It’s easy to loathe badge engineering and derivative styling, but the indisputable fact is such endeavors provide an interesting study into how simple tweaks change the appearance of otherwise identical cars, and seek to satisfy individual whims. On the bad end of badge engineering lives the infamous GM J-car with a Cadillac suit woefully inadequate for stifling the Cavalier musk within; on the better end you have Ford’s contemporary Fox-platform Thunderbird and Cougar which were every bit the same and yet completely different styling exercises. When it comes to derivative styling, most will usually point shame’s wagging finger directly at America, citing such shameless “euro” wannabes as the four-door Ford 280 SEL Granada Ghia, or the schizophrenic Chevy Celebrity and Lumina – both of which brandished the word EURO(Sport!) on their very finest exterior plastic as if by shouting the lie, it would somehow be true. The examples don’t end there of course, and thanks to guys like J Mays – who actually perfected deriving an automaker’s own designs – we can now use the word laziness “retro” when this happens. But I digress… It’s wrong to solely accuse Americans of bein’ in ur auto plants, stealin’ ur IP. Indeed, never content to wage militant wars amongst themselves, Europeans steal borrow design inspiration from each other too… …such as the 1985-1997 Bentley Turbo R looking more than a fair bit like a freshened Mercedes W123 – which was introduced in 1976 and discontinued in 1985 – just in time for the Bentley to glove-slap the stein out of your hands and call up the fox hunt.
Now call me crazy, but it seems to me that at least when Americans rip people off, it’s to democratize something like der Kapitalist schwein’s Mercedes and make it available to the redneck unwashed in the guise of a Granada. Or to smite the demons of Joe Lucas with a V8 and call it a day. The British, on the other hand, would simply yoink the same Mercedes and then beef it, monochrome it, Rolls-grille it, Grey-Poupon-on-the-seat-tray it, and happily reap 4 times the price from those jolly old chaps who are too busy Scrooge-McDucking their cash stacks to go outside and realize their nasty, ewwy middle-managers had been driving the same things for a decade.
You know, I could have simply said “I quickly took these two pictures one after the other at a corner lot, and when I reviewed them later I was amazed at how accidentally near-identical they are”. But then if you know me you know better than that. Sorry!
On the other hand, if I keep writing this there will undoubtedly be more links to yet more Mercedes being copied both up and down-market, and then some German will get his lederhosen in a bunch, decide this haberdashery has gone on long enough, and try to spark an initiative to rightfully take over the automotive world. Wait, the VW group is already doing that. Crap! Didn’t J Mays once work for them? Yes he did. So blame him, not me.
Seriously though… the pictures were an accident, and they are frighteningly similar, aren’t they? Maybe some designs are just timeless.
(But please, for the love of whatever deity you believe in, don’t find a Granada and park it next to them and claim a rightful unbroken lineage. A Granada to a Bentley? Even I’m not that stupid… but J Mays is still working for Ford…)