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What is a Three Window Coupe?

Lori Kilchermann
Lori Kilchermann

The term three window coupe is given to American automobile bodies from the 1930s. The moniker three window coupe comes from the bodies' two side or door windows, plus the rear window. The coupe is a small-bodied vehicle that has only the front seat with the occasional small rear seat. Most coupes of the era were five-window versions that included a small window behind each door. All coupes are two-door body style vehicles.

The American hot rod scene has made a cult icon of the three window coupe. Of all of the coupe bodies, the 1932 Ford is perhaps the most desired three window coupe of all time. The popularity of the 1932 Ford three window coupe can be seen in upscale auto auctions where a well-built hot rod can go for nearly $1 million US dollars (USD). The average daily driven three window coupe hot rod typically retails for $50,000 to $100,000 (USD).

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

While Chevrolet, Chrysler and other manufacturers also produced a three window coupe body style, the Ford has been consistently the most highly sought after by collectors worldwide. The most popular modifications to the coupe are chopped tops and removed fenders. Many hot rod owners also choose to go without a hood to leave the engine compartment exposed. Small front tires along with large rear tires are signs of the quintessential hot rod coupe.

When describing a three window coupe, it is often defined as a highboy or a lowboy. A highboy is a vehicle that has its body mounted on top of the frame rails. The term lowboy is also referred to as having been channeled. Channeling is a practice of cutting the floor boards out and raising them up inside of the body. The body then is mounted over the frame with the body sitting lower on the chassis. This also raises the seats up inside of the vehicle and leaves less head room for the occupants.

Chopping the top on a three window coupe involves cutting the roof off of the vehicle. With the roof removed from the vehicle, a predetermined amount of metal is cut off of the windshield, door and roof pillars and the roof is then replaced and welded back into position. The front and rear glass is often sanded to create a much shorter piece of glass. The glass is then replaced into the window frames. The chopping of the top should be left to a professional body shop, as any mistake could leave the three window coupe body ruined.

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