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.
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.
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.
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?