First Love

I’ve always loved big coupes. The longer the bonnet and the bigger the engine the better. I’m not quite sure what that says about me but there would be some real old school two door bruisers in my dream garage. The genesis of this love can be traced back to two separate events in the early eighties. The first of these key moments I talked about during my first ever post “Unsung Hero”. The second was the 25th of December 1983 when I received a small little book called “The Observer’s Book of Classic Cars”. My nascent love for all things car was already undeniable and this (at first glance wildly unsuitable for a eight year old) Christmas gift with it’s small “pocketbook” size and dry, terse writing held my attention for hours. Lots of the technical information went way over my head yet I incessantly returned to the book and invariably to the exotically named rarity on page 133.

Silver Monteverdi 375s High Speed
Echoes of Aston’s DBS, especially in this colour. (They were both released in 1967)

Right at the bottom of this page was a small ( and not particularly clear) black and white photo of a Monteverdi 375 High Speed. I’ve yet to ever see one in the flesh. The photo reminded me a little of the Jenson Interceptor from the front (a real favourite of mine launched a year before the 375) and of the Aston DBS from the rear. The one technical fact that didn’t go over this little boy’s head though was the truly monstrous 375hp 7.2 litre, firebreathing V8 hemi that Peter Monteverdi bought from Chrysler and fitted under that gorgeously long bonnet. This was the moment that I first realised that truly (apologies to George Orwell) two doors are good,  four doors are bad. Awkward clambering into cramped back seats and tapering rooflines are a small price to pay for looking this well.  Pietro Frua’s nicely creased design (making amends for his frumpy P1800) clothed a steel tubular chassis built by Monteverdi himself making this a mongrel of Swiss engineering, American muscle and Italian styling. What an irresistible mongrel though. This handbuilt car was made in tiny numbers and cost an eye watering 100,000 CHF (even more expensive than a Ferrari Daytona!) Even today a good one (if you can find it) will cost you the bones of £100k sterling.

Pandora’s box was open and from this moment on it was clear that any car with more than two doors was a compromise. It’s axiomatic that even the most basic hatchback looks better as a three door than as a five door and while the 375 wouldn’t get into my dream garage I feel I owe it a debt for pointing me in the right direction all those years ago. In an ironic twist it was also Peter Monteverdi who was the only officially recognized workshop permitted to add two back doors to the original Rangie when it was only sold as a three door (and looked so much better as a three door). I often think the current Range Rover would look incredible with one long Avantimey door each side. Even the frequently overlooked two door saloon is a massive improvement on it’s overdoored brethren.

Blue 3 door Range Rover
Still a good looking car with the perfect complement of doors

To choose a favourite coupe of all time is of course an impossible task with some older models having the charm but maybe not the power and newer models perhaps handling better but maybe making us too aware of their saloon car roots. I am currently compiling a list of my top coupes of all time which is involving large amounts of head scratching and crumpling up paper into balls to be thrown in the wire bin in the corner. I’m sure you can already guess some of the cars on the list but there will be a few beauts that you might not have thought of. This will be my next post.

Black Mercedes Coupe
You can be sure this will be on the list….but where?

For now though the most important question. Is there a better way to drive than in a coupe?  More practical and comfortable than an out and out sports car. Great looks (depending on model I agree) and with the right set up good handling and performance. Space for kids and luggage yet you won’t feel hard done by (as you undoubtedly will in any MPV).  Am I wrong?



9 thoughts on “First Love”

  1. You make a good point about three door cars. In that format the Ford Focus 1 and 2, the Opel Astra and the Renault Megane all looked better. The Golf looks nicer that way too. The last two Astra three-doors are criminally overlooked design jewels. Apparently everyone in the world now buys cars as if they had two small children and three door cars are as popular as paging devices or fountain pens. This is baffling. You can sell a car if it doesn’t suit you but it seems people act as if their car will be the only
    one they ever own.
    About two door saloons, I’m a complete hypocrite as I drive a five seater full-size hatchback even if I would also like a deeply impractical coupe like a 230CE or a 406 coupe. It helps if you know I actually do have two small kids so that lets me off the hook.
    However, if there’s one thing I like more than a pretty coupe it’s a neat saloon. The unecessary rear doors and deluded imaginary four-up trips across Europe fire my enthusiasm: they are the car equivalent of a smart suit. Is the coupe then a tuxedo?


    1. Yes I’ve had those thoughts of road trips traversing Europe also. Keep thinking it will happen next year. Always loved the C123 and it will be on or very close to next week’s top coupes list. As you say 3 door hatches are beginning to go the way of pagers and I think it would be a real pity if they disappeared. 20 years ago city cars only really came with 3 doors (ka, polo fox, saxo, cinquecento etc) but now it’s difficult to find a 3 door supermini. The back seats are rarely used yet the lesser doored model can be up to a grand cheaper and look so much better.


    1. I’ve always felt that the focus has progressively become worse looking over the three gens. C’eed also looks much nicer than supposed”superior” i30.


      1. The Mk 1 and Mk 2 Focus each had their appeal. The Mk1 looks fresh today. It was a blinding bit of design, especially for such a mundane class. After taking a while to get used to it, the Mk2 turned out to be very good and despite its understated style manages to look unmistakeable. It was finished with incredible professionalism. The market didn´t get it which is why it was revised so quickly.
        I can´t visualise an i30 and will have to Google it.
        Having Googled it I realise I have driven this car. I quite liked it too but obviously it was not all that memorable. There´s an full review at Driven To Write if you want to find out more.


  2. i30 is way too busy for me despite being almost identical under the skin. Loved the 1st gen Focus (specially when you consider the ultra bland escort it replaced)and still like getting into it for a lesson. I agree 2nd gen is classier but not quite as sharp. The i30 can’t have made a big impression on you though! Off to DTW for that review


    1. The way I describe the Mk2 compared to the Mk1 was that it was like wearing a fat suit. It was smoother but markedly less alert or agile. Everything about was more anaesthetic and the Mk3 continued that trend. I reviewed that as well. So who does make a car as delightful as a Mk1 Focus these days? Answer: nobody.


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