Nissan's 350Z
Nissan  /  Forbes.com
Nissan's 350Z and its 3.5-liter, 287-hp V-6 engine are an absolute gas.
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updated 10/26/2004 5:35:51 PM ET 2004-10-26T21:35:51

Among the most beloved types of automobiles, coupes are rivaled only by convertibles. Certainly, American buying trends of the last few years suggest that people adore sport utilities and pickups--but those vehicles don't have quite the history of coupes, nor have they captured imaginations or catapulted into popular culture in quite the same way.

The Road & Track Automotive Dictionary, which defines a coupe as "a two-door closed body type" (i.e., not a convertible), says that "coupes are generally thought of as sportier and more 'personal' than sedans."

That doesn't really do the word justice, however. At least not when you consider that the coupes on our list are some of the world's greatest cars.

For example: the Porsche 911 and the Chevrolet Corvette. These classic coupes are fresh from overhauls that make them better than ever.

In addition to the 911 and the 'Vette, we are happy to honor the hottest two-doors on the market in this feature, in no small degree because of the history of coupes and their place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts. The Beach Boys found a certain two-door to be so sporty and personal that they bragged about it in their 1963 hit "Little Deuce Coupe": "She's my little deuce coupe. You don't know what I got."

The car to which they referred is a 1932 model from Ford Motor. The '32 Ford two-door was embraced by hot rodders in the 1950s and '60s, who would modify the vehicle and then refer to it as a "deuce coupe"--with the "deuce" indicating the "2" in "1932."

In an interview in May, Boyd Coddington, one of the nation's preeminent hot rod builders and the star of the Discovery Channel's American Hot Rod, said, "My definition of a hot rod is a '32 Ford."

Why a Ford? "They had actually in 1932 a V-8 motor in them," he said. "The Chevies had sixes. They just lent themselves more to that hot rod line, and they got to be very trendy." The Beaulieu Encyclopedia of the Automobile agrees, saying that the '32 Ford and its V-8 began the hot rod craze, which peaked after World War II. Purists will tell you that an automobile is not truly a sports car if it has more than two doors.

Today coupes, or at least the ones that are fun to drive, are enjoying strong sales. For example, through the end of September Chevrolet had sold 27,652 Corvettes in the U.S. this year (coupes and convertibles), compared with 22,675 in the same period last year. Porsche sold 6,845 911s (coupes and convertibles), compared with 6,531 in the same period last year.

However, sales of less inspired coupes are on the slide. Sales of Chevrolet's ho-hum Monte Carlowere down to 44,312 through the end of September, compared with 51,862 sales in the same period last year. Sales of Mitsubishi 's Eclipse coupe were down to 10,047, compared with 22,961 sales in the same period last year. (Granted, an overhauled Eclipse is due out soon, and perhaps customers are waiting for that.)

If you're looking for exciting sports cars, please see the slide show that follows. There, you will find outrageous machines such as Fiat's $675,000 Ferrari Enzo Ferrari, as well as more affordable fare. To make sure we didn't just spotlight unobtainable, $100,000+ cars, the slide show is categorized according to price brackets.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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