Brothers From Another Mother: 8 Competing Cars That Might As Well Be Identical Twins
Inspiration can strike in funny ways, and this is definitely true when examining the history of automotive design. It can sometimes seem like a particular set of themes, shapes or concepts run through the entire industry like a virus, infecting multiple brands and causing a clot of comparable cars to drop into showrooms, completely unrelated yet strikingly similar in terms of looks. Other times, what started out as an homage turns into outright theft—or at the very least, a round in the imitation game masquerading as the sincerest form of flattery.
Let's take a look at eight of our favorite examples of cars that bear an uncanny resemblance to other cars.
1. Ford Thunderbird / Nissan 240SX
There was a period in the late '80s/early '90s where it almost seemed like there existed one standard template for each specific market segment: sedan, coupe, SUV, etc. One of the clearest examples of this can be seen when comparing the 1992-1997 Ford Thunderbird to the 1994-1998 Nissan 240SX.
These two-door coupes ostensibly occupy completely different market segments, with the Ford representing the last gasp of personal luxury and the Nissan aimed at enthusiasts on a budget. Yet, from stem to stern you can easily spot similarities in their greenhouses, front fascias, light design and stance. If you were to present the S14-generation 240SX as a 7/8ths Thunderbird to a badge-free focus group, no one would bat an eye.
2. Ford Mustang / Aston Martin DBS V8
The next entry on our list also includes a Ford stalwart, but this time the borrowing is a little less simultaneous. Towards the end of the 1960s Ford released a beefier fastback look for its best-selling Mustang pony car, and this model was used as the template for Carroll Shelby in building the GT350 version of the car. By 1969, it looked even more aggressive, and upon entering the '70s it gained a further restyling that emphasized its long hood.
A few short years later Aston Martin put out a new coupe of their own, which for all intents and purposes resembled a slightly-stretched Mustang—right down to the menacing scowl and light setup in its grille. This Mustang mimicry would double-down throughout the ensuing two decades of production, as the car would subtly evolve styling cues that Ford had given up on by the mid-1970s.
3. Chrysler PT Cruiser / Chevrolet HHR
Retro was big business as the 1990s drew to a close, and Chrysler, eager to cash in on the excitement that had greeted both the Plymouth Prowler and the Volkswagen Beetle, pushed the PT Cruiser hatchback onto the market with great fanfare. Despite its humble Dodge Neon underpinnings, the PT Cruiser proved to be a major sales success for the brand.
So much so that a mere five years later General Motors jumped onto the old school bandwagon with the Chevrolet HHR. Although pug-nosed where the PT Cruiser was sharp, there was no denying the outright conceptual theft embodied by the compact vehicle. The two would peacefully co-exist for roughly five years before each automaker decided to move on.
4. Jaguar XK / Aston Martin DB9
For a period of time there was a weird alternate universe of British luxury where you could essentially own an Aston Martin for the price of a Jaguar—or vice-versa.
The co-mingling of design DNA between the two brands can be traced back to the early 1990s when Ian Callum and Tom Walkinshaw ended up selling a co-developed coupe based on the Jaguar XJS platform to Aston Martin, who would sell it as the DB7.
More recently, however, is the case of the Jaguar XK and the Aston Martin DB9, two vehicles that went on sale within a couple of years of each other (2004 for the second-generation Jaguar, 2006 for the new DB9). Callum's prints are all over both cars, despite the final DB9 design being attributed to Henrik Fisker (based on early sketches by Callum). Which one you prefer is largely a matter of personal taste, but which one is more affordable has already been decided by both the market and the maintenance schedule associated with each vehicle.
5. Chrysler 300 / Bentley Mulsanne
From a modern perspective, there's no question that the Chrysler 300—especially in its 2005-2010 generation—bears more than a passing similarity to the Bentley Mulsanne, a luxury sedan costing many multiples of the Detroit-born four-door's price.
Look a little deeper into the Chrysler 300's styling cues, however, and you'll discover that its "knock-off" front grille actually dates back to the 1955 Chrysler C-300 (which would evolve into the 300C by 1957). Did the car benefit from its more than passing resemblance to one of the world's most prestigious premium brands? Undoubtedly. Did the Pentastar's designers do that on purpose? Far less likely.
6. Kia Amanti / Jaguar S-Type / Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The Kia Amanti, on the other hand, gets no such benefit of the doubt.
Released when the Korean concern was still in its look-alike phase, the top-of-the-line sedan is a mishmash of styling cues and concepts borrowed not just from the Jaguar S-Type (to which it bears a striking resemblance), but also the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, what with its quad headlights.
It would be at least another decade before Kia got serious about design and left forgettable efforts like the Amanti in the past.
7. Toyota Celica / AMC AMX
Lest you think that a now-venerable brand like Toyota was always above the kind of copycat crassness once employed by Kia, it takes only a quick trip to that automaker's past to dispel any notions of design purity.
Although there are other examples, the 1970 to 1974 Toyota Corolla coupe is proof positive that Japan was looking to America for advice in how to break in to that overseas market. The Corolla offers mini-muscle car styling that borrows more than a little of its look from short-wheelbase offerings like the AMC AMX of the era. This marks perhaps the only time the world turned to Kenosha for styling inspiration.
8. Mazda Miata / Lotus Elan M100
The last entry on our round-up of "who made who" involves the best-known open-air sports car of all time and its much more obscure contemporary.
When Mazda brought the Miata into the world in 1989, it was a revelation: a modern, reliable and affordable take on the little British cars that had dominated the roadster scene to that point. It was also the spitting image of the Lotus Elan M100, albeit rounded and rear-wheel drive where the Brit was sharp and front-wheel drive. Strangely enough, the cars were developed over the same time period, with Mazda looking back to 1960s versions of the Elan as inspiration.
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