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No matter how hard we try to ignore it, there’s a voice inside every petrolhead that can’t help but broadcast every time we see a mass-market part reused somewhere more exotic.
Remember the last time you saw that Morris Marina doorhandle or Citroën CX side mirror anywhere other than on its parent model? Recall the irrepressible force that made you blurt it out to all within earshot? Well, warn your loved ones now, as we sum up 20 of the most visible – or not so – repurposed parts on performance machines.
1. Aston Martin Virage
Aston Martin was in a very tight financial spot in the late 1980s. Its new Virage marked the baton passing from the firm being privately owned to being newly acquired by the Ford Motor Company AML. Beyond that, the Virage was essential for Newport Pagnell to finally retire its ancient V8 – it had been in production since 1977.
Despite FoMoCo taking a stake in Aston Martin late in the Virage’s development (1987), it still held sway – mainly with the switchgear. The development heavy lifting, however, was placed on the shoulders of cash-strapped Victor Gauntlett (Aston’s former owner).
That’s why the peripheral parts for the Virage, like lights, came from Audi (fronts) and Volkswagen (rears) – 200 and Scirocco items respectively.
2. Lotus Esprit V8
How could we possibly run down a list of shared car parts without making mention of the most prolific pillager and pillaged respectively: Lotus and Citroën. The former borrowed parts from other makers since its founding, Colin Chapman famously making his original Lotus from an Austin Seven.
The most plundered of all parts bins, especially in the modern era, is that of Citroën. It’s provided many mirrors to low-volume makers and yes, one of those was Lotus. The Esprit had several different reflective side appendages over the years, but finally settled on the second-generation Citroën CX’s.
Hethel wasn’t alone here, either, with many marques including Marcos, Jaguar and Aston Martin, as well as home-grown French firms Venturi and Renault, all caught with their hands in the CX’s cookie jar.
3. Lamborghini Diablo
Lamborghini probably wasn’t threatened by the cut-price Nissan 300ZX coupé’s ability to top 155mph and hit 60 in just 5.6 secs, though it did like its ability to light the road at night.
That’s right, the front-facing lights on facelifted Diablos are the same as those fitted to the Nissan 300ZX.
The name over the door at Sant’Agata changed to Audi by the late ’90s and so the expensive-to-produce and retro-looking pop-up lights of the early Diablo made way for the Nissan units, under sleek new covers. Apparently, Lamborghini engineers even placed extra carbon trim in the unit to hide the Nissan part stamp.
4. McLaren F1
Effectively the polar opposite of a ‘people’s car’, the McLaren F1 nevertheless shares something with a Volkswagen. The ultimate expression of supercar excess deploys the same side mirrors as the VW Corrado.
When looking for an attractive, yet suitably aerodynamic, mirror for Gordon Murray’s magnum opus, McLaren engineers turned to the posh new three-door Volkswagen.
VW was happy to oblige, of course. Though it wasn’t to last, because only early F1s have Corrado mirrors. Post-’95, with the end of Corrado production, McLaren reverted to our old favourite mirror from the second-generation Citroën CX.
5. TVR Griffith
The TVR Griffith was a fantastic sports car, in the traditional British mould. It was small, looked and sounded great, and went beautifully.
There were very few complaints, especially in the styling department, where some clever bod managed to integrate the rear light clusters from the most unlikely of sources: a third-generation Vauxhall Cavalier. They were simply inverted.
6. TVR Cerbera
Once again, just as it had done with Vauxhall, TVR showed its expertise for repurposing Ford parts in 1996 when it grafted the Mk3 Fiesta’s rear light clusters onto the delightfully maniacal Cerbera. A body moulding around these items tried to throw us off the scent, but most were far too wily.
Later in production, the rear lights were changed once again, this time for some with more military provenance. Post-2000 facelift Cerberas ditched the Fiesta lamps and went for a quad-light layout with individual lenses shared with military Land Rovers. The front end got a similar treatment, updating things rather effectively in the process.
7. Pagani Zonda
Spoiler alert for Rover fans coming up... Those climate controls you thought came from your 45 and were repurposed for the Pagani Zonda... it’s the other way around (ish).
After some research, it turns out this part was manufactured by Italian electronics firm Bitron for Delphi Diavia, which is why these off-the-shelf climate-control parts are seen on Lamborghinis as well. Sadly, the myth of Rover getting there first seems to have entered automotive folklore. The facelift 45 (where this control unit is found) arrived in 2004, the first Zonda landed in 1999 – that was a big clue...
The Zonda could also be on this list for its engine – a heavily AMG-modified version of the same block found in the Mercedes-Benz S600.
8. Jaguar XJ220
The ‘Saturday Club’ was a group of a dozen Jaguar engineers, led by professor Jim Randle, who gave up their own time (hence the name) to produce a prototype supercar that would wow the world.
This four-wheel-drive labour of love had the drivetrain from the firm’s successful Group C race cars and was styled by Keith Helfet.
Infamously, the XJ220 caused such a stir that this one-off proof of concept was green lit for limited production in 1989 – though significantly altered after an extensive feasibility study.
One part of that process was sourcing lighting from mainstream manufacturers, including the Rover Group. Which is why the XJ220’s rear lenses, mildly disguised behind grilles, came from the Rover 200 ‘R8’.
9. Aston Martin DB7
With 1993’s arrival of the DB7 – thanks largely to a great big dollop of cash from new owners Ford – Newport Pagnell finally had a modern GT with which to court the world’s wealthy.
The DB7 was penned by design duo Keith Helfet and Ian Callum, and its influence would go on to shape a generation of subsequent Astons.
Ford’s acquisition of Jaguar in 1989 meant that plenty of the underpinnings for the new Aston actually came from Coventry, but a few parts didn’t... With a near-30-percent share in Mazda, Ford also had access to the Hiroshima firm’s parts bin – which is where the DB7’s doorhandles and rear-light lenses were sourced.
10. Dodge Viper
Chrysler had owned shares in Mitsubishi as far back as 1970. The two companies became a lot closer by the mid-1980s and, a decade later, the Japanese firm was selling its GTO (3000GT) through Dodge dealerships.
But this co-operation also gave Chrysler access to the Mitsubishi parts catalogue. That’s why, if you look closely, you’ll notice a striking similarity between the side mirrors on the 3000GT and early Dodge Viper.
That’s pretty much all these two performance cars share, however. The Viper is a blunt instrument with tech any 1960s muscle car enthusiast will find familiar, whereas the Mitsubishi still manages to field advanced features all these years later.
11. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
Ford’s reliance on its old 5.0-litre (302cu in) V8 for everything from its performance derivatives to the Crown Victoria – even its luxury Lincoln Town Car – ended in 1993 with the arrival of a new four-valve engine. Christened the ‘Modular’ V8, this 32-valve version found its first home in the Lincoln MkVIII, but there would be many more.
Its technical achievements led to an easy 300bhp and its maker’s invention of the mass-production method meant there was certainly no shortage of them. Which is why you’ll find the Modular V8 in a number of far more exotic engine bays.
The SVT Cobra was a good ol’ slice of American muscle with the looks, soundtrack and power to appeal to the blue-collar enthusiast in all of us.
12. MG XPower SV
Another home for that Ford Modular engine was in the frankly mad MG XPower SV. When its parent firm should have been more concerned with keeping the creditors happy, it instead decided to make an ostentatious two-door performance coupé. Good on them, too!
The Peter Stevens-penned SV used the platform from the Qvale Mangusta after MG Rover’s Phoenix Four had bought the firm in 2001.
The MG XPower SV was designed to be a halo model that would rekindle some of the firm’s lost performance pedigree. Sadly it would prove to be too little, too late.
13. Koenigsegg CC8S
A V8 isn’t something you can just engineer in a hurry and on the cheap. That’s why low-volume manufacturers ship in powerplants from elsewhere.
The Ford Modular V8 engine’s inherent strength – capable of outputs in excess of 800bhp – reliability and relative simplicity made it especially attractive to Marcos, MG and Koenigsegg.
Though the latter would replace it with its own powerplant, it was a supercharged version of the Modular V8 that allowed the CC8S to hit 60mph in 3.5 secs and reach 240mph.
14. Venturi 400 GT
Starting life in 1984, Ventury (not a typo) displayed a GT prototype at the Paris motor show. Essentially a spaceframe chassis with Peugeot 205 suspension and a VW Golf GTI engine, it did its job of grabbing attention and, by the following year, founders Gérard Godfroy and Claude Poiraud were joined by future Venturi MD, and fundraiser extraordinaire, Hervé Boulan.
Fast forward a decade and Venturi had its own GT championship, while also producing low-volume track-focused sports cars and arguably developing its apex model.
The 400 GT – France’s fastest production car when launched in 1994 – had plenty of speed, but for its driver to see the road ahead in the wet, Venturi lifted the Mercedes-Benz W201 190’s streamlined single windscreen wiper.
15. Lotus Elite (Type 75)
The second – but not last – entry for Lotus in this list is the Elite. In truth, we could have chosen almost any model that rolled out of Hethel in the 1970s and ’80s, because we’re talking doorhandles. More specifically, those pillaged from the Morris Marina.
There were an awful lot of bad decisions made by the Marina’s engineers, but not these. When the Marina came out in 1971, they caused a bit of a stir and were hands-down the most advanced thing about the car. Only Italian exotics at the time had anything resembling these flush-fitting fixtures.
We’ve chosen the Elite because it made use of these forward-looking handles, but they also saw service on the Esprit, Éclat and Excel.
16. Marcos Mantis
The most powerful Marcos model ever produced arrived in 1998 with its 506bhp supercharged grunt coming from, you guessed it, Ford’s Modular V8. The late-’90s Mantis – not to be confused with the 1970s eye-sore M70 Mantis – was a whole new thing.
The famous British racing marque had dabbled with road cars for decades, but mainly as an off-shoot from racing. The new Mantis was a road car that also went racing, an important differentiation.
It was better made, cost a lot more, and could spring to 60mph in 3.7 secs and nearly top 180mph.
17. Lotus Elise S1
We told you there’d be a lot from Lotus – and this is the last.
The majority of the S1 Lotus Elise was bespoke, including its clever extruded alloy chassis and pedal set-up. For the major components, Lotus had to cut a few corners.
There wasn’t an engine in-house that would do the new featherweight sports car justice, so the light and powerful Rover K-Series was selected.
The Rover unit was designed to be considerably fruitier than former Longbridge fare and with the 1.8-litre variant weighing as little as 78kg – while making 118bhp – it was ideal for the new featherweight Lotus.
In fact, it’s safe to say that the engine really found its natural home in the Elise – its high-revving nature was utterly lost on all those grannies who had one in their Rover 25s.
18. Porsche 911 (996)
Today, it’s easy to forget that Porsche was facing a buyout in the 1990s. The recession bust that followed the ’80s boom hit the Stuttgart firm very hard indeed. That’s why, by the mid-’90s, a new, entry-level model was needed.
The Boxster was the right car at the right time and it’s no exaggeration to say it saved Porsche. In terms of parts bins, Porsche’s is a pretty plush one, but that didn’t stop a whole host of its traditional customers moaning when the ‘new’ 911 996 emerged looking strangely familiar.
The front end of the Boxster was largely recycled for the first-generation 996 – and it was far from the least noticeable repurposing exercise.
Not that it mattered to anyone other than brand snobs, because the Boxster 986 and 911 996 drove totally differently, yet both were fabulous steers.
19. Noble M600
If you’re searching for a highly strung, massive-output supercar engine, you turn to Volvo, right? Well, traditionally no, but that didn’t stop Noble.
The low-volume British car maker had done its homework and knew that the 4.4-litre V8, fitted to Volvo’s XC90 and second-gen S80, was built by Yamaha.
Noble obviously didn’t leave the engine in stock form, in fact, it employed a third party to custom build the units with stronger internals to cope with the pair of Garrett turbos, providing prodigious amounts of air.
The end result was an engine with up to 650bhp that allowed this 1300kg ballistic missile to hit 60mph in 3.5 secs and reach an astonishing 225mph.
20. Spyker C8
Dutch firm Spyker was another marque in need of a power unit that provided the kind of performance to back up its wild looks – plus give a suitable sports-car soundtrack. And it turned to Audi for the C8’s motive power.
The 4.2-litre V8 served well in a number of Ingolstadt’s performance saloons, not least of which was its BMW-baiting Audi S6 (C5).
Spyker used the Audi block until 2018, when it wandered towards Koenigsegg, though that deal fell through and Audi was happy to oblige once again.