Walking home from Hendricks Park with images of all those four door hardtops – real or Photoshopped – floating in my head, a thought suddenly intruded: What about European four door hardtops? I got very quiet, as I struggled to conjure up images of them all. “You’re a bit engrossed, obviously”. “Yup; sorry”. Life with a Curbsider; she’s used to it. “So why exactly are they called hardtops anyway?” Good tactical move, to get me engaged and talking again. So if my list is short because my train of thought was interrupted, we know who to blame. But seriously folks, this list must be longer than this, so I need some help.
The first one to come to mind was the superb Facel-Vega Excellence, and what a very excellent thought it was indeed.
A four suicide-door hardtop, exquisite styling, superbly built, and with a big stonking Chrysler hemi under the hood; jeez, this may be the ultimate four door hardtop ever. And from France, of all places. OK, try trotting out all those Frenchie car jokes now. All of 156 were ever built, between 1958 and 1964. Our list is off to an excellent start.
And by the way, there was an aborted effort to turn the Excellence into a high end Packard. Too bad. Also: the Excellence was first shown in 1956. You want to guess where the 1961 Lincoln Continental got at least a bit of its inspiration? Hmm.
So here’s number two: the Mercdes 300 d (W189), built from 1957 to 1962, and which I was quite aware of as a kid. No, the “d” does not stand for diesel. And in almost every respect, it was the polar opposite of the Excellence; or not, depending on what qualities we’re focusing on. Very German and very conservative, except for that hardtop. The 300 d was the final version of the post-war 300 series, and a superbly well built car indeed, as well as the forerunner of the legendary “Grosser” 600. But it was looking pretty dated for the times. A bit lacking in Excellence in the styling department, except for being the only hardtop ever lacking two pillars per side.
The 300 rode on an updated pre-war chassis, was very heavy, and used a civilized version of the 3 liter SOHC six that also powered the 300 SL. But perhaps its greatest claim to fame, at least in what we’re interested in here, is that all six side windows, including the one behind the rear door, dropped out of sight. To my knowledge, this is the only car that ever did that, unless I’m losing it.
So, dear readers, that’s my list. Short, but very sweet indeed. Two of the most superb cars ever, each four door hardtops. But I’m feeling a bit of unease; I have this nagging sense I’ve overlooked something. Perhaps a coach-built Rolls or Bentley. Or? There’s got to be more than two European four door hardtops. If not, we’ll have to enlist the aid of our resident photochpper to make us some. Mercedes w108? Peugeot 404? Humber Super Snipe?