There is no such thing as coincidence, we are told. Bruno Vijverman (and a certain Mr. Cruyff) beg to differ.
Similarity in looks is a fact which has been associated with the car industry almost since the very beginning and has sparked many a discussion. The factors causing some cars to look alike either as a whole or in certain details are manifold and include:
Fashion trends, like the ‘jellybean’ aero styling that was so widely seen from the mid-eighties on.
Legislation dictating certain parameters, usually for the benefit of safety.
Mechanical configuration demands, causing so many mid-engined supercars to have interchangeable profiles.
A dominant styling signature of a certain designer shining through in different cars- Frua, Michelotti are examples among others.
Selling what is basically the same design to different clients; the BMC Farina cars and Peugeot 404 come to mind.
Babushka syndrome; cars from one manufacturer having a very similar look, differing only in size (you know who you are).
Plain copying or even – step forward China – unauthorised cloning.
All items on this non-exhaustive list have been covered at length in countless sources including these pages. However, there is another kind of similarity which is the reason for the title of this article, a quote from my famous compatriot Johan Cruyff.
What connects the reasons for similar looks mentioned above is that they all occur more or less in the same timeframe. However, sometimes one encounters styling aspects of cars that look amazingly similar but there is a substantial gap in time between their occurrence.
This would lead one to suspect that it is just a coincidence, but many believe coincidence does not exist, or that it is a logical outcome of events
if you subscribe to the Cruyff gospel.
There is no way to be sure of course. Yes, it may very well be simply the limited ways you can shape a c-pillar or a grille. Then again I believe (I should really say I hope they do but that is my personal opinion) that designers regularly leaf through books, visit classic car shows and browse the web on cars and their styling history for inspiration and either consciously or subconsciously re-use a styling detail that caught their eye.
Here are four examples of “coincidence”. See how they strike you.
That C-pillar and backlight look almost interchangeable, but there is a 21-year gap between them. When Buick introduced the Reatta, over three decades had passed since Buick’s previous ‘halo’ car, the 1953 Skylark. Perhaps the stylists consulted various publications for inspiration from the past and somehow this aspect of the Matra stuck? Then again, maybe Cruyff was right.
If today Ford introduced a concept car that was a modern-day reiteration of the 1966 Galaxie, the taillights used would be pretty much the ones fitted to the current Duster, wouldn’t they? In this case I feel reasonably confident stating that the designer in question encountered the rear of a 1966 Galaxie at some point and liked what he saw.
As mentioned earlier there are only so many ways that you can give shape to a C-pillar. Still, the similarity in curvature and even the framing (chrome on the Mercury of course, black and body colour on the Tigra) is almost uncanny. It could be just coincidence, but….
The hourglass shaped grille of both the Plymouth and Lexus indeed look similar. But perhaps the plethora of ever-larger and aggressive grilles initiated by Audi years ago made the Lexus designers go for an alternative shape in order to still have the de rigueur huge grille, but with a twist. Here we see coincidence at work I believe.