RANT: 2-door sedans vs. coupes

The 1987 Nissan Sentra sport coupe on top, with the (clockwise from the rear) Sentra 2-door sedan, 3-door hatchback, wagon, and 4-door sedan also available.

I always wince when anyone posts stuff about AMC like Torch did today. I wince because the comment section (if not the article itself, which was not the case this time) always fills up with misconceptions about AMC or its vehicles. This time, however, most of the misconceptions centered around this idea that 2-door sedans are a lie just like 4-door coupes are.

Look at all the different sedans and coupes Plymouth offered in 1940!

Which is bullshit. And anyone who says otherwise should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell. Would you like a cookie?

1954 Hudson Hornet Special Club Sedan. Yes, it’s an honest-to-Xenu 2-door sedan. Not a coupe.

2-door sedans and coupes coexisted ever since closed cars became popular in the 1910s, and continued to be offered side by side in the same model range well into the 1980s.

1954 Hudson Hornet Club Coupe. See the shorter roofline and rear glass? It’s not a sedan because it doesn’t share a roofline with the “sedan” models. It’s its own thing. It’s a coupe.

While different manufacturers marketed their bodystyles according to their own logic and rules, generally 2-door sedans shared their rooflines with their 4-door sedan counterparts, just with 2 longer doors and shorter rear glass rather than 4 shorter doors. Sometimes these models would be called “Club Sedans,” but they’d be 2-doors all the same. Sometimes (often in perenially tightwaddish Willys’ case) 2-door sedans would literally be 4-doors, but with the back doors welded shut.

Hudson offered 3 different 2-door Hornet bodystyles for 1954. This one is the Hollywood hardtop coupe, which was based on the convertible and Club Coupe body, but featured a special steel roof with no B-pillar.

Coupes were usually cars with foreshortened rooflines not shared with any 4-door counterparts. They tended to be cheaper, lighter, and aimed at single people rather than families. Business Coupes often took this principle to the extreme, even deleting the backseat and elongating the deck area to appeal to traveling salesfolks who needed the extra cargo area to stow samples out of sight and didn’t want to spring for outrageously expensive wood-framed station wagons.


As Business Coupes fell out of favor in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, hardtop coupes took on the “coupe” moniker and referred to 2-door models with no B-pillar at all, and a special roofline, sometimes even mimicking to look of a raised convertible top. Until the 1970s, most medium and large cars were available as 2-door sedans and hardtop coupes simultaneously. Above is a 1964 Ford Fairlane 2-door sedan, which shared its roofline with the 4-door sedan. Below is the 2-door hardtop coupe, with its own unique, sportier roofline.


Coupes retained their popularity through the 1970s and mid 1980s when sports cars and SUVs became more prolific and gave buyers more choices to express their personal styles with. 2-door versions of mainstream cars began to fall out of favor, whether they were 2-door sedans, or coupes, or both. By the 1990s, most manufacturers decided to drop their 2-door sedans in an effort to consolidate 2-door customers into cars that were more distinctive than the bland sedans they were based on. Thus, 2-door sedans began to fade away. The last to be offered in the US was probably the 2005 Toyota ECHO.


By then, every other 2-door car based on a sedan platform used a unique roofline and rear body panels compared to the 4-door version and could thus be called a “coupe.” And thus, the collective consciousness of the “2-door sedan” began to fade away.


But they’re both very much real things. And anyone who says differently is a godless communist.

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