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Not all two-doors are coupés

A four-door saloon will not automatically become a coupé in two-door guise, and the BMW E30 certainly does not.

Recently I came across it again, this time in a sales advertisement for a BMW 3-series of the E30-generation, the second incarnation of the little Bavarian gem: “BMW 320i Coupé”, the ad said.

In this case the car in question actually seemed like a nice and sound example in original and unspoilt condition, complete down to the factory alloy wheels and equipment. But a coupé it was not, of course: The E30 appeared as a cabriolet, estate and as a saloon – but never as a coupé.

“Look honey, over there’s a real coupé”, he might be saying.

And no, I did not stumble across the ad because I am looking to purchase an E30 anytime soon – the ad just popped up on my computer and begged to be corrected, and I thought I’d better do it now as the first E30s have indeed become real classics – but before the use of the wrong term becomes too widespread.

I missed the opportunity with the “Porsche 924 Targa” issue, and look how that term has become widely accepted. My failure to attend to the matter still haunts me.

Sunroof, not targa.

So here it is, raw and undiluted: A BMW 3-Series E30 with two doors is a saloon (sedan in French, limousine in German), just like its four-door sister model. Yes, even the fashionable, supreme and absolute top of the pops M3-model is not a coupé, but a two-door saloon.

I do, to a certain degree, understand the confusion as even Baur themselves wrote so many wrong things in just a single advertisement for their Baur Cabriolet. But please, that was years ago and we are wiser now.

None of the 3-series cars will be either better or worse for it, of course: All the E30’s are, in my humble opinion, great cars that I have fond memories of back in the Eighties. And I think it is fully deserved that the relatively few (good) remaining examples have long since been recognized youngtimers, and are now heading for safe classic status.

Nevertheless, it was the same Baur who built the only (to the best of my knowledge) true E30 coupe: Four cars were built late in the E30’s life, and even here you can very well contest just how much coupé they really managed to get out of that project.

Only with the successor E36 3-series did BMW themselves produce a coupé variant: Here they had worked with the overall proportions according to the traditional interpretation (and the proper meaning – “coupé”, shortened / condensed) of the coupé concept.

I personally think I prefer the estate variant of the E30-theme, but the choice is somewhat dependant on my mood on the given day – and actually I like them all. Even though there is no coupé, which is usually my favorite body type. I – and everyone else – must simply learn to live with it, and that is not even difficult as they are such brilliant cars.

Please do not, however, ever again refer to the two-door E30 as a coupé, thank you. It takes more than a two-door saloon has to offer. Or less, in fact, it we take it literally – less space, practicality, flexibility and so on. This may in fact be exactly why BMW themselves never used the coupé term with the E30.

ViaRETRO bonus information: For those who think I’m completely wrong and that a 2-door E30 is actually a fully fledged coupé, I’ll show another car which should then equally qualify as a coupé:

Volvo’s BMW E30-competitor. Proof that not all two door cars are coupés.

5 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Mmmmmm… the E30. I must confess that I am a big fan!
    As a daily driver I have thus far owned three different examples… a four door saloon, a 5 door touring, and a 2 door cou… erhm… saloon, of course. ;-)
    Loved all three of them too, but like you Claus, I think my favourite is the touring (or estate). Would love to find another, but that’s not easily done any longer! Most now have galactic mileage, are rather rusty, and have been through some dubious ownerships with a less than ideal approach to maintenance and taste for that matter…

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    I just can’t forget the bronze (four-door) Eta for sale here in Denmark about a year ago, Anders. Elegantly avoids the matter of the Coupé-discussion, too.

  3. Martin

    I recently saw a 2 door mk2 Cortina for sale described as a coupe. 3 box saloon is what I was always taught.

  4. Anders Bilidt

    Martin, another perfect example of optimistic advertising… ;-)
    But we all know that coupés sell, so I suppose it’s always worth a shot if you have a 2-door three box saloon which you want to sell.

  5. Dave Leadbetter

    Claus, first of all congratulations on including an E30, 2002 and E36 coupe in the photos, basically a snapshot of most of my current fleet!

    You’re right of course, an E30 is not a coupe as it’s too upright, but good to see it getting some ViaRetro love. Maybe I’ll write something about mine when it’s back on the road…


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