat.

It's always the most popular seat to have a go in at the car shows.

2 adult passengers means less room for picnic items though. 🙁

 

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