Mazda MX5 82

Copycat Cars: When Your Own Ideas Just Run Out

Borrowing Ideas can Work Wonders if you get it Right

Cars are hard to design, to come up with something new and interesting and most of all new is getting harder and harder as time goes on, to the point when no matter what car you make it will always be compared to another from the past. But sometimes the differences are so small that it’s fairly obvious that the designer just stole their ideas from another car. Now I’m not talking about the Chinese motor industry here, a lot of their cars are just blatant copies of western automobiles. I’m talking about the manufacturers that stole ideas and recreated them in their own cars; some are terrible but then some are massively successful in not only mimicking other cars but then growing into a phenomenon themselves.

Datsun 240Z – Jaguar E-Type

The Japanese are masters at the art of the copycat. Whilst a normal Japanese car would be reliable, it wouldn’t have the styling to get the heart racing. The solution? Borrow European designs and add the reliability. The Datsun 240Z wasn’t the first to try to copy the E-Type from Japan though (the Toyota 2000GT did that) but it was the most successful. Even though it didn’t have the speed or the power of the E-Type it managed to take over thanks to its nippy handling and cheap price. Where the E-Type had been the Ferrari for the everyday man, the 240Z was the E-Type for any man.

Chrysler 300C – Bentley Arnage

The Chrysler 300C was a big powerful saloon car from the US, the Bentley Arnage was a big powerful Saloon from the UK, however that is where the similarities end. The 300C tried to borrow the Arnage’s brutish front end but ended up using a ruler, creating a square bodied mess that wasn’t hideous, but by no means had the good looks of the Arnage. Whilst the Bentley had a smooth running twin turbo V8 engineered by Cosworth, the 300C got a Hemi because America. The Hemi whilst powerful giving out 340 bhp was teamed with suspension that was not dissimilar to a marshmallow, meaning the 300C was as wobbly as an old 50’s Cadillac, and in no way reached the standard of the Arnage which could be both a smooth svelte luxury car but still set your hair on fire when you wanted it to.

Plymouth Prowler – ’32 Ford

Hot rods are big in America, the hot rod of choice is still highly debated but one of the most popular choices is the 1932 Ford, the car is more popular today than it ever has been. Which is why in the late 90’s Plymouth decided to cash in on this popularity, when many couldn’t afford or didn’t have the time to build their own hot rod. Why not just sell a brand new one? And so the Prowler was born. Whilst certainly being one of the most interesting cars to come out then it most definitely wasn’t one of the best. When it released it had a fairly puny 3.5 litre V6 engine that gave out a wimpy 218 bhp, a far cry from the V8 the public had expected from this modern hot rod. Whilst it almost carried off the looks to succeed in the hot rod world the underpinnings were far below par, also for the first year all the cars were purple for some strange reason.

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Mazda MX5 – Triumph TR5 and Other British Sports Cars

Finally a success story, yes leave it to the Japanese to revolutionise the sports car as we know it. When it released all the way back in 1990 it was a revolution, few cars managed to beat the amount of fun you could have with this little two-seater pocket rocket. But the little MX5 takes over where the British left off, countless sports cars rolled off the production lines in Britain cars like the Triumph TR5, the Lotus Elan, the MGB, and the Austin Healey Sprite. The MX5 owes all its success to the British motor industry the Japanese added the very important reliability but the ideas and design behind the MX5 all lead back to the British sports car of the 60’s and 70’s.

Rover 75 – Jaguar S-Type

Now if you’re going to borrow design ideas from another car, and know it’s going to be pretty obvious, at least choose a car that is good to start with. Don’t do what Rover did and start with an S-Type. The S-Type was already trying to steal the design of the original S-Type from way back in 1963, featuring a grill and curvaceousness straight from the 60’s. But against all the odds Rover actually made a pretty good job of it, despite drivers steering away from it due to the Rover name, the 75 actually won a number of awards from the likes of What Car and Auto Express, who praised it for its olde-worlde charm and comfortable ride. The 75 was seen as just a Jag rip off, another problem with copying their design.

Sources:Classic Driver CAR

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