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The enduring appeal of the coupe: A look at the style icons, from the Ford Capri to the Bentley Continental – iNews

“The car you always promised yourself”. That’s how Ford advertised the best-selling Ford Capri, sold from 1968 to 1986. A two-door, four-seater coupe, it sold more than a million in the first five years and remained in the bestseller lists for years afterwards.
The price, comparable at the time to a medium-sized family saloon, helped, as did the glitzy 60s colours – amber gold, blue mink, silver fox, aquatic jade. Teamed with vinyl bucket seats, chrome restyle wheels and dummy air vents on the side, they were difficult to miss on the street.
A friend owned one of the last, but there was bit of a downside. By that stage, it had become one of the cars most stolen by young joyriders.
It often “disappeared” from outside his flat on a Friday evening, only for it to be found by the police on Monday morning with an empty fuel tank and an interior bearing all the signs of extensive socialising.
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He eventually tired of the hassle but no car he subsequently owned ever replaced it in his affections.
The Capri remains almost the only coupe to have featured regularly in the bestseller lists in the past 50 years.
What is a coupe anyway? The dictionary says it’s a vehicle with a sloping or truncated roofline and two doors, a definition apparently first applied to horse drawn carriages for two passengers.
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Ten manufacturers currently list coupes, ranging from the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith and Bentley Continental down through Aston Martin and Mercedes to the (slightly) more affordable Audis and BMWs.
However, for the moment at least, the mass market manufacturers have stopped offering them – so no Ford Capris, Vauxhall Cavalier Coupes, Renault Fuegos, Hondas or Nissans for those wanting style at a lowish price.
Why spend more money for a smaller less convenient car? To arrive in style, to be seen to be successful and have taste, to be seen to be able to afford a vehicle that is not just for humdrum household duties, perhaps even to attract attractive company in the passenger seat…
At present the most popular coupes around are the BMWs, Mercedes and Audis. However, the trend for stylish coupes did not start in Germany but in France 100 years ago – in Dinard, a seaside resort on the Channel coast much visited by fashionable Parisians and wealthy Britons.
On 4 September, 1921 the first Concours D’Elegance was held  on the seafront with 60 cars taking part. The photographs show a fairly motley collection of cars, some of them saloons parked outside the casino.
The event was such a success, however, that the idea was taken up by other fashionable seaside resorts.
And Dinard took the lead in refining the rules and bringing in celebrities as judges. The rules required the car to be judged on style, comfort, equipment and the overall harmony of the design, all features of coupe design today.
At first, every car had to have a male driver and a female “conductrice” who was often a famous actress or fashion model dressed in the latest fashions.
Photos from the period show these ladies posing beside two-door coupes with low swooping coachwork. Soon the male drivers were dispensed with and the ladies drove the entries themselves; some even took to the racetrack and competed in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Tens of thousands of people flocked to these concours spectacles which carried on through the Depression in the 30s, only ending in 1939 with the Second World War.
The tradition of building beautiful, handcrafted coupes has continued to the present day. Although famous French makes such as Delage, Delahaye, Facel Vega, Voisin et al are gone and Bugatti no longer makes coupes. Bentley and Rolls Royce have carried on almost without a break.
Just as a coupe was the car to cheer people up in 1921 after the First World War, I can think of no more cheering thing today than a trip to a country pub in an Audi TT coupe (OK, a Bentley Continental would be a nice upgrade, but let’s be realistic).
Even better would be taking it on a leisurely drive down through France from Dinard to Antibes, of course…but that might just have to wait a little.
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