9 recycled automotive design elements

There’s more than one way to skin a car, but there are only so many ways to drape sheetmetal over a frame and make it look good. Popular styles rise to the top, and we covered quite a lot of them when we gave 20 examples of similar-looking cars. We’ve revisited this idea and expanded it to focus on specific design elements, rather than just the entire car, including some suggestions from reader comments. If you recall grilles or taillights or dashboards from two vehicles that seem to copy each other, let us know in the comments below.

1959 Pontiac and 1960 Edsel grilles

We’re gonna start with two pairs that were suggested in our list of doppelgänger cars from almost two years ago. The short-lived Edsel brand had a rough go in its early years, thanks to a polarizing grille that is still instantly recognizable. Frequently described as resembling either a horse collar or a toilet seat, the signature vertical center portion was tossed aside for the 1960 models, which wore split grilles that looked an awful lot like those on Pontiac’s 1959 models. The result was a stylish, understated design that looks particularly good as a wagon, in our opinion.

Unfortunately, 1960 marked the final year for the Edsel brand, so we didn’t get to see Ford apply Edsel styling to the Falcon, as was planned. We got the Comet instead, so things worked out just fine. But can you imagine if the brand had survived a few more years, and we got to see Edsel’s take on the Mustang?

1960 Pontiac and 1961 Dodge Lancer grilles

When Dodge launched the Lancer line in 1961, to give the brand a version of the Valiant, the automaker made some major leaps in design. The greenhouse was unlike anything else on the market—the influence of Exner was clear. The front, however, did have a strong resemblance to the full-size Pontiacs of the previous model year. The horizontal grille slats and a protruding shield shape look good on both vehicles, and both also have prominent horizontal body lines that start at the leading edge of the fender and terminate mid-door. Aside from those similarities, however, there’s really no mistaking the cars for one another.

1968 Mopar C-body and 1970 AMC Ambassador C-pillars

We love how much a car’s entire look can be transformed by changing just the roof. Some cars look good as convertibles and fantastic as coupes, and vice versa, but some cars were offered with sportier or more formal rooflines that really were their best looks. Dodge, Chrysler, and Plymouth C-bodies were available with a sleek hardtop in 1968 that made the otherwise conservative cars look much more like overgrown muscle cars. In 1970, AMC added a very similar roof to its Ambassador, with a similar effect.

1968 Olds Toronado wheel flares and dozens of early 2000s cars

This one was suggested by our own Stefan Lombard, who pointed out the Tornado’s wheel flares were oddly similar to those found on a 2004–08 Nissan Maxima and also later Altimas. Other cars from the era have similar shaped flares with a flat, vertical face that follows the wheel opening.

1970 Pontiac Trans Am and 1972 Porsche Carrera ducktail spoiler

Form follows function, and this shape works as intended to break up the flow of air over the rear of a fastback roofline. This one’s also from Stefan Lombard, who saw the similarities in the two cars and it led us to gather two fantastic examples for a retro comparison.

C4 Corvette and Mk IV Supra interior

There were plenty of Supra fans who pointed out that the C7 Corvette’s dash resembled the driver-focused cockpit of the MK IV Supra. Go just a bit further back, and you can see that the Corvette team was looking at the later C4 for inspiration, as the dash was redesigned for the 1990 model year. If you want a more recent example of Corvette raiding its own design bin, note the strake on the front of the C8 that divides the lower grille opening, and then look at the split front bumper on the C2.

2003–2010 Dodge Viper and 2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice interior

Whether you believe there were three or five generations of Viper, you can probably agree that Pontiac cribbed some elements from the famous snake’s interior when it made the Solstice. The powertrains couldn’t be more different, but the basic shape for the center stack and the vent placements is pretty spot-on for both of these sporty cars

Nearly every Aston Martin ever, and the 2013+ Ford Fusion grille

This one was talked about all over the automotive sphere when the 2013 Fusion debuted. The shapes are different—Aston Martin’s a grille opening features concave curves on its top edges—but the comparison is definitely warranted.

1993 Pontiac Firebird and 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 heat extractors

As soon as the 2021 Porsche 911 GT3 debuted, we had a funny feeling we’d seen a similar hood treatment. The twin heat extractors gave us serious fourth-gen Firebird vibes, and when we pointed it out, Hagerty’s Porsche faithful came out of the woodwork to call us crazy. Two years later, and the extractors still look similar to us.




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    Some decent examples here. I’m glad to see i wasn’t the only one who thought the Fusion grill was an Aston Martin knockoff. There is a similarity between the Solstice grill and certain BMW kidney bean openings, IMO

    That grille is what I liked best about the Fusion; I don’t like anything else about it. I had wondered about the grille similarity, and then learned that Ford owned Aston Martin for 20 years. So they were related after all.

    When we were looking for a car to replace our Camry, the Fusion was one of the competitors. Seems like the sales people couldn’t talk enough about the similarity to the Aston hood and grill, as if it made the whole car better. We bought a Honda Accord – the breaker was the camera for seeing what was on the right side of the car, instead of an orange dot in the mirror. Better tech on the Honda.

    The egg crate grill in the 55 Chevy was a copy of a Ferrari grill Harley Earl saw in Europe.

    As the saying goes a good artist borrows a great artist steals.

    2nd gen Camaro vs. 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe… numerous aspect of the lines, compare side views if you don’t see it.

    Modern era Chrysler 300 (2005-up) have a whole lot of Bentley look to them…

    And most SUV and Crossovers today look like their ancestors were AMC products of the 70s. Compare dimensions/proportions, the “box layout” and such.

    Early 2000s Pontiac Grand Ams were on the mind of the designers of some Teslas as well…

    The irony about that the “Bentley grille” on the ’05 and up Chrysler 300 was that it was borrowed by VW-era Bentley from the Exner-Ghia Chrysler show cars in the 1950s, like the Chrysler Special and the Chrysler D’Elegance (whose profile was itself borrowed by Ghia for the Karmann-Ghia VW).

    Thanks for name-dropping the Chrysler D’Elegance, I didn’t know that one and it is amazing.

    It also makes it pretty hard to argue that the 300 design isn’t Chrysler-based (but crimping into Bentley’s appeal was a smart marketing play that I think factored in as well –what I mean is, does the Gillies design get greenlit if the last thing that looked like it was a 1952 show car?).

    I wear bi-focals but you really stretched a couple of those comparisons. My question is, why hasn’t anybody stolen the lines of a Yugo or Pacer? Cowards. I would have.

    AMC Pacer/ Dodge Colt hatchback 1980. The Colt was what a sane Pacer should have been.

    Profile, greenhouse, front end, taillights, placement of both, even. Lifted from the Pacer and re-imagined on a smaller scale

    I’ve always looked at BMW’s window kick up and thought “51 Kaiser”.
    Snailish- your posts usually mirror my thinking. I demonstrated the Stude/Camaro similarities to a college art class I was enrolled in. When the Camaro was new.

    He cot the credit for bringin ti to BMW, but it was all across the GM lineup in 1949, from Cadillac to the Chevy Fleetline.

    I see lots of Pontiac style lines copied but no Buick yet GM in their infinite wisdom killed Pontiac and kept Buick. No, I wouldn’t rather have a Buick. And with the death of Camaro (again) I’m looking elsewhere. Don’t care much for the C8 styling either. Looks like it was done by a 6 yr old.

    I agree GM should have kept Pontiac and killed off Buick. The only reason GM kept Buick instead of Pontiac was because Buicks sold well in China. That’s it. And going by this story, it look like Pontiac was ahead of everyone else in design. However, I will admit that the 1960 Edsel is slightly better looking than the 1959 Pontiac.

    By the time of Pontiac’s demise it was just another way to badge-engineer chevrolet with garish cladding and other worn-out design cliches.

    It was, but it was in the process of becoming much more. They were just beginning to build some of the best cars they’d ever made.

    Ahh, that means you’ve never experienced a 2004-2006 Pontiac GTO (nee Holden Monaro.) It may have been borrowed, but the Monaro was itself borrowed from the Opel that became the Cadillac Catera. The GTO is no badge-engineered Chevy. Mine is creeping up on 113K miles.

    The publicity photos of the C8 are often spectacular but on the street it looks designed by a committee with little consensus.

    It has been pointed out many times how the back and side profiles of the 77 Toyota Celica mimic the 69-70 Mustang Fastback.

    Eh, I don’t think Porsche ever copied anything. Many sedans copied the Hoffmeister kink in their C-pillars from BMW’s.

    The one-year-only ’58 Studebaker (and Packard) two door hardtop design featured the same roofline and “bubble window” as the ’57 – 58 top of the line Chrysler (New Yorker/300 and Desoto (Fireflite/Adventurer). I own a Simca 1000 Bertone Coupe and it’s often mistaken for a Fiat 850 Sport Coupe. Giugiaro gets credit for the Simca while Boano executed the Fiat. Great minds..

    These are all great examples except the Trans Am/Porsche spoilers.

    Considering Ford owned Aston Martin prior to the Fusion’s remodel debut, it’s not surprising that designers wanted to move it upscale in design. Frankly, it worked well. The Fusion still looks good today, several years “out of print.”

    As has been mentioned, many a casual non-enthusiast has mistaken the Chrysler 300 for a Bentley.

    Right, the Porsche and Trans Am look nothing alike in the spoiler design; I was really trying to be charitable and see it, but, sorry, no…

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