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The golden age of the carriage and coach building industry, which largely found its customers among the nobility and haute bourgeoisie, came during the nineteenth century. In an era before mass production, the bodies of horse-driven coaches were built by renowned master coachbuilders who, with carpenters, smiths, painters and cabinetmakers, provided a wide variety of models to match all needs and tastes.

With the replacement of steam by the combustion engine, the first self-propelled automobile appeared on the scene. The early vehicles came with a chassis and engine but no body, and coachbuilders were entrusted with the task of installing the engines in existing carriages. They continued to make bodies for horse-drawn vehicles and motor cars in tandem, applying the same techniques to both.

Independent chassis were initially made of wood. The first “horseless” cars borrowed extensively from the architecture of the carriages. The same outlines, models and materials were retained. Even the classifications were the same: saloon or sedan (four doors), coupe (fixed roof, two doors), tilbury or roadster (two doors, two seats, no fixed roof), tourer (four-seater version of the roadster), landaulet (convertible rear section), sedanca (convertible front section), cabriolet (convertible) and limousine (six-window saloon car).

Throughout the 1920s, open (torpedo) or closed bodies gradually evolved away from the style of horse-drawn carriages, but the names lived on. Bonnets got longer, outlines became rounder and metal replaced wood.

Technical developments and safety requirements conditioned the creation of new models. In the 1930s, independent chassis were gradually abandoned in favour of the so-called monocoque or unibody construction. This revolutionary advance led to the decline of the great artisan coachbuilders.

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