From the debut of the MGB in 1962, Abingdon had worked to develop an attractive – and marketable – coupe from the roadster that could be sold alongside the open car and entice new customers into the fold for whom the standard car was impractical. Most of the primitive design studies suffered greatly in comparison to the competition, especially those from Italy and Germany where the coupe was the dominant production variant unlike in England.
Jacques Counes had similar thoughts at creating a fashionable coupe using the humble MGB as the base. As the Belgian distributor for Abarth, Bertone and Iso Rivolta as well as an active repair business in Brussels, Coune was well situated to act on his idea – another Belgian firm, Imperia, had done the same with the TR2 Francorchamps – with an experienced Italian work force that was paid better wages than they could have hoped to earn in their native Turin.
Soon he had produced a bespoke MGB with an attractive fastback design that in many ways was superior to the later Pininfarina design that was used for the MGB GT. With a Kamm style tail and faired in headlights, the MGB Coune Berlinette offered Italianate styling and mass-production reliability.
Unfortunately, the MGB Coune Berlinette was both heavy and expensive (it cost half again as much as a standard MGB) but it was very attractive and had caught the eye of BMC management. A meeting took place in 1964 between Coune and Alec Issigonis to discuss the prospects of series production of the car at Abingdon (with royalties paid to the Belgian) and shortly thereafter a vehicle was pulled off the production line and sent to Brussels for conversion. When the car had returned, it was driven by BMC Chairman George Harriman, Syd Enever, Issigonis and even Leonard Lord from Austin to evaluate the car for production in England.
The project was abandoned in favor of the MGB GT prototype designed by Pininfarina in Italy that retained more of the essential character of the MGB (and was no doubt cheaper to produce). Notwithstanding the actions of MG, Coune continued to produce his car for the European market with 56 units manufactured in total.
In 1966, Coune debuted at the Turin Motor Show another MGB based creation with a Targa-style top but it was poorly received and was never manufactured in quantity. Along with the Coune Volvo Amazon Cabrio, the MGB Coune Berlinette established the enviable reputation that these bespoke Belgian jewels enjoy today.