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Tonneau Covers Over Time
A brief history of tonneau covers, including their original function as well as modern uses in pickup trucks.
Most people who know about tonneau covers know them as a common truck accessory, usually one that serves as an alternative to the bulkier camper shells. They have become very popular, and a variety of styles serves to make sure that there are options to fit your needs. Today’s tonneau covers include both, flexible covers made from canvas or other material and hard shells with hinges that resemble those on your vehicle’s hood.
Early tonneau covers were quite different, though. The accessory first developed in the early days of automotive design, when many models of open-air car were common, including some with passenger canopies but open sides. Many of these vehicles had open cargo compartments in the rear for luggage and other items, and the first tonneau covers were invented to meet the needs of those vehicle owners by providing an option that obscured personal items and protected them from the elements, and this compartment was called the tonneau, from the French term for an open barrel. Over time, the vehicles created in styles that used this feature also came to share its name.
As they developed, versions that were designed for race cars and sports cars emerged, allowing unused passenger seats to be covered in a way that protected them from rain and sun damage and also improved the aerodynamics of the vehicle. Eventually, the soft top convertible would innovate on this concept, giving birth to a new era in the automotive industry.
When tonneau covers moved into heavy use among pickup truck owners, the tradition of providing a flexible cover that could be secured provided a starting point, but as the accessory’s popularity took off, a variety of other designs and options took off. While the earliest covers used either ribs or snaps, and both styles are still available today, new covers are also offered in a hardtop design that is heavy enough to need a gas assisted strut to stay open. These are typically able to be painted to match the vehicle, and some manufacturers are even offering them as an option for new vehicles.
Along with the advent of the hardtop, recent offerings have included retractable tonneau covers that can be used to provide partial protection when carrying a mix of different items. These can also typically be locked, as can the hardtops, providing an extra level of security for the driver’s belongings.
To learn more about tonneau covers in San Diego that are available for today’s trucks, click here.
Justin is a certified car nut and writes about all car topics. He has a special interest in performance parts, wheels and rims. Share his enthusiasm at car-care-news.livejournal.com.
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