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Thread: Coupe, Hardtop, Sedan... I'm Confused

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    President Member Commander Eddie's Avatar
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    Question Coupe, Hardtop, Sedan... I'm Confused

    Okay, evidently a coupe can have a "B" pillar, or not. It can have framed windows, or not. The same seems to be true for hardtops as well. And Sedans, they too seem to defy definition.
    Is there a clear definition of these terms? Or does it depend on whatever the manufacturer decided to call it?
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    Will give you a few thoughts, but am sure I will be corrected. One needs to remember that many car body terms began in the carriage era, and continued to evolve after that. A hardtop is really a misnomer, but started out being called a hardtop convertible, which also wasn't correct. The name was applied circa 1949 to GM 2-door (later 4-door) coupes that did not have a B pillar, and were thus more sporty-looking. If the roof had creases in it a la a real convertible's bows, it looked like a convertible. The term has gone out of currency.

    Two-door and 4-door sedans have a B pillar and a full back seat. Coupes originally had a shorter roof, leaving only enough room for jump seats or other vestigial seats in the back. C-body Hawks are called coupes because they have sporty styling and cramped seating in the back. The distinction between a 2-door coupe and a 2-door hardtop can get a bit muddy. K-body Hawks are true hardtops.

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    President Member 345 DeSoto's Avatar
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    A coupe will always have a B pillar with no frame around the window. A "Hard Top" will always have a "frame" around the windows, to allow sealing against the weather. Hard tops, both 2 and 4 door, are called hard tops. Both 2 and 4 doors, which don't conform to the hard top definition, are sedans...both 2 door "coupes" and 4 door sedans...

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    Last edited by 8E45E; 01-31-2018 at 07:10 PM.

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    Golden Hawk Member rockne10's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 345 DeSoto View Post
    A coupe will always have a B pillar with no frame around the window. A "Hard Top" will always have a "frame" around the windows, ...
    Unless I've just misread or misinterpreted this...SAY WHAT?

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    The first production "Hardtop" in the U.S. that I know of was the 49 Buick. I have come to believe the term applies to any car that has no B pillar and which has no obstructing posts when all the windows are rolled down, door glass and quarter glass. They were called Hardtop because the only previous cars with no B pillar were the convertibles.

    There are cars with no B pillar which are not hardtops in that sense, as in the Lancia Aprilia and Lancia Appia four door pillarless sedans. The Aprilia dates from 1936, the Appia in the 1950s.

    https://imgur.com/a/rPR2t

    https://imgur.com/a/gLzVa

    https://imgur.com/WMaX7l9
    Last edited by 48skyliner; 01-31-2018 at 08:46 PM.
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    Golden Hawk Member 8E45E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 48skyliner View Post
    The first "Hardtop" in the U.S. that I know of was the 49 Buick. I have come to believe the term applies to any car that has no B pillar and which has no obstructing posts when all the windows are rolled down, door glass and quarter glass.
    Chrysler was the first in 1946 with a two door hardtop, although GM made them instantly popular in 1949. https://auto.howstuffworks.com/1946-...ry-hardtop.htm

    Craig

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    Quote Originally Posted by 345 DeSoto View Post
    A coupe will always have a B pillar with no frame around the window. A "Hard Top" will always have a "frame" around the windows, to allow sealing against the weather. Hard tops, both 2 and 4 door, are called hard tops. Both 2 and 4 doors, which don't conform to the hard top definition, are sedans...both 2 door "coupes" and 4 door sedans...
    Perhaps you are referring to a "frame" around the glass itself. Coupes have a full B pillar and an upper door frame. Hardtops have neither.
    Gary L.
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    President Member 345 DeSoto's Avatar
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    What he said ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

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    You forgot"hardtop convertible".
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    Much already answered, but thought I would muddy the waters with my two cents. Until the late thirties the term coupe almost always referred to a car with, two doors, a single seat, limited interior cabin space, and a similarly small cabin top. They sometimes came with rumble seat, which provided outside seating, in the coupes trunk area. The definition began to be less well defined, in about 1936 or 37, when some of the bigger coupes, like Cadillac started replacing the outside rumble seat with folding jump seats, behind the front seat. Then in the late 30's things began to really become confused, when companies like Studebaker began using their own terminology like "Coupe Sedan," when referring to their two door car, but with a regular bench seat behind the front seat, but with a smaller outside cabin top then a two door sedan. This arrangement could have easily been referred to as a "Victoria," which it had been called for years, but the advertisers chose to go a different route. The terms club coupe, and business coupe came into common usage to define the single seated, small topped coupe. Fast forward into the post war era. Over the last seventy years car makers, and car owners have, somewhat whimsically, come to refer to almost any two door car as a coupe.

    Open topped cars:
    Roadsters or convertibles-Until about 1930, no open topped cars had roll up windows.
    Convertible coupe- a roadster with roll up windows. Studebaker was big on changing terminology to suite their chosen advertising message. The confusing "four
    Seasons Roadster was nothing more then a way of advertising their new convertible coupe, with roll up windows.
    Convertible Sedan-A four door convertible with roll up windows.

    Over the last 120 years of the automobile there is only small vestiges of uniformity in the terminology used. Much of it carried forward from the age of the horse and carriage, much of which is forgotten now. So just like the term "Hardtop Convertible" became became just "hardtop," a body style that most of the world has forgotten, you really need to know what era someone is talking about.

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    In the 40s and 50s, two door vehicles with B pillars were also referred to as two-door sedans and coaches. Don't forget that Ford actually made true hardtop convertibles around 1959, which IIRC were called Starliners.

    Stu Chapman

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    Chrysler also muddied up the waters in 1979 when they introduced their four door pillared hardtops. The doors had frameless glass but there was a "B" pillar. This was on the Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler Newport and the Dodge St. Regis. The Plymouth Gran Fury joined the crowd in 1980.

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    Stu, are You talking about the retractable s ? if so they were 57,58,59.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stu Chapman View Post
    In the 40s and 50s, two door vehicles with B pillars were also referred to as two-door sedans and coaches. Don't forget that Ford actually made true hardtop convertibles around 1959, which IIRC were called Starliners.

    Stu Chapman
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    Golden Hawk Member rockne10's Avatar
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    Needless to say, over the years, automobile designers and marketers have misplaced all knowledge of what constitutes a coupé, and have pretty randomly created a litany of designations for models that can't be applied across the board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by qsanford View Post
    Chrysler also muddied up the waters in 1979 when they introduced their four door pillared hardtops. The doors had frameless glass but there was a "B" pillar. This was on the Chrysler New Yorker, Chrysler Newport and the Dodge St. Regis. The Plymouth Gran Fury joined the crowd in 1980.
    There were cars around well before that with frameless door glass, including the Citroen DS & ID series, GM's 1973-77 'Collonade' hardtops, and 1970's Ford/Mercury/Lincoln full size cars; not to mention, Subaru.

    Craig

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    Quote Originally Posted by 48skyliner View Post
    The first production "Hardtop" in the U.S. that I know of was the 49 Buick Riviera. I have come to believe the term applies to any car that has no B pillar and which has no obstructing posts when all the windows are rolled down, door glass and quarter glass. They were called Hardtop because the only previous cars with no B pillar were the convertibles.
    There were a very few 1946 Chrysler Town & Country hardtops, but AFAIK, none were ever sold to the general public.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WinM1895 View Post
    There were a very few 1946 Chrysler Town & Country hardtops, but AFAIK, none were ever sold to the general public.
    I believe that there were seven built (someone else can research that) and they did get out to the public, even though original owners were most likely Chrysler executives.

    EDIT: IIRC, a Chrysler executive's (perhaps the President's) wife always had a convertible and never put the top down. She liked the doors without an upper frame and the openness of having the side windows all open. I believe this is how the MODERN hardtop (there were earlier cars that met the hardtop definition, including from Studebaker) got started.
    Gary L.
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    President Member WinM1895's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stu Chapman View Post
    Don't forget that Ford actually made true hardtop convertibles around 1959, which IIRC were called Starliners.

    Stu Chapman
    Ford retractable hardtop, body style 51A = 1957 thru 1959.

    Starliners were 1960/61 Galaxie hardtops w/a 'semi' fastback roof line. The 1963 1/2 & 1964 fastback roof line is different than 1961/62.

    Ford called their regular convertibles: Sunliners, 1955 thru 1962.

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    President Member Jerry Forrester's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WinM1895 View Post
    Ford retractable hardtop, body style 51A = 1957 thru 1959.

    Starliners were 1960/61 Galaxie hardtops w/a 'semi' fastback roof line. The 1963 1/2 & 1964 fastback roof line is different than 1961/62.

    Ford called their regular convertibles: Sunliners, 1955 thru 1962.
    The '57-8-9 retractables were Skyliners.
    Skyliners were made from 1954 through 1959.
    The '54's were Crestline Skyliners. They were hardtop convertibles with an acrylic plastic roof panel. I had one of these from '67 to '72 or so.
    The '55-6 Skyliners were part of the Fairlawn 500 Crown Victoria series. They had the Acrylic plastic roof panels.
    The Fairlane 500 '57-9 Skyliner was the retractable hardtop convertible.
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    President Member WinM1895's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Forrester View Post
    The '57-8-9 retractables were Skyliners.
    Skyliners were made from 1954 through 1959.
    The '54's were Crestline Skyliners. They were hardtop convertibles with an acrylic plastic roof panel. I had one of these from '67 to '72 or so.
    The '55-6 Skyliners were part of the Fairlane 500 Crown Victoria series. They had the Acrylic plastic roof panels.
    The Fairlane 500 '57-9 Skyliner was the retractable hardtop convertible.
    I'm well aware of all this, as I was a Ford parts guy for 30 years, owned dozens of 1955/64's.

    The 1954 Mercury version was called the Sun Valley.

    1955/56 Crown Vic's were available with or without the plexi-glass roof.

    btw: StudeRich and I were parts guys at Frost & French.
    Last edited by WinM1895; 02-04-2018 at 12:13 PM.

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    Here is another name used for a body style in the 30's All Weather Phaeton.

    John S.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Packard53 View Post
    Here is another name used for a body style in the 30's All Weather Phaeton.

    John S.
    "Phaeton", originally applied to horse drawn carriages, was applied to four-door convertibles which had a second windscreen in front of the rear seat passengers. Only a handful were ever built, all, or most all, by Deusenberg



    "All weather phaeton" was an indefinite term applied to many four door convertibles whether they had a second windshield or not. Packard and Cadillac built quite a few.
    Last edited by jnormanh; 02-04-2018 at 05:04 PM.

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    jnormanh: The Duesenberg in the picture is known as a Torpedo Phaeton. Brunn built one car 2511 J496. Weymann/LaGrande built two 2542 J511 and 2554 J526. Walker/LaGrande
    built two 2608 J582 J582 and J548. J582 was the only example built with out the external exhaust pipes. J582 was wrecked in 1942 and J496 was destroyed in a accident in 1937. The body style you are showing is also called a Sport Phaeton.

    John S.
    Last edited by Packard53; 02-04-2018 at 08:05 PM.

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    Well, John, it's a bit off topic, but I'll tell you a story about Duesenbergs.

    Just after WWII my father decided he wanted a J or SJ. At the time they were not considered very valuable. He learned that two of them had been sold new to customers in Minneapolis, so he went there to look for them..After some time spent chasing, he was told that they both went to a scrapyard during WWII, so he went to the yard and inquired.

    The answer he got was "Them old Deusenbergs? Yah, we scrapped them. Couldn't get no spare parts, used too much gasoline, nobody wanted 'em."

    Ten years later, mid 1950s, he and his brother were running a retail hardware business. Dad was at the desk in the little office, writing a letter when older brother stuck his head in the door.

    "Whatcha doin"? he asked."

    "I'm sending a guy a check for this Deusenberg." and he showed uncle a green one.

    "How much" asked unc.

    "$600"

    "Are you freaking nuts? You can't get any spare parts, and tires for that thing cost the earth."

    Unc was the older brother, and Dad tore up the letter and check.

    But the punch line is: A few years later unc paid $500 for a clapped out Cord 810 which seldom ran since there were no parts available, and no mechanic wanted to work on it.

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    President Member WinM1895's Avatar
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    1961: Mae West's 1931 Duesenberg J Murphy Town Car was for sale on a Hollywood used car lot: $500.00!

    I couldn't afford it, had just bought a 1929 Packard 633 Club Sedan from a Santa Monica used car lot for $600.00.

    The hobby was a lot more fun back then...when cars weren't worth very much.

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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by WinM1895 View Post
    1961: Mae West's 1931 Duesenberg J Murphy Town Car was for sale on a Hollywood used car lot: $500.00!
    That's about $5000 today. Is it still for sale?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jnormanh View Post
    That's about $5000 today. Is it still for sale?
    What do you think? I spotted the ad in the sunday LA Times antique & classic car section, so it probably went bye-bye in a NY minute.

    And 500 bucks today is probably closer to 50 grand.

    1972: I went to look at a 1948 Nash Ambassador convertible (a rare car when it was new). When I walked into the owners back yard, I forgot all about the Nash, as parked next to it...being used as a chicken coupe...was this:

    1934 Packard V12 1108 Rollston Laundelet. Owner said he found some papers inside, the original owner was Charlie Chaplin.

    The Packard was rough as a cob and stunk to high heaven. It needed everything, so I told a Classic Car hustler I knew about it, he bought it and I got a grand for a finders fee.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 63t-cab View Post
    Stu, are You talking about the retractable s ? if so they were 57,58,59.
    Yes I was. Just wasn't certain of the model years.

    Stu Chapman

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    Quote Originally Posted by jnormanh View Post
    "Phaeton", originally applied to horse drawn carriages, was applied to four-door convertibles which had a second windscreen in front of the rear seat passengers. Only a handful were ever built, all, or most all, by Deusenberg



    "All weather phaeton" was an indefinite term applied to many four door convertibles whether they had a second windshield or not. Packard and Cadillac built quite a few.
    I learned this style as Dual Cowl Phaeton. A local guy restored a Chrysler Imperial body by LeBaron (1931?) Dual Cowl Phaeton back in the early 80s that was a literal basket case. The body had been hacked up into 7 pieces and sold to him in 7 bushel baskets. William Harrah came calling when he found out what he had.
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnormanh View Post
    Well, John, it's a bit off topic, but I'll tell you a story about Duesenbergs.

    Just after WWII my father decided he wanted a J or SJ. At the time they were not considered very valuable. He learned that two of them had been sold new to customers in Minneapolis, so he went there to look for them..After some time spent chasing, he was told that they both went to a scrapyard during WWII, so he went to the yard and inquired.

    The answer he got was "Them old Deusenbergs? Yah, we scrapped them. Couldn't get no spare parts, used too much gasoline, nobody wanted 'em."

    Ten years later, mid 1950s, he and his brother were running a retail hardware business. Dad was at the desk in the little office, writing a letter when older brother stuck his head in the door.

    "Whatcha doin"? he asked."

    "I'm sending a guy a check for this Deusenberg." and he showed uncle a green one.

    "How much" asked unc.

    "$600"

    "Are you freaking nuts? You can't get any spare parts, and tires for that thing cost the earth."

    Unc was the older brother, and Dad tore up the letter and check.

    But the punch line is: A few years later unc paid $500 for a clapped out Cord 810 which seldom ran since there were no parts available, and no mechanic wanted to work on it.
    Here is the story I have. All the engines for the Deusenbergs were built in my former home town of Williamsport Penna at Lycoming Motors. Lycoming Motors also built the V8 engines for the Cord 810 and 812 and the engines for the Auburns.

    John S.

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    John-
    As you doubtless know (but maybe some don't), E.L. Cord owned all those brands, as well as Lycoming. Lycoming built lots of engines for other makes, and still makes them for aircraft.

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    Skip: I have some history about Lycoming Motors that you might be interested in would you like a copy of it? Send me a PM if you are interested.

    John S.

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    I think this info came from Old Cars Price Guide: A hardtop can be either two door or four door and does not have a B pillar.
    A sedan is a four door or a two door in which the back seat windows can be opened.
    A coupe is a two door in which the back seat windows do not open. It does not have to have back seat windows or seats.
    The window frame discussion is one I had not heard before and they are secondary.
    There are other terms used and have been through the years but these are basic. And for some of the ebay sellers: a coop is where the chickens roost.
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    President Member WinM1895's Avatar
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    A coupe has a B pillar, could be a 3 window without quarter windows, or a 5 window with quarter windows.

    Some of these quarter windows are stationary (business coupe for example), some roll up/down, some slide back/forth.

    A friend once said describing his 1934 Packard V12 Dietrich stationary coupe with rumble seat, it's pronounced cou-pay, coops are for chickens.

    I once owned a 56J, it's a two door hardtop. Mine was assembled in Vernon w/stick and over, P/S .. It's now somewhere on the east coast.
    Last edited by WinM1895; 02-17-2018 at 02:38 PM.

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    President Member Jerry Forrester's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David56j View Post
    A sedan is a four door or a two door in which the back seat windows can be opened.
    LOL. All this time I have owned Studebaker sedans. I always thought I had coupes.
    I don't speak French, so I guess I'll never have a coo-pay.
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