When you can't unsee the similarity

Year in, year out, I take a holiday in Cornwall, South-West England. I inevitably end up at the same campsite, commanding a view from the cliffs above a tiny resort village called Millendreath. Just off the beautiful sandy beach, there juts a large, rounded rock, and on my first visit to the village at age seven, I excitedly exclaimed to my parents “that rock looks just like a frog.”
Thirty years on, my wife joins me on this annual pilgrimage. Every year I point out the same rock, and every year she reminds me just how much like a frog it doesn’t look. And that’s the way of things. Sometimes you’ll see a resemblance between two things you find so striking that you’re baffled that others don’t make the same association. And so it goes with cars.
These days, there’s a certain amount of follow-my-leader in car design. It seems there’s not quite enough imagination to go round, and there are certain cars that are tricky to distinguish from one another. But sometimes I’ll see a car and it summons up images of another that I really thought had disappeared from my conscience altogether.

Here’s the rock, by the way. Make your own mind up. I see a frog. Or a toad. An amphibian of some kind.
When designing the latest Rolls Royce Phantom, the ‘skilled artisans’ of Britain’s most pretentious famous motor car manufacturer no doubt sought to reference the great coachbuilt British limousines of the past. At the same time as creating a look of presence and modernity that’s in keeping with the assertive mood of today, the latest model is granted a degree of timelessness by acknowledging the work of Mulliner Park Ward and other hallowed names in British metal-bending.

In the late 1970s, Cadillac was doing exactly the same thing. The bustle-back styling of the ’80 Seville may have doffed its cap to the Series 70 of the 1930s, but despite being cribbed by the Imperial Coupe and Lincoln Continental VII, it was arguably not Bill Mitchell’s finest hour. And the lines were virtually identical to the Daimler DS420. Perhaps oddly, it’s the Seville that I see in the rear three-quarter view of the latest Phantom. Wasn’t the case with the old one, but something about the pillar and transom angles of the latest big Roller fills my mind with Caddy.
So, which vehicle reminds you of another, irrespective of whether anybody agrees with you?
(Images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2018 except Seville by Artur Andrzej – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikipedia Commons)

About RoadworkUK

RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.


  1. I think the Seville was influenced by cars like the RR Silver Cloud and it’s predecessors, so it isn’t suprising you have made the connection. I’m sure RR would rather you hadn’t!

    1. I guess the distinctive feature of the Seville-style bustleback was that the boot/trunk followed a line unrelated to the ‘haunch’/rear fender of the car. From the rear 3/4 view this also leaves the trunk as an independent element framed between the two fenders.
      In the Seville though it is the fender that has continuity with the roofline; in the Rolls the trunk — so the two appear subtly different to me. The Rolls — even if I was unaware of the parent company — seems more obviously the offspring of the E65 ‘Bangle butt’?

    2. I don’t see the Seville at all, I see the earlier Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
      When I see the Cadillac, I see the Daimler DS420 (1968 – 1992) which preceded it.
      And when I see the DS420, I’m reminded that it references the even earlier Austin Princesses, the connection being the coach builder, Vanden Plas, who during the Leyland years switched from big Austins to JaguarDaimler.
      Austin Princess A135 (1947-1956)
      Austin Princess Vanden Plas IV, later just Princess Vanden Plas (1956 – 1959)
      And Chrysler paid their homage too with the 1981 Imperial, the ‘Last’ Imperial

        1. I think that might be a Hooper bodied one.But that styling feature was on the standard Silver Wraith.
          Silver Dawn ’49-’55
          Silver Wraith ’46-’58
          The Silver Wraith is one of the ‘Bond Rolls Royces’ from ‘Spectre’ in 2015

      1. It’s not really the trunklid that does it for me between the Phantom and Seville, it’s the relationship between the rearmost side window and rear screen angle, which are exactly the same. If anything, the boot shape itself reminds me more of a Standard Vanguard II (but, as we’ve established, I’m a bit odd)

  2. Several years ago I was driving on a field trip in an area that was new to me at the time and, glancing over at an island, I exclaimed “Hey, that looks like a turtle!” Of course, by the time everyone else in the van figured out I meant the island, not an actual turtle, and then looked, we had moved to a position from which the island looked nothing like a turtle. I was happy later to learn that the feature is, in fact, called Turtle Rock and is on Turtle Rock Island.

    1. Oh no!
      Our posts crossed by seconds and you have proved me — as is usual — COMPLETELY wrong.

    2. I see a sorta 3/4 left-rear view of a toad. Definitely doesn’t scream frog or toad, but if you’ve got frogs on the brain it suggests one.

  3. Chris – That really doesn’t look like a frog.
    (Note to Chris’s wife: There are a number of us who are as stupid about cars as he is. But there is no-one else who thinks that rock looks like a frog.)

      1. Those GM door handles. You can feel the slop in mechanism just looking at them. American car luxury took a turn for the baroque for a while there, the notion of quality never really bubbled through to the feel of the vehicle to the driver.

      1. The rear of the E30 was an evolution of BMW’s existing E21/E28 styling theme. The similarity with the front end falls down a bit!

        1. Exactly, though maybe more E12 than E28. The E30 evolved from a BMW styling direction that began in the early/mid 70s. Cadillac was simply trying to disguise a miserable FWD compact by intentionally mimicking established Euro styling. Fortunately most people saw through it.

    1. That Cadillac / BMW comparison just goes to show how two implementations of the same set of styling elements can achieve quite different results.

  4. When Ford finally decided to redesign the mustang after 15 years of Fox bodies, I remember being excited to see what the new 1994 version would look like. The first rendering I saw looked to my eyes about 90% like the contemporary Toyota Celicas. Total let down.

      1. With that long between platform updates, you know it had to be development hell in Dearborn.

    1. Hey, according to specifics mentioned in the ad copy, the Granada has all of the performance oriented bona fides of an F450.

    2. I actually think that from a pure looks standpoint, the Granada is better. The styled wheels, the pillar window, the trailing edge of the door in relation to the pillar, shorter bumper overhang.
      It’s not fair to hate on the Granada. Unless you’ve driven it.

      1. I must respectfully disagree, apart from that second sentence.
        At the very least the mechanicals should match the styling. The rear track is too narrow and directly indicates that saving the cost of four inches of axle in the rear track, was more important than designing a coherent whole with good driving dynamics.
        That side view was obviously chosen to hide that.

      2. The SLC has always been seen as sort of an ugly duckling. A regular hardtop SL looks much better, it just lacks a rear seat.

  5. When it was introduced, GM was upfront about borrowing the Seville’s trunk lines from classic Rolls. At the time, it was one of GM’s better styling choices, which says something.
    BMW has now dipped back into the catalog in the same way, so it would be much odder if there wasn’t a strong resemblance.
    And they both leave a great deal to be desired.

  6. I do see the frog if I really want to, but those rear decks are only remotely related.
    Worse is the notion of an i8 giving birth to a 911 – I was remotely ok with the anime styling of the i8 until somebody planted that into my brain. There was another case of birthing, but I forgot which cars were intermingling their styling genes.

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