What do I mean by a light automobile or light car? Light car was a term used in Great Britain in the early part of the last century to describe the whole range of cars up to 1.5 litres engine capacity.
How did it become to be used? A paragraph in the "Autocar Handbook", sixth edition, which I estimate by its content to have been published in 1914. States " As a matter of fact no definition of a light car exists beyond the fact that the R.A.C. (Royal Automobile Club) has so far limited the size of engine for light cars in trails (An early form of rallying) to 1400cc". It goes on to state, " Nor indeed would it be very easy to devise a definition since there is between the light car and the large car no great gulf fixed, but merely a line of demarcation". C.F.Caunter quotes in his book "The Light Car, A technical history of cars with engines of less than 1600c.c.capacity", that there was a specification for the light car promulgated in 1912 by the A.C.U. "By which engine capacity was limited to 1500cc. (The ACU Motorcycling GB was founded in 1903 as the Auto - Cycle Club with the aim of developing motor sport through clubs and arranging touring facilities for individual members. It was renamed the Auto - Cycle Union in 1907 and organised a
Series of Quarterly Trials and National Six Day Events before the end of that decade.) As the title of his book shows, C.F.Caunter had no doubts that the light car was a suitable description for a recognisable range of cars. This was in 1958.
There have been many terms used to describe or define different types or classes of cars. In the past, Minicar, Economy, Utility, Light, Touring, Grand touring, Luxury, Family and Sports were used. Today we use, Mini, Supermini, Family, People carrier, 4X4, Executive, Luxury, and Sports. Mini, Minicar, Supermini, and Economy cars are clearly small cars and Executive and Luxury and Grand Tourer are large cars. Family Sports, 4X4, and People carriers can be large or small. The use of light and heavy categories gives us the freedom to compare cars of similar weights and engine capacities outside the usual boundaries. Why bother to divide them. Because light cars are more fuel efficient, cost less to buy and run, take up less space and are usually more fun to drive than heavy cars. As a general rule, the weight of a car is related to the capacity of the engine fitted. Therefore if you wish to make a line of demarcation between lighter and heavier cars, the engine capacity that is usually known, is a reasonable yardstick. I think that C.F.Caunter's definition of cars up to 1600cc be classed as light cars and those over 1600cc classed as heavy cars is reasonable, as it follows motor sport classifications.
There used to be a magazine published in Great Britain by the Temple Press, originally named " The Light Car and Cyclecar", and later " The Light Car". It was first published in October 1913; it was on sale every Friday and cost 3 old pennies, but has ceased publication many years ago. This magazine covered topics on the range of cars used by the average motorist. This indicates that the term "Light Car", used to be in popular use. There are various references to quotes from " The Light Car and Cyclecar", on the Internet. Also the " The Light Car and Cyclecar", is quoted or is used as reference in many of the book I use for my research. The term Light car is used in Australia today as is small and medium car, also large and luxury cars. In Japan it is a category of car for tax purposes, but I have not been able to determine the weight or capacity range.