It’s general consensus that the first four-door coupe was the 1962 Rover P5 coupe, a chopped-down variant of a four-door executive sedan beloved by British dignitaries. yet, somehow, master illusionist Harry Houdini apparently drove a four-door coupe nearly four decades before the P5.
With a lower roofline and a sharper C-pillar rake than its more traditional brother, the P5 coupe was the blueprint for every fast-roofed four-door to come, from the Infiniti J30 to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. However, the fine British vehicle pictured below wasn’t actually the first car sold as a four-door coupe.
I recently stumbled upon an old newspaper clipping from 1925 advertising Houdini’s appearance at the Kenilworth Hippodrome in late 1924, and something struck me as odd. The small-print ad claims that Houdini “Drives a 1925 Model Nash 4-Door Coupe.” Huh?
After some digging, it turns out that the idea of a four-door coupe is decades older than many might think. That vintage newspaper ad likely isn’t a misprint, as several pieces of surviving print claim that Nash sold something a car called the Advanced Six Four-Door Coupe in the 1920s. I’ve even found a brochure from 1927 detailing various bodystyles. Here’s a 1927 Nash Advanced Six Four-Door Coupe, and a 1927 Nash Advanced Six Seven-Passenger Sedan for comparison.
At first, this four-door coupe doesn’t look very coupe-like. The rear end features a similar profile to many two-row sedans of the time, with the back of the passenger compartment located relatively close to the rear axle and the profile of the rear panel being near-vertical. However, all the important stuff is actually going on in the pillar.
Focus in on the D-pillars, and things get interesting. The D-Pillar on the Seven-Passenger Sedan is fairly plain, with square quarter glass and one little styling line. In contrast, the D-pillar on the Four-Door Coupe is highly styled with a small curved window and landau bars, elements borrowed from Nash’s coupes of the time. While the rake of the D-pillar is similar to that of the Seven-Passenger Sedan’s D-pillar, what we’re seeing here is a rear pillar with coupe-like styling applied to a four-door car for the purpose of appearance rather than functionality. Mind-blowing, right?
What’s more, this wasn’t some fancy marketing label applied to a sedan. The Nash Club of America’s model registry verifies that the Advanced Six Four-Door Coupe was a separate and distinct model from the Advanced Six Four-Door Sedan, and one that commanded a hefty premium of $465 during the 1927 model year. While that doesn’t sound like much, it works out to $8,066.31 once corrected for inflation, or roughly 30 percent more than the cost of a regular four-door sedan. That’s a lot of money for style, but the same could be said of modern-day equivalents.
Jump forward to 2023 and you’ll find that the Mercedes-Benz CLS 450 4Matic carried a $7,400 premium over its more traditional E-Class sibling. In case that isn’t enough, The BMW 840i Gran Coupe carries a $26,500 premium over its more traditional 540i sibling, or roughly a 42 percent premium. There’s always been big money in style, and the German premium automakers seem happy to pick up where Nash and Rover left off.
Part of the beauty and frustration of history is that it evolves as new information comes to light. What’s established fact one day can be called into question the next thanks to new artifacts, be it items from an archaeological dig or newspaper clippings long-forgotten. As of now, it looks like Nash may have been the first automaker to market a vehicle as a four-door coupe based on its appearance. Sorry England, America seems to have got there before you.
(Photo credits: Nash, Asheville Citizen, sv1ambo licensed under CC BY 2.0)
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So… car marketeers have been saying stupid nonsense for at least a century?
The very splendid Rover P5 that you have chosen to use as an illustration is not a coupe, easy mistake I suppose but https://www.historics.co.uk/media/1595245/1970-rover-p5-coupe-1.jpg?anchor=center&mode=crop&width=1000
Don’t get me started on the 2 door sedans.
Proving that people have been wrong for nearly 100 years.
So if I’m seeing this right Nash was charging more money for less car (because the coup was smaller than the sedan right?) waaay back then. And I thought Porsche was bad..
Counterpoint: It’s general consensus that four-door coupes are not a thing. The fact that the term has been misused for that long merely gives us a preview of the fact that automakers will still be trying to sell us on stupid things like capacitive touch buttons and yokes 60 years from now. 😛
I feel like Nash’s advertising department needs a talking to here. Houdini was famous for escaping from devices that were difficult to get out of. This is kind of a negative if you expect to be able to easily open a Nash Coupe’s doors and get out of the thing without dislocating your own shoulder and wiggling your arm around to produce a key you’ve stashed up your butthole.
Gotta be a better place to stash the key
Tape it (the key) to your leg
Clever guess, but the key was actually in his wife’s mouth. She gave him a kiss before he went into the box and passed him the key after he had been very thoroughly searched.
Houdini the true OG, cruising in a six four 70 years before Eazy E
Took me a minute to realize that “Musical Nosses” was referring to a group of musicians.
we definitely see the term coupe in 4 door form differently. We in America seems to only call the 4 door cars without B pillars coupes. your definition seems to be more in line with what is commonly consider fastback styling. that is usually rare in 4 door form, but has been around since before the WW2 at least.
I’ve only ever heard 4-doors without B pillars called “4-door hardtops”.
Nothing will ever convince me that Rover hadn’t set out to build one of those but inserted upper B pillars after discovering the 4 door hardtop body style (especially on a unibody car) required sacrifices in structural integrity and/or rear legroom (due to side bracing of the stub pillar) that Rover was unwilling to make.
There is no such thing as a decision so bad that Rover wouldn’t make it.
I think the real news here is that single admission to Houdini and dancing cost $28.46, adjusted for inflation.
That’s before taxes and all the fees…
It would cost $64.82 by the time Ticketmaster was through with you.