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There was a time when the two-door saloons populated – some would claim polluted – our streets worldwide. They weren’t flash, exotic or adventurous by any means, but they were the norm by which most families travelled from A to B – be that the 5-mile daily commute to work or the family summer holiday to the other end of whichever continent they happened to live on.

Now of course, there is no longer such a thing as a two-door saloon. They are not just an endangered specie – they are thoroughly extinct! But why? Who or what killed them? They may not have been regarded as much back in the day, but now that they are gone, I miss them…

This occurred to me as I was reading Claus Ebberfeld’s report from the Bremen Classic Motorshow back in early February. Filled with excellent pictures of exotic, dream-worthy and beautifully sculpted classic cars, my eyes locked onto one particular picture. Wow! Such crisp, no-nonsense lines. It’s sharp, businesslike and to the point. It’s… ehrm… a Ford Taunus. Okay, so perhaps not the most spectacular of cars displayed at the Bremen show, but rather than just immediately dismissing the Taunus, just give it a second chance and have another look at Claus’ picture below.

Strangely captivating isn’t it?

It’s a remarkably clean design. Seen in profile, the roof is just short enough compared to the overall length of the car to make it interesting. It makes the bonnet look relatively long, and with the front axle placed at the very snout of the three-box design, there can be no doubt that we’re looking at a rear-wheel drive car. The wheel arches are subtle enough to suit a regular family saloon, but also just pronounced enough to give it some substance. The roof pillars are pleasantly slim allowing for a large glasshouse, and that c-pillar looks great with the air vent running the full length of the trailing edge. Yes, I realize it’s far from some sleek Italian designer-GT from the sixties, but for what it is, I genuinely feel it’s a very coherent and accomplished design. And I like it!

But where did all these two-door saloons go? The Escorts, Cortinas and Granadas. The Kadetts, Asconas and Rekords. The Vivas. The 2-door versions of Audi 80’s and VW Jetta’s. And don’t forget the only thing in the world which makes a Lego brick appear nicely rounded: The world-conquering Volvo 142 and 242. All extinct.

It’s amazing really, as they were once the bread and butter of ordinary family transportation. It all started in the mid-fifties and they were the stronghold of many car manufacturers up through the sixties and seventies. They were still holding on through the eighties despite heavy competition from the practical hatchback, and then during the nineties they quietly disappeared. They had been the day-to-day workhorse heroes which just got on with their job without fuss or diva pretensions. They were such an integral part of our life, and yet no one took any notice – not even as they vanished from our streets and our lives.

While the model names I mention are all European, much the same story could be told for the US market or even for the Japanese market. Simply substitute those names with Fairlane, Skylark and Malibu. Or with Sunny, Bluebird, Lancer and Corolla. It was worldwide. But the often cheaper and certainly more practical hatchbacks pushed them out of favour, and with the arrival of MPV’s, SUV’s and probably a few other abbreviations which I truly don’t care for, it was all over. Today it seems that the only way you can buy a proper two-door car is if you splash out on a fancy and upmarket coupé.

But I want them back! After all, the most distinct and best looking SAAB 900 was clearly the two-door saloon. Frankly, the same can be said for several of the cars that existed in two-door versions up through the sixties, seventies and eighties. Maybe I should find myself a clean 2-door Granada and use it as my daily classic?

What say you dear reader? Have you owned any two-door saloons? If so, which ones and what did you think of them? Are you perhaps even brave enough to own one today, rather than opting for the more obvious coupé or roadster? And do you – like me – mourn their absence from the modern day street picture?

11 Responses

  1. timmy201

    What about the modern BMW 2 series? Are they sufficiently saloon-like to be counted?

  2. Michael Madirazza

    There is a lot of great cars above, but I also especially liked the Granada! So, go go go :-)

    My first classic was a Opel Kadett A 1.0 2 door saloon, and it was great.
    I didn’t think about it till I read this, but most of my cars have been 2 door saloons. They just appeal to my.

    I just sold my E30 2 door saloon though (to my brother)… But it was only to make room for a MKIII Capri 3.0s which I really wanted. Kind of sad about letting the BMW go, but I am very happy about the Capri. So all in all I guess it is alright  You cannot have them all…

  3. Søren T.

    I love the two doors saloons, it’s the kind of cars I grew up with.

    But it was back in the time without focus on children’s safety.

    If you have ever tried to get a baby chair including baby into the back of a two door car and the seat belt in place, you will know what killed the two door saloon. Combined with all that stuff a modern family with babies need room for in the boot.

  4. Tony Wawryk

    I think Soren has nailed this one. I, too, prefer the look of the 2-door versions of saloons but on a practical level, certainly where small children and elderly parents are involved, a 4-door is the obvious winner. Surprised the 2-door option is seemingly no longer available though.
    Incidentally, as the owner of a 2-series coupe, I would say it was more coupe than saloon, but it’s a close-run thing.

  5. Oluf

    No No, the two door saloon is very much alive. ?
    I like my new BMW 220i coupé a lot. It has the right style and expression, and it drives great. ?

  6. Anders Bilidt

    Heh… don’t you kind of contradict yourself by saying your BMW 220i Coupé is a two-door saloon?? It’s either a saloon or it’s a coupé – it can’t be both.
    Personally I would say it’s a coupé, though I guess it’s probably as close to being a two-door saloon as anything else currently in production. Certainly more so than the 4-series.

    I’m sorry to hear that you sold your E30! At least it stayed in the family though. ;-)
    Hopefully I’ll have the privilege of seeing your Capri 3.0S in the flesh when I visit Denmark again this coming summer…

  7. Oluf Bisgaard

    You are right. The model description from BMW is coupe, but I would say, that the shape of the car is more like a saloon, like the Ascona in the article.
    In my understanding, a coupe has another angle on the trunk. Here it is almost horisontal (even though it is very short…).

    But sadly, in my opinion, this is the only car right now of its kind. Thats why I got mine…

  8. Tony Wawryk

    @oluf – while I share your admiration of the 220i Coupe (I have one too, in Estoril Blue – I see it as the modern-day version of the 02), I’m less sure about calling it a saloon – using your criteria, an E9 could also be a 2-door saloon…and it has a much longer boot (I can’t bring myself to say “trunk”) than the 2-series…
    For me, a coupe version of a saloon has always been a 2-door with a slight fastback angle to the rear window/roofline. Admittedly, in both the 2-series and E9, these are subtle, but they are there. My two pennies worth.

  9. Anders Bilidt

    @oluf-bisgaard and @tony-wawryk
    I think it’s down to how you choose to define a coupé, and there’s probably no right or wrong here. Personally I feel that a coupé needs to have a lower and sleeker roofline than the four-door car upon which it is based, usually also with a more raked windscreen. But seeing as there is no four-door 2-series, I suppose it’s difficult to define in this case. Regardless, I will give you Oluf, that the 2-series is probably the closest to a two-door saloon currently available on the market.

    But it’s the old, square-cut Asconas, Rekords, Cortinas, Granadas and 242s which I soooo miss…


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