In the very earliest days of motoring, the shape of a car wasn’t something that designers gave much thought to. It was simply a question of arranging various components in an order that produced something which could travel further and faster than a horse.

Things developed very quickly. In the 1920s the industry was full of coachbuilding companies, all capable of making your car look utterly different from anyone else’s.

Mass production in enormous quantities, and the switch from body-on-chassis construction to the modern method of building a shell and attaching everything to it, have made this much less practical than it used to be. Today, manufacturers determine the shape of a car, and you don’t get a say in the matter unless you are colossally rich.

But what should that shape be? It depends, of course, on what customers want and will pay for. Here’s a run-down of the basic shapes you’re most likely to see on our roads.