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


  1. 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!

  2. 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. 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. 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.

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

    1. 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. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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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