CC (Coupe Cabrio)

The vehicles, called coupé-cabriolets, are based on the classic convertible, which is equipped with a folding fixed roof with a mechanism. The coupe-cabriolet bodies, also referred to as CC, literally became a hit at the beginning of the millennium. Today, however, they have all but disappeared from car manufacturers’ catalogues.

The very name suggests that the CC (Coupe Cabrio) body style combines the bodies of coupe and convertible. Thus, it is a two-door car with a hard retractable roof. The roof retraction is usually electric and does not require getting out of the car. Using a mechanism, the roof folds into the trunk, almost filling it when retracted.

Ford Focus CC, a representative of the Coupe-Cabrio category  Ford Focus CC, a representative of the Coupe-Cabrio category 

In modern history, typical representatives of the coupe-convertible category include: Peugeots 206/207/307 CC, Citroën C4 CC, Ford Focus CC, Volvo C70 CC, Volkswagen EOS, BMW Z4, Opel TwinTop, etc.

History of the Concept:

We should consider an American named Ben Ellerbeck as the creator of the first coupe-convertible. This Utah native designed and built the first true coupe-convertible in 1922. The conversion was done on a 1919 Hudson Super Six car. The designed roof transfer mechanism was entirely manual and perfectly functional. Although Ben Ellerbeck offered his idea to car manufacturers Ford and Packard, neither showed interest. Ben’s idea fell into oblivion.

the first coupe-convertible car created by Ben Ellerbeck the first coupe-convertible car created by Ben Ellerbeck

It wasn’t until 1932 that French stylist and engineer Georges Paulin patented a very ingenious roof folding mechanism. Paulin called his solution, patented under number 733.380, Éclipse.

In the 1930s, it was very fashionable for wealthier clients to buy only a chassis with an engine from a car manufacturer and have a custom body made in a selected coachbuilder’s workshop according to their wishes. Paulin, therefore, approached the Pourtout coachbuilder with his inventive innovation. The proposed folding structure made a great impression on the coachbuilder’s owner, Marcel Pourtout. They began working together on a project to build a body with an Éclipse-type folding hardtop for one of Pourtout’s customers. A Hotchkiss chassis was used for this conversion.

coupe-convertible body - Georges Paulin  coupe-convertible body - Georges Paulin

The result of their work was perfectly functional; the roof folded in just 15 seconds, and the body was very elegant. However, the result of their effort could not be exhibited at the Paris Motor Show in 1933 due to business disagreements with the car owner.

In 1933 and 1934, through the Paris dealer Darl’Mat, collaboration with the Peugeot car manufacturer was born. Thanks to this cooperation, the Pourtout coachbuilder was able to produce several Éclipse cars on Peugeot 401 and 601 chassis. By that time, the mechanism was supplemented with electric motors and had a very luxurious appearance. These modified cars, therefore, enjoyed great success.

1934 Peugeot 601 Eclipse 1934 Peugeot 601 Eclipse 

However, the Second World War halted the further development and expansion of cars with folding roofs. After the war, the times were not as favorable for them. Contributing factors were a lack of solvent customers across Europe and the emergence of the monocoque body. However, the United States experienced an economic boom after winning the war.

In 1957, the Ford car manufacturer introduced the Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner model, which followed the pre-war Peugeots in its ingenuity and also introduced a novelty. The roof of the Ford was designed as a two-part structure to make such a large roof easier to fold. In the end, 48,000 units with folding hardtops were produced, so it can indeed be considered the first mass-produced coupe-convertible.

Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner 1957 - with coupe-convertible body

Modern Reminiscence:

In the second half of the 1990s, Mercedes-Benz took the initiative to revive the idea of a retractable hardtop with the SLK model. This time, the designed solution was compact enough to be used even in a smaller roadster-type body.

After 2000, there was a huge boom, and almost every car manufacturer wanted to offer a model with a retractable hardtop. The disadvantages of this concept, such as: the heavy weight of the mechanism, the reliability of the mechanism operation, the occupied space in the trunk, and, last but not least, low customer interest, led manufacturers to lose interest in this body type.