Four-door coupes weren’t invented in Germany

Despite what some car makers want you to believe, the four-door coupe is not something that was invented a couple of years ago in Germany.

Clothing four-door cars in a swooping and stylish coupe roof line and selling it at a premium price goes all the way back to the 1930s.

It was General Motors (GM) who really monetised the idea of a four-door coupe .

Their 1938 Cadillac Sixty Special featured a distinctive and sleek convertible roof line rather than that of a tall 1930s sedan.

The side windows were large with ultra-thin chrome surrounds instead of the usual thick, painted frames.

It was built low and did away with running boards.

The car was sporty, daring, and elegant and outsold every other Cadillac.

In 1953 Cadillac revealed its “Orleans” concept car. It was a Coupe de Ville hardtop with rear doors cut into the body.

It was a sensation at the 1953 GM Motorama.

In 1955 GM went further and transformed the entire industry when it released its four-door hardtops  in Buick and Oldsmobile variants.

Buick advertisements shouted out that it was a four-door coupe: “here is a car with coupe styling and four-door practicality”.

Everyone else joined craze in 1956 and the four-door hardtop boom commenced in earnest.

GM’s four-door hardtops of 1959 had a roof so thin and pillars so slim they hardly existed at all.

By 1965, the four-door hardtop body style comprised a staggering 35 per cent of US car production.

Over in the UK, the venerable Rover company could see a profitable market opportunity.

They chopped six centimetres off the roof of their 1962 P5 sedan , thinned and chromed its pillars and sold it at a higher price.

The Rover crew called it the “Coupe” and it accounted for 30 per cent of Rover P5 sales over the next decade.

And if the original Jaguar XJ6 and its successors are not a four-door coupes, then nothing is.

Hardtops disappeared in the USA in the late 1970s as a result of concerns about roll over regulations and rigidity problems, as the shift from chassis to unitary frame construction gained momentum.

Meantime in Japan, Nissan, Toyota and Mazda started to build four-door hardtops and continued well into the 1980s.

In Australia, Holden assembled Pontiac and Chevrolet hardtops from 1964 through to 1968.

Chrysler did similarly with its Dodge Phoenix through to 1971.

The most stylish of the lot is the 1966 Pontiac.

With all of the windows rolled down and no middle pillar to clutter the view, this automobile is the true essence of a four-door coupe.

David Burrell is the editor of

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