Tainted Love: There wasn’t a lot of glamour to be found in 1970’s Ireland. Not too many coupés either. (Originally published on 23 February 2014)
The coupé evokes a variety of adjectives in our automotive lexicon, most of which we broadly aspire to; words like glamour, sophistication, affluence. As an ideal it’s suffused with images of impossibly salubrious locations; languid cocktails on the shores of Lake Como, nibbling swan canapés on the Croisette, driving west on Sunset. So from the foregoing it’s fairly safe to assume that Ireland is not a place that readily springs to mind when the subject of the coupé is raised over the hors d’oeuvres.
Growing up in the Republic during the 1970’s, there wasn’t a lot of glamour to go around. We were impoverished, downtrodden and inward-looking. We had fierce hair, windswept teeth and sandblasted completions. We were ground down by emigration, unemployment, governmental corruption and an interfering clergy. The weather was shocking, particularly when it wasn’t raining. All we had were the pubs. So to our sensitive, light-averse eyes, the sight of a coupé was both rare and thrilling. It spoke of unfettered yearnings, improper desires and the promise of the sort of dissolute, champagne-drenched lifestyle that was only available within the pages of sales brochures, or at a pinch, Cosmopolitan magazine. Where, I might add, it never rained.
Despite all documented evidence to the contrary, the Irish are a conservative people. Stepping out from the crowd was something of a defiant gesture in the 1970s, so for an native to drive a coupé, he was making a very unambiguous statement to his peers. One which said; ‘I am not bound by your narrow parochial notions of decorous behaviour. I will wear clothes that don’t really suit me, the wearing of which will not necessarily make me happy.’
Irish coupé-man was likely to be an unmarried commitment-phobe who had done sufficiently well (usually abroad) to splash out on a style statement to attract the birds – and possibly the bees. But for some dark unspoken reason, he would never take the next step to convention and fulfilment. Behind his outward veneer of louche conviviality, lay a melancholic streak that only large quantities of malt whiskey could assuage. Coupé man wore stylish sports jackets, smoked expressively and exuded a crumpled yet rakishly dangerous appeal.
Yes, he might be a success in the bedroom, but you couldn’t escape the impression he wasn’t too discerning as to whom he chose to accompany him there.
On the other hand, on the odd occasion you might see an Irish married couple at the wheel of a coupé, the aura of betrayal and tears over the Blue Nun was almost palpable. It spoke of barren marriages, shattered promises, phials of Valium and quiet desperation, all to a soundtrack of Elkie Brooks. The coupé you see has always been the embodiment of automotive ennui: Abigail’s Party on wheels, if you will. Because a dark undercurrent lies beneath its siren appeal. Seductive lines luring the impressionable with the promise of pleasures, hitherto unimagined and thrillingly illicit. However, like all Faustian pacts, a price must be exacted.
Now on the other hand all this could equally be dismissed as nonsense. No doubt, and you may have a point, after all the very idea of the 2-door coupé, as indeed that of a doomed romantic is a somewhat vain and self regarding one. But where would we be without the occasional dose of amour fou. Into every life a little rain must fall, and let’s face it, if you live in the Republic, you’re guaranteed a good facefull – both of precipitation and thwarted romance.
Coupés on the other hand remain rather more thin on the ground.