OLD CARS: Business coupes were once very popular


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There has always been a need for a vehicle which provides its owner and driver with some utility, the ability to transport materials and retail items in a safe and efficient manner. And, in some cases, with style.

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In the early years of the auto industry, a truck was the solution, and many companies offered their own versions. Even before the Ford Motor Company offered their own pickup truck, it was not unusual for the owner of a Model T to place a platform in the back of their passenger vehicle to create their own utility vehicle.

If he had a sedan, the back seat could also be removed, providing additional space to transport items in a secure location while being protected from the elements.

This was essentially the idea behind the business coupe, an automotive phenomenon in the United States and Canada that became popular in the 1930s and 1940s and could even be found in the late 1950s – although at that time they were extremely rare.

The vehicle was a two-door coupe which, under normal circumstances, contained a rear seat. But it became a business coupe when the backseat was removed, or missing altogether. This allowed for a cavernous space to store tools, retail items and everything. Quite often, a metal partition between the extremely large trunk and the interior of the car could be removed, providing even more space for items.

And again, all of this could be locked away while still being protected from rain and snow.

Business coupes became very popular in the 1930s and early 1940s. Even companies such as Packard with its 120 series offered a business coupe model.

The secret to Packard and other companies’ relative success with the business coupe was that their specialty vehicle mostly resembled any other two-door coupe, offering a comfortable front seat and all the usual amenities one would expect. could find in almost every two doors. cut from this era. The driver used the car for business, but he (almost always men) arrived at his business destination in comfort and style.

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Take the example of an advertisement promoting the 1939 Ford business coupe: “Great for business or personal use.” Seats three comfortably. Extra large shelf behind the seat. Light above the rear window. Two luggage compartments – a large one accessible through the rear deck – and a smaller one opened from inside the car by lifting the seat back. New dashboard, as in the sedans. Lighter. Ashtray. Glove box. Loudspeaker grille when the radio is installed. Flashing light, start button and handbrake grouped to the left of the panel.

By the late 1940s, the idea of ​​having such a vehicle was so entrenched in the industry that Dodge came up with its Wayfarer model, a stripped-down two-door coupe that was as spartan as it was useful.

But at that time, business coupes weren’t used as much by street vendors, as department stores and even some malls were under development. The metropolitan areas of Canada and the United States were beginning to develop suburbs in the postwar era, and rather than let a street vendor drive his business coupe to a downtown hotel and settle in. in the main hall, consumers were driving their own cars. to a primitive mall or downtown department store.

Yet business coupes were used by sellers who did not sell goods to the general public, but sold products to industry and large commercial buyers.

Additionally, business coupes were often used by engineers who found the single layout ideal for lugging technical gear.

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It has also been suggested that such business coupes have proven useful by plumbers and electricians.

The Dodge Wayfarer was one of Detroit’s last business coupes. The car was built from 1949 to 1952, but not all of them were business coupes, only a small part. Indeed, 217,623 Wayfarer cars were built in those four model years, but only 9,342 were coupes, and it is unclear how many were true business coupes. The number was probably very small, because by 1949, as already explained, the need for a business coupe was significantly reduced.

Plymouth also had a business coupe, built at least until the 1950 or 1951 model year, and it shared much of its bodywork with the Dodge Wayfarer.

Oddly enough, Plymouth may have been the last Detroit-based nameplate to feature a business coupe. There is very little information available, but it would appear that Plymouth continued to offer a business coupe until 1958 in its inexpensive Plaza car. Only 1472 were built.

Business coupes made their first appearance in the late 1920s. For 1929, Buick offered a Master-Six business coupe, and Chevrolet and Ford offered their own business coupes.

Plymouth was one of the first to adopt the body style. In 1936, the Plymouth business coupe was the cheapest model offered by Plymouth – $ 580 for a business coupe, while the more expensive Plymouth was a seven-passenger sedan that sold for $ 895.

Almost around the same time, Chrysler was offering a very high-end business coupe, based on its Airstream model.

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Plymouth has done very well in the business coupe sector. The Chrysler division sold 43,113 business coupes for 1938 and an incredible 64,461 for 1939.

These numbers may not reflect Plymouth’s success so much as the overall popularity of the business coupe format. Almost every major auto maker and car brand offered a business coupe in the late 1930s. They included Studebaker, Oldsmobile, Buick, and even Graham, who had a business coupe he called Cavalier.

For example, Packard for 1940 offered a business coupe in its 120 pack – at a cost of $ 867.

1937 Packard Business Coupe.
1937 Packard Business Coupe. Photo by Gary Kessler /jpeg, California

That same year, you could buy a new business coupe from Ford. It sold for $ 745, although an overly pared-down version could be bought for as little as $ 680.

In 1941, Ford sold 689,571 cars, of which 9,823 were business coupes.

That same year, Buick offered its own business coupe. It was selling for $ 1,031 with no options. Arriving at a business destination or meeting in a Buick business coupe conveyed a message of success and stability.

Just as Detroit had introduced the business coupe, so did the industry contribute to its elimination. By the late 1950s, automakers were offering a variety of options for the business coupe, including panel trucks and unique vehicles such as the Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino, which were introduced in 1957 respectively. and 1959.

In the early 1960s, there were even more options, as companies in Detroit introduced their very first vans. Ford had its Econoline, Dodge had its A100, and Chevrolet had something interesting it called the Greenbrier.

These vans were primarily utility vans, as they were equipped with little comfort. They were great for plumbers, electricians, construction companies, hardware stores, etc.

Their presence, however, essentially ensured that the once popular business coupe was long gone from the scene.

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