By Mark Slack • 23 February 2023 • 10:12
Are coachbuilt cars making a return?
Names such as Mulliners, Hooper, Park Ward and Thrupp and Maberly produced bodies that adorned the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Alvis and Daimler. In the 1960s Vanden Plas featured on models such as the Vanden Plas Princess R powered by a Rolls-Royce engine. More ignominiously it also appeared on much later BL models such as the Allegro! Another coachbuilder was Swallow, based in Blackpool, which started life as Swallow Sidecars and ultimately became Jaguar.
Coachbuilt cars were still not uncommon in the early 1960s, but as monocoque construction took hold it reduced production costs and time while retaining the integral strength of the body. It pretty much sounded the death knell for the coachbuilding industry and if names survived they were reduced to little more than a badge on a posh version of a mass produced model.
A couple of years ago Rolls-Royce produced three coachbuilt Boat Tail models that at the time were rumoured to be the most expensive cars in the world at around €26/£23 million each. Many luxury car makers use a spaceframe sub-structure which allows for more design and manufacturing freedom. However the costs of such cars will always be beyond normal motoring folk.
Inadvertently though we may have already witnessed the birth of a new generation of effectively coachbuilt cars. Many car makers have amalgamated, for example Stellantis owns Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Jeep, Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, Vauxhall plus a slew of other brands. Volkswagen Audi Group is another example with the Volkswagen, Audi, SEAT and Skoda brands amongst their particular garage.
Even where there hasn’t been a merger or amalgamation, automotive coalescences
have taken place. The reportedly less than harmonious Renault-Nissan alliance has survived for over two decades, and Toyota has a small interest in Suzuki. All these couplings allow manufacturers to share underpinnings of body and mechanical components. Toyota’s Supra and BMW’s Z4 share the same underpinnings despite one being a roadster and the other a coupe. Skoda’s Octavia, SEAT’s Leon and Audi’s A3 all share the same platform under their bodies.
So even those of us that drive more humble vehicles may have inadvertently become the owners of a new generation of coachbuilt cars.
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