Identity Crisis – Rebadged Cars

Rebadged or badge engineered cars have been common place on public roads for decades, with manufacturers and in some cases governments searching for ways to efficiently manage automotive production. In this article we take a look at four examples of rebadging that have been relevant to the Australian automotive landscape over recent years. VF Holden Commodore SS – Chevrolet SS Back in 2013 at Daytona Speedweek , a VF Commodore sporting Chevy badges was unveiled to the US public to a mostly positive reception. It’s wasn’t the first Commodore to be exported and rebadged oversees, however it will be the last. Since the late 90s, Commodores have been exported overseas in various guises. From the Chevrolet Lumina in the Middle East and South Africa, to the Omega in Brazil as well as Vauxhall and Pontiac variants in the UK and US respectively, the Commodore has been rebadged significantly over the years. The Chevrolet SS in question struggled sales-wise in the US, with the lack of a manual option drawing much criticism amongst the very automotive enthusiasts the car was intended to target. A shame really, that the Americans never truly had the chance to appreciate one of Australia’s most loved cars. Nissan The Ute – Ford Falcon XF The Ute was one of the simplest rebadge’s you are ever likely to see, with everything from the indicator stalk mounted horn to the grill and steering unmistakably Ford. Even under the Nissan logo on the front grill was a Ford oval shaped space. The Nissan Ute was sold as a result of the model sharing scheme known as the Button plan in the mid-late 80’s. The idea of the plan was to rationalise the Australian automotive industry by inducing car manufacturers into sharing the platforms of key cars. Toyota Lexcen – VN Holden Commodore Another rebadged model as a result of the Button plan was the Toyota Lexcen, which was named after Ben Lexcen, the designer of the American Cup winning ‘Australia II’ and its innovative keel design. Kind of ironic that a rebadged car, with little innovative design features, was named after a man who designed one of the most iconic innovations in Australian sporting history, isn’t it? Anyhow, the Lexcen was better received by the Australian public when compared to the Nissan/Ford of above and the Holden/Toyota model sharing scheme would last until 1997. Differences were mostly limited to the grill, badges and some minor interior changes.   Toyota 86 – Subaru BR-Z – Scion FR-S Sold in Australia as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BR-Z, and in the US at one point as the Scion FR-S, this rear-wheel drive bundle of fun is one of the more popular modern day badge swaps. Featuring design work and product planning from Toyota and engineering and production from Subaru, the 86 was Toyotas attempt at re-entering the ‘drivers car’ market, whilst the BR-Z was Subaru’s attempt at creating a rear-wheel drive to complement its felt of all wheel drive options. With a four-cylinder engine that whilst zippy won’t set the world on fire, the ‘Toyobaru’ has become a favourite amongst sports car enthusiasts looking for a solid ‘bang for your buck’ option.   Do you own one of these rebadged cars? Or maybe you own another rebadged ‘classic’. Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section below

Mr Bean, McLarens, Minis and Movies – The Rowan Atkinson Car Collection

One of the most famous of all British actors’ Rowan Atkinson shot to fame in Blackadder, but of course is remembered most for his Mr Bean character, that formed the TV series and movie spin offs of the same name. The Mr Bean character left audiences around the world in ruptures thanks to the comedic brilliance and eccentric style of Atkinson. At the same time, the iconic yellow Mini that Mr Bean drove around complemented the character of Mr Bean perfectly, and who doesn’t love a Mini! In a world far away from the crazy world of Mr Bean, Rowan Atkinson is an avid car enthusiast and collector, owning many jaw-dropping, rare vehicles. Many enthusiasts may already be aware that for many years Atkinson owned an incredible McLaren F1, one that he purchased brand new in 1997 for 640,000 pounds. Not one to leave the McLaren as a museum piece in an air conditioned garage, Atkinson effectively drove the car as his ‘daily’ for many years, putting a huge number of miles on the car and was regularly spotted picking up groceries and attending events in the car. With so much driving, the chances of an accident increase and unfortunately, the poor McLaren was involved in two crashes during Atkinson’s nearly two decades of ownership. The second and far more serious accident occurred when Atkinson lost control on a high speed slippery bend, colliding with a tree. The impact was so severe that the engine of the McLaren was thrown 60ft from the car and left Atkinson with a broken shoulder. Luckily the McLaren was insured, because the repair bill was a massive 900,000 pounds (or around $1.5 million AU), becoming England’s highest ever single insurance pay out at the time. What was the annual insurance cost you may be asking? Apparently it went up to around $90,000 after the big crash! Atkinson ended up selling the McLaren in 2015 for the tiddly sum of 8,000,000 pounds (13 million AU!) Bargain! The McLaren was only a small piece of a bigger collection of classics.       An Aston Martin V8 Vantage Zagato is something of a rarity but Atkinson enjoyed stretching the legs of the British thoroughbred while in his ownership.       Mercedes Benz SLS with gull wing doors anyone?       Atkinson is a fan of Honda’s and although he also owns a Honda Civic Hybrid plug in model, the Honda NSX makes up for things and is a much nicer sight!     Atkinson is quite private so other rumoured cars in his possession are hard to confirm, but a Lancia Delta Integrale and an Audi A8 are among those believed to be in his stables. One thing you won’t see Atkinson buying is a Porsche! "I have a problem with Porsches. They're wonderful cars, but I know I could never live with one. Somehow, the typical Porsche people -- and I wish them no ill -- are not, I feel, my kind of people. I don't go around saying that Porsches are a pile of dung, but I do know that psychologically I couldn't handle owning one." he explained.

Wooden Wonders – The world of wood panelled cars

As automotive enthusiasts, there are a million and one things we love about cars. From exhilarating performance to their racing pedigree and history, there is a broad spectrum of things that appeal to us, but all of this is nothing without style. There have been a number of body styles over the years, some quirky and some more practical, but one of the most unique to appear in the automotive spectrum would be those with wood panels or “Woodies”. These vehicles were the example of outstanding craftsmanship and design flair and here we will take a brief look at the origins of the style and some of the cars that defined the movement. In the early days of engineless transport, wood was used in the construction of many horse drawn carts and carriages. These sound design elements naturally transferred across too many early motor vehicles, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that cars with wood become the desirable choice. It was Ford in 1929 with the Model A that claimed the title of the first mass produced Woodie, with more than half of the vehicles exterior being crafted with timber. Although the use of this material was a relatively common place at the time, advancements in steel stamping slowly pushed wood to be used more for styling than structure. The 1946-48 Chrysler Town and Country was one of the vehicles that adopted wooden styling and hit the nail on the head in terms of design. The station wagon was the first Woodie with an all-steel roof and featured wooden double doors (also called “Barrel Back” doors) and came in a four door sedan layout. The popular Chrysler Town and Country two door convertible was also offered and at the time was the most luxurious car on the market! The Packard Super Eight was produced pre-WWII and was one of the most luxurious of the time. The vehicle featured a 160HP straight eight engine, not to mention wooden doors and rear quarter panels. However, the Woodie movement was not without its ugly ducklings and this generally came in the form of “faux” wood made with vinyl trim which began plaguing cars from the 1970’s all the way to the 1990’s. Thankfully this trend never really caught on in Australia. When it comes to cars of a bygone era, its clear to see how outstanding design and creativity can stand the test of time. Although beautiful, we are pretty happy that manufactures steered away from termite-bait on wheels to more practical and durable materials. What do you think of these wooden wonders? Timeless beauties, or better left to rot? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments!

Licenced to Thrill – The world of Expensive Numberplates

Many of us work hard to try and obtain the car of our dreams, spending countless hours and cash to make them just right, but there is one side of the automotive spectrum that many consider the icing on the cake, the simple licence plate. Some care not for a customised rectangle, but for others, it’s what matters the most. Here we will take dip into the world of expensive number plates and see what all the hype (and cost!) is about. Many of us have heard the urban legends of certain plates selling for 6 figures but haven’t experienced it firsthand, yet there is an entire market place that exists beneath the surface which dedicated to unique, exclusive and desirable number plates. There are a few things that make up a sought-after plate, and these usually aren’t your high school nicknames (I’m talking to you “Smithy”). Things such as the model of a particular vehicle, such as 911 for a Porsche or GT-HO for a Falcon, easily add to the exclusivity of the plate. The value doesn’t lie in the material of the plate, but the bragging rights of finishing off a special car with its name sake.For those living the highlife, the digits game is the place to be. The general rule is the fewer digits on the plate, the greater its potential resale value is and case is in point would be the single digit 1. The Victorian plate was purchased from retired mechanic from Ballarat in 1984 for $165,000 and is now currently owned by the owner of Coles and Fosters Peter Bartels current value, estimated at a cool $2.5 million, not a bad investment by any means. Some other honourable mentions would be the purchase of a Dubai “D5” and “1” numberplates for $9 million and $14 million respectively. For many of us our pride and joy provides us with enjoyment and passion, but when passion goes to extremes, it’s not crazy to think that those with the cash would want to highlight it more. Do you have an awesome numberplate of your own? Ever sell a plate only to find out its worth a mint? Head over to the Rare Spares Facebook page and let us know in the comments section.