I know I typically use this space to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like running one of Canada’s biggest car blogs. But today I felt compelled to interrupt that regularly scheduled programming to mull over some maybe-true trivia: that the rumble seat was named after its inventor.
As a young car enthusiast, the term “rumble seat” made sense to me: back there over the rear axle, you’re going to feel more rumble than you would inside the wheelbase. Or at the very least hear the rumble of the exhaust more clearly.
But while reading through Margery Krevsky’s 2008 book Sirens of Chrome, about the history of using women as a draw at auto shows, I came across an offhand reference to the origin of the term I never knew about. From her blog:
So who invented the rumble seat? It was Sir Hubert Malcolm Rhumble, a prominent carriage designer of England’s late 1800s. He designed a coachman’s seat that stuck in the car lexicon, according to the Automobilist Magazine in August 1958. In early vintage automobiles the trunk lid folded back to form a seat area, sometimes called a “mother-in-law” seat. In that era, it must have been the stuff of some pretty good jokes.
I haven’t tried hunting down the magazine Krevsky cites, but online I could only find three other references to Rhumble: one that cited her; one in Kathleen Franz’s 2005 book Tinkering: Consumers Reinvent the Early Automobile; and one in a 1989 Chicago Tribune article.
That ’58 Automobilist article may be the one and only source from which all these others are derived, and I wonder where its author found Mr. Rhumble’s name.
I’m curious because that would just be a perfect little piece of trivia, wouldn’t it? It’s like finding out the inventor of the toilet was named Thomas Crapper. The name is just perfect—too perfect.
That’s why I’m doubtful as to its truth. Anyone have any leads to the word’s etymology?
I’ll be returning to the behind-the-scenes stuff tomorrow or the day after. Hope y’all like nerding out over sports cars—