A good car can survive a dying brand, or sometimes one automaker’s trash is another one’s treasure. This has left the rare occurrence where a car doesn’t wear the badge of the company that developed it. Over the next few pages we’ve assembled a list of some of the most famous switcheroos, and a few that hopefully you never knew were left at the altar.
There are a few more examples out there, so feel free to add them in the comments section. Our top ten cars that were intended for another brand (in alphabetical order):
Aston Martin DB7
Jaguar is now readying the F-Type for production, but this car has been a long time coming. Jaguar’s E-Type (XKE) left production in 1974, and few thought that XJS was a proper successor. So Jag started out the 1980s developing a coupe and roadster that would be smaller, lighter, and nimbler than the grand touring XJS. The project was known as XJ41/XJ42, but the final cars were going to be given a name that let the public know it was a real Jaguar sports car: F-Type.
Unfortunately the project dragged along through the 1980s, and as the new F-Type looked ready for production, the competition had already surpassed it with more power or new technology. This sent the F-Type back into development, and by the time Ford bought Jaguar in 1989, they found a car that was overweight and over budget. The project was shelved.
But the F-Type was not finished. Ford’s buying spree in the late 1980s had also picked up Aston Martin, and the XJ41/XJ42 project that had become too large and costly for Jaguar could still find some use at Aston.
Although they were now corporate cousins, Jaguar did not just simply hand the XJ41/XJ42 project blueprints to Aston. The design was enlarged to fit on modified Jaguar XJS platform and restyled to look more like an Aston Martin.
Jaguar did finally get some indirect benefit from the XJ41/XJ42 as parts of the DB7’s platform were used to create the Jaguar XK8. So, in a somewhat ironic twist, the car that was designed to undercut the XJS became one that spawned two spin-offs of the XJS.
After WWII the four German car brands that made up Auto Union were down to one name: DKW. This was the marque that seemed best suited to produce the value-minded, two-stroke engine cars that Germans could afford while rebuilding after the war. DKW had some successful vehicles as well as some failures during the two decades after the WWII, but by the 1960s, the two-stroke motor had reached its limitations.
Auto Union was partnered with Daimler at the time, and they helped start development on a four-cylinder four-stroke motor. The new engine was originally destined for the replacement of DKW’s F102 sedan. The body of the F102 was given some new trim to go with the new 1.7-liter motor, and by September 1965 the DKW F103 was ready for its debut.
Executives at the company knew that the decades of the old fashioned two-stroke engines had irreversibly damaged DKW’s image in consumer’s minds. So before the DKW F103 was seen by the public, the name was swapped to simply “Audi”.
This is significant because this change not only marked the end of the DKW name, but also neither of the other two Auto Union names (Wanderer and Horch) were used again. The Audi of 1965 was so successful that there was no need for the other brands that made up the four-ring logo, and Audi would drop Auto Union from its corporate name within two decades.