Thursday, October 17, 2013
The motoring industry has come a long way since the early days of the Benz Patent Motorwagen in 1886. Designed by Karl Benz, the man later responsible for founding Mercedes-Benz, it resembled a tricycle, and is widely viewed as the first car in history.
Similarly, the coupe has evolved massively.
With roots in the 19th century, these vehicles were initially carriages drawn by horses. The only thing they really share in common with their current day counterparts is that they boasted four wheels and a lack of rear-facing passenger seats.
Being the vehicle of choice for those with status, most coupe carriages featured a glass window, which protected the passengers from flying debris. Due to the success of the carriage, the early manufacturers of cars recognised the potential to incorporate the body features into their designs.
The 20th Century Coupe
Cars had taken off by the time the 1920s came around. Manufacturers had started to produce a variety of coupes, which were defined by their closer forward rear passenger seats and further back front seats.
In order to provide the motoring industry, and the growing consumer bases around the world, a clearer idea of what coupes were, the Society of Automotive Engineers – now known as the SAE International – moved to suggest a definition.
It stated that coupes were enclosed vehicles operated from the inside that featured enough room for two or three people – including the drivers. However, it also recognised that some variants also, albeit not that many, featured a fourth seat that faced backwards.
Examples during this period included the Ford Model B, and the Packard One-Twenty. Stylistically these vehicles set the standard for this particular style of car – exuding huge amounts of class and elegance. The luxuriousness of these cars has had a lasting impact, with many modern coupes offering masses of comfort in their interiors.
Post-World War II, with growing economic prosperity, cars became more accessible to the masses. This resulted in considerable innovations, such as the widespread release of opening-roof convertibles. However, by and large, most coupe models do not feature retractable roofs.
Now coupes don’t follow a universal definition. From car manufacturer to car manufacturer, the general idea of what coupes are differs quite significantly.
Rather than referring to a type of car body, the term now tends to be used in reference to the levels of luxury a vehicle can provide motorists. This has been evidenced by the rise in two, three and four door vehicles – as opposed to the original two-door set-up of the first coupes – that have been marketed to motorists as coupe cars.
One could argue that the coupe has simply evolved with the times.
Larger two door cars – like coupes – have seen their popularity fall amongst motorists, so by adapting their coupe offerings to feature three and four door models, it could be that car manufacturers have just catered to demand.
However, with cars like the MINI Coupe, the Peugeot RCZ and the BMW 4 Series, the modern definition of this particular style of car is likely to continue for many years to come.
Louisa Jenkins loves cars. She documents her love of cars - from Peugeot coupe models to hatchbacks - in her blogs posts.