Welcome to Thursday Trivia where we offer up a historical automotive trivia question and you try and solve it before seeing the answer after the jump. It’s like a history test, with cars! This week’s question: Who is credited with the invention of the T-roof? If you think you know the answer, make the jump and see if you’re correct. The T-roof, so called because of the shape of the windshield header and central support left when the two roof panels are removed, was first popularized with the introduction of the C3 Corvette in 1968. Of course the ’70s were the heyday of the trope after Sally Field leapt through the open T-roof of Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. Seemingly, from that point until the return of the mass-market convertible in the mid-eighties, the T-top could be found as an option on everything from Plymouth Volares to Datsun 280ZXs and Buick Regals. That flurry of offerings might make you think that the T-top was an invention of the sixties, perhaps by a GM engineer as it first found fame on the ‘Vette. Well, it’s true that the T-roof’s inventor at one time worked for GM, but the top design was actually thought up – and patented – almost two decades before the C3 Stingray ever hit the market. From Yahoo! Autos:
By the start of World War II, Gordon Buehrig had established himself as one of the great American automotive designers, giving style to Duesenberg and Auburn among many others. After the war, Buehrig went freelancing, and joined a start-up that wanted to build an American answer to Jaguar and other small British sports cars. The American Sports Car Company prototype Buehrig designed was inspired by aircraft — but was ungainly enough that it couldn’t find a builder or backers. When the company collapsed, Buehrig took his final payments in intellectual property — spending his own money to patent on of his better ideas, a set of removable roof panels that gave passengers open-air driving.
While Buehrig got his patent for the T-top on this date in 1951, it wouldn’t appear in production until 1968, when GM made the “convertible coupe” standard in the third-generation Corvette — and from there, spread throughout the industry in the ’70s and ’80s.
Buehrig designed some of the most iconic cars of all time, including the Duesenberg Model J, Auburn 851 Speedster, and for Ford, the Continental Mark II. His vision for the TASCO sports car was perhaps not quite as impressive as any of those others, but it is notable both for being his attempt at a new American automobile and for the advent of the T-top roof. Images: Web-Cars, Yahoo! Autos