The name is French in origin and means "barrel" when translated literally. Originally found on cars that date back to the early 1900s, the tonneau was a barrel-like back seat, built in a rounded fashion to protect the seat from mud and bugs while the car was being driven down dirt roads. The tonneau cover was a soft leather cover that stretched from one side of the tonneau to the other to keep an unused seat clean. Later, as racing became popular, drivers would use tonneau covers to reduce drag created when the air hit the cockpits of their cars.
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