Before it was a brand name for Volkswagen’s version of the Audi A8/Bentley Continental, a phaeton was a body style, specifically an open car with minimal weather protection. They’re distinguished from convertibles in that convertibles have roll-up windows and a more robust folding roof. Phaetons also usually had room enough for a second row of seats – perhaps leading to the development of the dual cowl phaetons of the classic era. The term phaeton as a body style was specific to North America and a European equivalent might be a spyder. The term originally was a type of light, open carriage and it derives from Greek mythology where Phaëton, son of Helios, set the earth on fire trying to drive the chariot of the sun. I don’t know if Henry Ford knew the mythology, but there were a few Ford (Phord?) Phaetons at the Autorama this year. Our gallery includes a couple of ’29s, in black and red, and an eye popping orange ’32.
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