Abbreviations and Specific Terms From The Auto World

Car jargon can be confusing. Below are some of the more common abbreviations and terms:

Some Common Abbreviations:

ABS antilock braking system

ATV all terrain vehicle

AWD/4WD all-wheel drive (four-wheel drive)


ESC electronic stability control

EXT extended cab (four doors on a pickup truck)

FMR front mid-engine rear wheel drive

FWD front-wheel drive

GRP glass-reinforced plastic

GT gran turismo (grand tourer. high-performance luxury auto for long-distance driving)

GTi gran turismo-injection (grand tourer with fuel injection engine)

GTO gran turismo omologato (GT car homologated for racing)

LWB long wheelbase

MPV multi-purpose vehicle

NASCAR National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing

OHC overhead cam (DOHC = dual OHC or twin cam; SOHC = single OHC)

OHV overhead valve

PZEV partial zero-emissions vehicle

RMR rear mid-engine rear-wheel drive

RS Rally Sport

RWD rear-wheel drive

SAV sports activity vehicle (alternative to SUV, see below)


SUV sports utility vehicle (minivan/truck, usually AWD for on-and off-road driving)

SWB short wheelbase

Note on Horsepower:

The power that an engine produces is measured in units of horsepower (or ‘horses’). Some power is used up by the drivetrain so the actual horsepower available for propulsion is less than the gross power that the engine produces. This net power is known as brake horsepower (bhp) although it is often referred to simply as horsepower or hp.

In Europe and Japan, power is measured in PferdeStärke (‘horse strength’ in German) which is also known as metric horsepower or DIN 1 PS/DIN = 0.986 hp. So PS/DIN and bhp are nearly equivalent to each other, but not quite.

Note on Engine Displacement (Capacity):

In Europe and Japan, manufacturers normally give displacement data in cubic centimetres (cc). In the USA, it is conventionally given in litres or cubic inches. Throughout this site the data is given in cc except for cars manufactured in the USA for which it is given in litres (I) with the equivalent cubic inch displacement (cid) in brackets. 1 cu in =16.387 cc.

Car Terms:

cabriolet car with a removable/retractable soft top; convertible; drophead coupe

coupe two-door car with hard top

crossover vehicle built on a car platform with characteristics of van or SUV

drivetrain See powertrain

drophead See cabriolet

Doors butterfly slide upwards and move outwards (similar to scissor)

Doors gullwing hinged at the top to lift upwards

Doors scissor slide upwards from single fixed hinge at end of windscreen

Doors suicide hinged at the rear rather than the front (also known as coach doors)

estate car station wagon; shooting brake

flathead See sidevalve

hardtop a car design that has no central roof struts (B-pillars) homologated certified (or approved) as meeting the standard requirements for a particular class of car when taking part in racing

inline See straight

monocoque a way of manufacturing a car as an integrated piece (unibody) instead of a body mounted onto a separately built chassis

muscle car large, fast gas-guzzler with supercharged V8 engine

pickup truck-like vehicle (either two- or four-door) with open load bed at back

pillars the struts that hold up the car roof.

A-pillars struts at either side of front windscreen

B-pillars centre struts behind the front doors

C-pillars struts at either side of rear window

pony car compact performance car of the late 1950s to 1970, inspired by Ford Mustang design

pushrod an engine with an overhead valve (OHV) design

powertrain parts of the car that deliver power to the road —engine, transmission, differential, driveshafts, drive wheels; drivetrain

roadster two-seater convertible sports car

running gear 1. suspension, shock absorbers and steering or

2. transmission, driveshaft and wheels

saloon four-door (family) hardtop car; sedan

sedan See saloon

sidevalve engine design in which valves are positioned at the side of the combustion chamber instead of at the cylinderhead — hence also known as ‘flathead’

straight or inline arrangement of cylinders in an engine. Cylinders are either in a line or a V (with variations such as staggered or W)

supercar car with high horsepower engine for high speed and fast acceleration

woodie estate car with a wooden body

ute Australian utility vehicle. See pickup


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