Ever since the car industry began – and you can fight down the back of the pub over who started it all – the makers of the vehicles have put foreign names to them. This has so settled into the mind that we just don’t realise what they mean:
a. Sedan. Four doors and a separate luggage compartment. Call it a trunk or a boot, but it is a different compartment from the seating place.
In actuality it is a town in France where the Prussian army beat the French army into a cocked hat in 1870 – part of the 139-year love/hate affair between the two nations. Currently they love each other to bits. Wait…
b. Berlina. Same style of car. I suspect this definition was invented by the German automotive makers to spite the French.
c. Coupe. Car with a fixed roof, two doors, and a sloping rear end. Also a French word meaning a blow. Or an English word meaning a chicken house.
Now of course the English had a say in it as well – in English. They used the terms two-seater and four-seater to define the carrying capacity – perfectly sensible use of language. Then they spoiled it all with:
a. Saloon. A car with an enclosed body and a separate luggage compartment. Much like the Sedan, except a saloon is also a drinking hall full of cowboys and dancehall gals. Can’t tell whether the English are hopeful or silly.
b. Shooting brake. A two seater car that has enough space to hold the implements that the British upper classes think they need to slaughter birds. Like an Estate Car, it has to be able to go over semi-rough roads, though not as tough as a standard 4WD. A Pommie Ponce Wagon for shotgunners.
c. Cabriolet – light two-wheeled carriage that is drawn by one horse. Remind you of any car you’ve ever seen? No, it doesn’t me, either. But it’ll sell cars.
d. Landau. Horse-drawn four wheel carriage that has a raised front and rear cover.
Also a town in the Palatinate in Southern Germany, as the name would suggest.
And my favourite? The Sports Luxury Tourer sold to people who care nothing for the first part, little for the second, and never go anywhere on tour.