Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2

The Four Door Coupe

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The Mercedes CLS is rightly cited as the direct production inspiration for today’s coupe saloons, but can we look back to the Rover P5 as being the first car to offer the option of less headroom for more money? Today, I agree it looks quite good but, at the time, as a rather dogmatic kid, I found it rather illogical. It’s not as if the high-sided P5 was ever svelte, but I suppose its appeal is a slight one of menace, more akin to that of a chopped Mercury.

Chopped Mercury

In fact, Rover’s decision to produce the two versions of the P5 did not come out of the blue. Like other manufacturers, in the 30s and 40s, Rover offered both taller 6 light and lower 4 light ‘sports’ versions of its saloons, the latter presumably aimed at those people who, in the privacy of their own motors, might sometimes feel able to remove their hats. The P5 coupe was really just a continuation of this tradition.

21 thoughts on “Theme : Evolution – The Missing Links 2”

  1. Shown on its own like here, the P5 doesn’t make a particularly convincing claim for the first in the genre. Probably a good illustration of the fact that it doesn’t matter who did it first, more who did it best.

    1. Don’t know why they bothered… Or you for that matter.

    2. You’d probably have to be an 85 (or more) year old Englishman (which I believe you miss out on both counts) to see the difference between the staid and responsible saloon, and the sleek and sporty coupe.

      As for the second question, I’ve got a contract to deliver 5,000 words a month.

    3. So who back then would have bought the ‘coupaloon’ ahead of the high-hat model? And do you know how sales compared?

      PS: just as I was writing this a Passat CC drove past. Looks o.k., though most people probably wouldn’t notice it. Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of such cars, or is it just a case of having people say ‘nice car’ when they look at it without reference to the standard version the whole point?

      PPS: can I have some word count money too?

  2. Times are changing. Nowadays the men with head coverings are driving coupés. Because without a basecap those young urban hipsters won´t get their hair manes under a lowered coupé-roof…

    1. What sort of cars do hipsters like? I feel they might be choosing scuffed Kangoos and tatty Berlingos or maybe battered Mercedes W123s. I notice Volvo 740 estates seem to be providing classless cheap transport for urban types.

  3. I thought the hipsters’ manes were in front of their heads, not on top… And they don’t drive cars, but fixies.

  4. The coupe P5 i always lusted after and still do, it’s quietly brutishly handsome in a reserved British way.
    Roger Moore’s 007 (the best because he injected the don’t take yourself so seriously humour into the part) would have looked so right in.

    1. I admit that I never really got the P5 Coupe when it was new, but time has been very kind to it and I certainly agree now that it has a uniquely good-looking stance.

      Here is a picture of Roger Moore in a P5, albeit a saloon, but, fond as I am of him from The Saint days, we’ll have to agree to differ over his James Bond!

  5. About a decade ago it was fashionable to call these P5 and P5Bs a cheaper way to get the Silver Shadow experience. Now I rarely see them mentioned. Is there a reason for that?
    Laurent: have you noticed the Passat CC seems only to get painted black? It is asking for more expressive colours. That said I find the car calls for my attention with its wide stance and rather lovely details. In a way it’s the wrong car for VW and would have made a great Lancia.

    1. The one I saw today was grey. Well, they call it silver here but really it’s metallic grey.
      What kind of colour do you think would suit it?
      I guess what you mean is that it’s a car that doesn’t stand out much but starts to make an impression when one pays a bit more attention to the detailing, which is a good thing, right?

  6. Another precedent of the current 4 door coupe would be the pillarless sedans once beloved of the US market (the equivalent of wearing a bright tie with your business suit). They were also popular with Japanese manufacturers and I admit to a sneaking desire for an early 80s Nissan Laurel Hardtop. Here is someone who indulged that desire, though theirs is a 4 cylinder, and I rather fancy a 6. *Correction, I read wrong, his is a 6 cylinder.

    With the doors open, you almost expect it to fold up, but I suppose this was how Nissan felt confident enough to commit to the Prairie’s pillarless construction.

    1. Oh look at those sumptuous warm velour armchairs, superb, you can keep all that black plastic and pretend plastic aluminium or worse still carbon fibre effect dashboards.

      Sink into that deep pile after a long day, no cold shock to the nethers nor have your skin burned off on boiling hot leather.

      That’s what a cars interior should be like.

    2. That´s quite simply excellent. I really miss all that velour and coloured plastic. There really ought to be a way to take the underlying idea of this type of interior and make it acceptable to a modern audience. I find the present themes oppressive. There was a point when a totally black interior carried some connotation of sportiness but that time is past. Black is the new light-grey. I´d be very interested to see who might embark upon some new thinking in vehicle interiors. The path of wild organic shapes inspired by cardiac muscles and dark colours has run its course. By the way, Peugeot did some very pleasing warm interiors on the late series 604s and I am pretty sure Opel had some opulent colours and fabrics for the Senator “A”. The Japanese carried on with these colours for a bit longer than they did in Europe. Now it all seems very uniform.

  7. This quirky unsporty Nissan Coupe would get a place in my huge garage in my head – very nice.

    I found a nice article about this theme – pointing out some characteristics of a 4-door-coupé:
    In my eyes there are 2 other points to mention:
    – the doors of a coupe should be frameless
    – the roof may have another colour than the rest of the car

    IIf i would have to name cars, that were an inspiration for modern 4-door-coupés like the CLS, the CC or the BMW Gran Coupe, i would not mention the Rover or the Nissan, because a certain sportive touch is lacking I would name the Alfa 156 and the Chrysler Neon – despite their non-framelless-doors.

  8. As it happens, when I worked in Bahrain for a few weeks in the 1980s, I was driven to work every day in a pillarless Nissan Laurel just like the one shown here. It was metallic green, with a large crack right across the windscreen in front of the driver. This seemed to worry no-one and it was never replaced it in all the time I was there. Possibly because of the erratic way the car was driven, or the heat, or my state of mind, or whatever, I was distinctly antipathetic to the Nissan but, looking at it now, I agree with the other people here. It’s rather attractive and the burgundy patterned velour seats, complementary fascia and monogrammed carpets are a delight. The only thing bad is the way the rear window lowers and, if fact, won’t disappear entirely. It spoils the effect greatly.

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