Hooniverse Asks: What’s the Best Luxury Car Derived From a Cheap Car?

Today is Labor Day here in the States which is both the day on which we celebrate the joys of gainful employment and bemoan the end of summer. Considering the first of those aspects – employment, which means to involve or use – we want to take the opportunity today to consider luxury cars that have employed the platforms of far cheaper cars. I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming.
Luxury cars are typically bought by people of means, which in turn means that they are, by nature, limited in their sales potential. That means that many manufacturers build their high-end rides on more plebeian bases to spread the development and production costs down to the have-nots. That have given us Cadillacs based on Chevy Cavaliers, Rolls Royces with a lot of BMW 7-series in their DNA, and Bentleys that, if you scratch the surface of will reveal a lot of Volkswagen.
It’s not a bad strategy – having the poors pay for a slice of the well-to-do’s cars – and sometimes it results in a pretty good ride that almost completely hides its proletarian roots. Those are the ones we’re looking for this Labor Day, what are the best luxury cars derived from cheap cars?
Image: ClassicMotorSports

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38 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: What’s the Best Luxury Car Derived From a Cheap Car?”

  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    Not entirely along the lines of the Ask today, but the Volvo 780 shares less with the 740 than one would expect. It was very luxurious for its time, and a somewhat failed attempt at building a halo car – it wasn’t exciting and powerful enough. Today, these are pretty rare, and fetch good prices in Scandinavia.
    Have a nice labour day!

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      It’s still on my (long) short list.
      ( But a 700 series is a much better starting base than a Nova)

  2. tonyola Avatar

    Vanden Plas 1500? 🙂

  3. 0A5599 Avatar

    A stripper Silverado sells for a little more than $20k. A loaded Escalade is north of $70k, not counting dealer installed bling. There are lots of platform siblings in between. Seems like a good utilization of the platform.

    1. salguod Avatar

      Though clearly related, I believe that the Silverado and Suburban have different frames. Not sure if GM thinks of them as different platforms.
      Still, the Suburban to Escalade conversion is still likely the best example.

      1. salguod Avatar

        Nope, same platform (clearly, I’ve got too much free time this holiday morning):

    2. salguod Avatar

      Oh, and a base Tahoe is $47K and I just optioned up an Escalade ESV Platinum to $101K. The Silverado starts at $26,500 these days.

  4. Maymar Avatar

    Might be a stretch since it took decades for Porsche to get luxurious, but on the other hand, it’s an entire company that got its start from a cheap car. For a while, THE cheap car.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      Another, similar (and three-dimensional) stretch would be the MINI, the luxurious version of the Mini.

  5. wunno sev Avatar
    wunno sev

    i like these a lot, and they were based on the contemporary Accord.

    1. salguod Avatar

      Still are. My friend who works at Honda likes to say they make 2 cars, the Civic and Accord. Almost everything else is derived from those two platforms.

  6. mdharrell Avatar

    If it’s good enough for the CCCA to grant Full Classic status to a lowly Ford, then the Brewster is good enough for… well, actually, I don’t find these to be particularly attractive.

    1. Batshitbox Avatar

      I think a railroad baron might see a little something stirring in that front end.

    2. wunno sev Avatar
      wunno sev

      i can see only this

    3. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      It’s a shame they let the styling clay melt like that.

  7. theskitter Avatar

    If ‘best’ is a synonym for ‘raging success’, it will be hard to top the Lexus Camry ES.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Did you mean Lexus Camry RX?

  8. Batshitbox Avatar

    Gentlemen, The Morris Minor Wolesley1500 Riley 1.5!
    With it’s twin SU carbs and full instrument walnut dashboard it took the Minor uptown. Fast!

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Sold in Australia, (without that grille), as the Morris Major. (And Austin Lancer) So back down market again, despite the tri-tone paint and later Series 2 versions even had jaunty little tailfins (of a sort). About as much work went into the facelift as deciding the original name.There was a later move upmarketish with the final Elite version. Not one of BMC Australia’s finest cars.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        Including the rare Crayford Convertible. And South Africa got that grille on the standard Mini bodyshell without the boot/trunk but with the nicer interior.

  9. Guest Avatar


    One does not usually think of Peugeot, Renault, or Volvo when it comes to luxurious GTs.

    (I know all three have made them, but those are pretty few and far between.)

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      But you might think of Lotus.

  10. Borkwagen Avatar
    1. sunbeammadd Avatar

      Or the Humber Sceptre, which shared its platform with the Hillman Super Minx and Singer Vogue. http://pics.imcdb.org/0is225/humbercn9.3025.jpg

      1. sunbeammadd Avatar

        The final iteration of the Humber Sceptre was simply a tarted up Hillman Hunter. A sad end for a once proud manufacturer.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Very good, and what strange answers! A handful left of any of them, I guess?

      2. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        I always referred to them as Singer Vagues after experiencing one shod with the original crossplies – named after it’s steering.

  11. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    These became upmarket just by being RHD and sold in Japan.
    And Rebadged.
    Sold as a sort of US three series

    1. Eric Rucker Avatar

      And leather interior, let’s be fair…
      Also, it might’ve worked better if they left it LHD, actually, because that would’ve made it more exotic. (As I understand, that’s why the Honda Crossroad didn’t do that well, when you could get the Land Rover Discovery it was based on in LHD at the same time, in Japan.)

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        And as many hours fixing the little faults per car, on average, on arrival, as it took to actually MAKE the same sized car in Japan

  12. marmer Avatar

    There’s still a piece of fruit rotting on the tree. Although I don’t think you can say “best” you can say “cult following.” http://assets.blog.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads//2013/07/1958PackardHawk_01_1500.jpg

  13. Ed Kim Avatar
    Ed Kim

    I mean, c’mon. I can’t think of a better example than one that’s in the marketplace right now (at least outside of North America). But even regular Audi A3s are pretty damn nice, even with all those VW MQB Golf bits under the skin.

  14. sporty88 Avatar

    Australian manufacturers have a history of basing luxury cars on more humble base cars, going back to the 60’s and 70’s. The usual formula has been to add a few extra inches to the wheelbase and consequently a few inches of legroom for the rear-seat passengers, then load on a bit of extra bling. As an example, the Ford Falcon (XC series) became the Ford LTD (P6) (mid-late 1970’s):
    The same formula was also applied by Holden – the Holden Kingswood became the Statesman (these are from the HQ series (early 1970’s)
    Holden have been continuing it up till the present – here are the current Commodore and Caprice

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