As the 90s waned and the 2000s bloomed, cars were getting more and more expensive to build. Fewer and fewer cars were offered in multiple body styles because they cost more to design, build, and certify for the road. The last of the body on frame passenger cars were also dying off, soon to be replaced with unibody sedans and SUVs, which were more difficult to modify.
As a result, fewer manufacturers built lower volume body variants, even as people shifted towards the extreme practicality of SUVs. That era produced quite a few forgotten body variants of normal cars out of sheer habit, some of which will be listed here.
Thank you, SmugAardvark, for the suggestion.
The Land Rover Freelander was sold in both four door, two door, and panel van (!) versions over the model’s run, but the latter never made it to the states. I actually can’t recall the last time I saw one, but the two door convertible and hardtop are especially rare in the USA. Supposedly, the panel van version is ungodly rare even in its home market. Mostly derided as “not a real Land Rover,” SmugAardvark had a very favorable report over his ownership. He says:
The rear shell is fully removable, although the roof rails make it a bit like Tetris to get free and clear without dinging anything. But the result of removing it along with the two removable sunroof panels was a great open air sensation. Of course, the first time I went mudding after buying it, I had the roof off, and was left with a nice coat of muck on the entire interior.
Also kind of neat, and definitely more rare to see (I have never actually seen one other than on the internet), there was a whole tent you could buy to mount in place of the hard shell, so you could camp up off the ground.
As mediocre as the Freelander was, I actually did enjoy it. Never broke down on me or got stuck anywhere.
By now you may have noticed my strange obsession with the Mk I Toyota Echo, AKA Yaris, which for some unfathomable reason was sold in a North American-only sedan and coupe variants here. Available with optional automatic or base manual transmission, a tiny 4 seater coupe with a shamefully practical roofline is simply not what Americans ever wanted to buy.
Of course, the two door Toyota Tercel and other economy cars were much more common as coupes in the 80s, but by the 90s the segment was on borrowed time. Commuter coupes simply no longer sell, making spotting any example of the segment in the wild incredibly rare. I haven’t seen one without major body damage in a long time. Strangely enough, most of the coupes I’ve seen actually had rear seat passengers who probably did appreciate the practical roofline.
Thank you themanwithsauce for the suggestion·
One of the most unusual vehicles to come out of the retro craze of the early 2000s, aside from the Chevy SSR of course, was the Chevy HHR Panel Van SS! Yes, GM took an already rare and unusual retro inspired take on the classic livery van and stuffed a 260 hp turbo 4 with an standard manual transmission attached, in a freaking HHR! I’ve never actually seen one, since even the regular panel van spec is rare and unusual enough to include here. A local flower shop used to have one, but it hasn’t been seen around in a while. With a rear door delete and retaining the fold flat(ish) seats, it was just a normal HHR with some window blanks and a false pretense of increased utility. There was absolutely no reason to get a panel van over a regular HHR because they had the same utility but increased depreciation.
Got any suggestions for the next one? Drop ‘em below. I’m running out of ideas myself. I wanted to include some more panel van versions of hatchbacks, as per kanadanmajava1's suggestion, but I really don’t know much about them to decide which models to include.