Building an expensive luxury- or supercar is not a cheap and easy process. The customers expect the very best of everything; the car has to be fast, reliable, look good, and so on, which is exactly why expensive cars feature some of the most incredible features, unobtainium materials, and bespoke parts.
So that's the reason why these cars are so expensive then, right? Well, no. That's only part of the reason. What people are actually paying for is exclusivity. In general, the more exclusive the car, i.e. the fewer models made, the more the manufacturer has to charge each buyer for their product. There are normal cars being offered with optional extras such as carbon fiber parts, performance upgrades, and leather and Alcantara upholstery for a much lower cost than the same things would cost for a luxury vehicle - because they are being sold in greater numbers.
Automakers frequently spend hundreds of millions of dollars to design and develop a brand new vehicle from scratch. On top of these development costs, there's the need for tools and configuring a manufacturing plant, training the workers, computer and robotics updates, and so on. All of this means that there will be times where the makers of exotic cars need to find parts or components from less exotic sources, sometimes for safety reasons, but most likely to cut costs.
With that in mind, let's take a closer look at some of the cars that have some low-budget parts in them.
25 Lotus Elise/Exige
The little Lotus looks stunning and it's one of the best handling cars out there. GM money paid for the Series 2 Elise, and part of the deal was that Lotus would develop a sports car for Vauxhall/Opel, which is why the Elise shared much with the VX220.
However, unlike the Esprit's engine, the engines for the Elise/Exige weren't developed by Lotus, in fact, they originally used the Rover K-series engines, which were first put into production in 1988. Later this was changed to a Toyota ZZ-series engine. Neither of the engines are bad, in fact, they perform brilliantly - but they were chosen with a budget in mind.
24 Pagani Zonda
The Pagani Zonda is one of the most extreme-looking supercars out there. It looks like every 12-year old boy's dream car, all that's missing are the machine guns and rocket launchers and it would be exactly like what I dreamt of owning back when I was a prepubescent kid.
Now, imagine finally being able to afford to buy this beauty - You get in the driver's seat, and as you reach towards the climate controls you realize you've seen it before. That's right!! It's the same climate control system as the one used in a Rover 45! Seriously Pagani, that's literally a cheap move. Oh, and the taillights are Hella 4169 - used on a bunch of different vehicles, including farm equipment and other supercars.
23 Lamborghini Diablo
Which Diablo do you prefer? The early models with the pop-up headlights or the 1998 revamp where the new owners, Audi, had decided on using regular headlights?
Those later headlights actually have a history that precedes the Diablo, so if you feel there's something familiar about them you're right.
Before the Diablo, they were used on the Nissan 300ZX - and that, boys and girls, is why I prefer the pop-up ones. There are some other cheap parts on the Diablo as well; Lambo uses Ford's pressure feedback sensor from the Tempo, the taillights are the same farm equipment Hella 4169s found on the Zonda, and the VT Roadster uses Alfa Romeo rear hood hinges.
22 Porsche 996
After nearly going bankrupt, Porsche had to rethink certain aspects of their business, and they received help from Toyota in doing so. The result is the Porsche 996, which was co-developed with the Boxster. These two cars saved the company, and they were built on a budget.
There are certain things about the early model 996s that just feels cheap, like the interior and other small details. What really bugged a lot of 911 enthusiasts was how the 996 was virtually identical to the Boxster from the dash to the nose. Both the interior and styling was changed for the 2nd generation 996.
21 Maybach 57 & 62
Luxury limousine makers Maybach Manufaktur made the Maybach 57 and Maybach 62 to compete with Rolls-Royce. They were amazing in every way, arguably even better than the highly successful Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Maybachs were powered by a slightly modified version of the Mercedes S600's twin-turbocharged V12, which also donated most of its interior.
The main issue with the Maybach was actually the use of Mercedes components. While not exactly cheap, customers could not justify the ludicrous price tag for what was in essence just an S600 wearing a nice dress. Poor sales combined with high costs resulted in a net loss of more than €300,000 for the company.
20 Aston Martin DB7
The Aston Martin DB7 would either make or break both the company and the designer. Luckily for both, it became a success. It was manufactured back when Ford owned Aston, as well as a considerable part of Mazda, so the DB7 borrowed quite a few parts from cheaper cars in the Ford empire.
The DB7 uses rear lights from a Mazda 323, and since they wanted chrome door handles, they took some from a Mazda 323 estate. The front turn signals came from another Mazda - the Miata. Interior door mirror switches were donated by a Ford Scorpio, and the door mirrors themselves came from... the Citroen CX.
19 MG X-Power SV
The most expensive production MG was something of a mongrel. The MG XPower SV was produced by MG Rover, manufactured in Modena, Italy, and finished at Longbridge, United Kingdom. It was based on the platform of the Qvale Mangusta, formerly the De Tomaso Biguà, and powered by an American 4.6L V8.
But where are the cheap parts? Like many other manufacturers, MG decided to use already existing units from other manufacturers, so the headlights are from a MkII Fiat Punto, and the taillights come from a Fiat Coupe.
18 Jaguar XJ220
With just 275 cars built in total, the 1992-94 XJ220 was one of the most exclusive Jaguars of all time, with its launch price of £470,000 reinforcing its supercar status. You'd think a price tag like that would mean everything was bespoke, but that's not the case.
The rear lights are from the R8-generation Rover 200, not exactly luxurious. The engine, while far from cheap when fitted in the XJ220, didn't exactly start out as something special. It's a turbocharged version of the V6 from the Austin Metro 6R4 rally car, and that engine was originally a Rover V8 where they cut off two cylinders - the Rover engine was originally from Buick.
17 Ascari KZ1
The KZ1 was made by Ascari Cars and takes its name from the initials of Ascari's owner Klaas Zwart, a wealthy Dutch businessman. The KZ1 made its debut at the 2005 Autosport International and had a price tag of £235,000. Each car required 340 hours of handcrafting by a team of 30 highly skilled craftsmen. Production was limited to 50 cars despite high demand making it one of the most exclusive sports cars produced.
With that price tag, you would think Ascari would have a little money left over to do some R&D for the headlights? Apparently, that wasn't the case. The KZ1 had its headlights sourced from the Peugeot 206, a cheap French hatchback.
16 Most TVRs
TVR has been searching through other manufactures containers for cheap parts for years.
The TVR Chimaeras have upside-down Mk3 Fiesta rear lights, Rover V8 engines, and the T5 gearbox used in Mustangs and Sierra Cosworths.
One of the most successful TVRs of the 90s was the Griffith, a model that combined sensational styling with raw power, and featured upgraded versions of the ex-Rover V8 in 4.0- and 5.0-liter forms – with up to 340hp. For motoring nerds, however, an even more interesting fact is that the Griffith’s rear lamps were upturned units from the MkIII Vauxhall Cavalier.
15 Noble M12
The Noble M12 coupe evolved through four versions of Noble cars, with the M400 being the ultimate version of the M12, with the GTO-3R coming in second. 220 Noble GTO-3Rs and M400s were imported to the U.S., the only Nobles available to the American market.
Noble M12's engine comes from humble beginnings, it's basically a turbocharged version of the Ford Mondeo's ST200 engine. In the M12 it produces a rather nice 350 horses, 150 more than when it was fitted in the Mondeo. The engine is not the only thing donated by the Mondeo though, the taillights were sourced from an older Mondeo.
14 Ultima GTR
The Ultima GTR is a supercar manufactured by Ultima Sports. It has a mid-engine configuration with rear-wheel drive and uses a tubular steel space frame chassis. It was the fastest car to go around the Top Gear Test Track, which says a lot.
It might be a bit unfair to put the Ultima GTR on this list, seeing as it was available both as a turnkey car and in kit form. The factory built cars were delivered with a Chevrolet small block V8, but kit builders were free to source and fit whatever engine they wanted - which has resulted in some customers using cheap, secondhand engines. Then again, it was made from GRP, and that's not very expensive either.
Venturi was founded in 1984, with a focus on competing in the "Grand Tourisme" market. As with all new sportscar manufacturers, Venturi was immediately faced with challenges, such as being unknown, under-capitalized, and under-staffed. In a situation like that, there has to be some cutting of corners.
The French Venturi supercar has parts taken from all kinds of cars. The original mid-’80s model had a Renault 25 Turbo engine, Renault Fuego windows, Citroën CX mirrors, Mercedes 190 windscreen wipers, Renault 5 front indicators, and BMW 3 Series rear lights. Not much produced in-house there.
12 Ford GT
The Ford GT cost $150,000 when new - these days, pristine, mint condition examples can be worth somewhere around $400,000 - who says cars aren't a great investment?!
If you dare to take a car worth that kind of money out on the roads, it would reward you with endless amounts of torque, great handling, and a lot of time to stretch your legs when you refill the gas tank every 20 minutes.
Ford did use some cheap parts borrowed from other models though. Most noticeably the switchgear, which seems to come straight out of a Ford Focus.
11 Alfa Romeo 4C
Another Italian car, another parts bin special. The Alfa Romeo 4C is a brilliant little car, built for sporty driving - which it really excels at - so we don't really care that it re-uses parts from cheaper cars.
The 4C has gotten its transmission from the Fiat 500 L, the taillights come from an Alfa MiTo, switches come from several other FCA cars, the aircon internals are taken from a Fiat 600 - with Fiat Punto controls, the radio is new - but cheap rubbish. The 4C's engine comes from the Giulietta, but has been redesigned and sleeved.
10 Dodge Viper RT/10
The first concept car and the early 400-horsepower 1992-'95 Viper RT/10s could almost be considered kit cars built from corporate parts-bin components. Some of the front end components were taken from the Dodge Dakota in order to keep the costs down.
Have you ever wondered why there are six lug nuts on the Viper's wheels? Well, wonder no more! The only hubs that were strong enough to handle the car's power when it was developed were those fitted to Dodge's pickup trucks, which use six-lug wheels and hubs.
9 Invicta S1
Invicta has been available intermittently through successive decades. Most recently, the name was revived for the Invicta S1 sports car produced between 2004 and 2012. The S1 featured a choice between a 4.6- or a supercharged 5.0-liter V8 - straight from Ford's Special Vehicle Team.
The prices for the Invicta S1 were about $156,000 to $236,000 US dollars, so it was fairly pricey - but they didn't spend a lot of money on the rear lights. The taillights were taken from the 2000 facelifted Passat, albeit swapping sides and turning them 90 degrees in the process. Sneaky!
8 Panther De Ville
The Panther De Ville was produced by Panther Westwinds from 1974 to 1985, it was conceived by Robert Jankel to appeal to the taste of nouveau riche customers. The four-door version had a list price higher than that of a contemporary Rolls-Royce, and only 60 Panther De Villes were ever sold.
Once you learn that the rear doors were actually Austin Maxi doors, the insane price tag seems rather ridiculous. Pay more than what a Rolls-Royce costs and they don't even make the doors themselves, they just recycle some units from one of the worst cars ever made. No wonder they didn't sell many.
7 Lotus Esprit
At its core, the Lotus Esprit is a British supercar built using Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s famous philosophy of “adding lightness.” The Esprit weighed less than 2,700 pounds, and with a 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 161 mph, it was fairly quick for a 90s car.
Low on cash for R&D, Lotus raided other manufacturer's parts bins. The taillights are shared with the Toyota AE86. Guess where the steering wheel comes from... It was from a Pontiac Firebird. Add to that a mix of Lucas, Bosch, Opel, and Renault components and the Esprit almost starts to look like a factory built kit car.
6 Aston Martin Virage
The Aston Martin Virage was Aston's flagship car for the ’90s. With its handcrafted body and sumptuous interior, it had every right to command a premium price - which it did. But there were some parts that didn't quite match the pedigree of the rest of the car.
The steering column came from General Motors, the dash switches were donated by Ford, the headlights were taken from an Audi 200, and the taillights are straight off the rear end of a VW Scirocco. None of that manages to make it any less desirable though.
5 McLaren F1
Now we're talking! The McLaren F1 is legendary for all the right reasons. It's insanely fast, stupendously expensive, and ridiculously rare and unique. What's unique about it you ask? For starters, the driving position is centered in the car, with two passenger seats behind it - And the engine bay is covered in gold to reflect heat from the V12. Oh, and it was the first ever car to be made fully from carbon fiber.
But, there are some budget parts used on the F1, which is weird considering all the fancy carbon fiber and gold. The mirrors are from a VW Corrado, and they do look good - it's just strange to think about, and even weirder are the taillights sourced from a Dutch Bova Futura bus.
4 Vintage Ferraris
Seeing as several of the Italian car manufacturers were in the Fiat Group, it's just natural that parts were shared. Ferrari, makers of the world's finest supercars, used to "borrow" heavily from Fiat's parts bins. While it might not sound like good news that your vintage Ferrari is built with parts from a grocery getter, it's actually a blessing in disguise.
If you're restoring a classic Ferrari you should definitely consider looking into which parts were shared with Fiat and Alfa Romeo, as they will cost just a fraction of what the identical "Ferrari" part will set you back. Most often it's things like hinges, door handles, interior switches, heater controls, various gaskets, etc...
3 Spectre R42
The Spectre R42 sold for £70,000, considering this was back in the mid-nineties, it was not exactly cheap. But lots of the parts and materials used to build it were indeed cheap.
The original plan was to build it with a carbon fiber body, but sometimes things don't turn out as planned and the R42 ended up with a body made from fiberglass - and it had poor fit and finish. That's not the only area Spectre decided to save some money though, the R42 borrowed parts from other cars as well.
The front turn signals came from a Toyota MR2, as did the door handles. A Honda Legend donated its taillights, and lots of the interior parts came from a Ford Fiesta.
2 Koenigsegg CC 8s
The crazy Koenigsegg CC 8S was developed from the Koenigsegg CC prototype and was the culmination of 8 years of research and development. The chassis, suspension, brakes, and several other components were designed in-house by Koenigsegg. The car had some cool and unique functions, such as the vertical opening doors and a roof which could be stored in the car's trunk located in the front - the Ferrari F50 and the Porsche Carrera GT lacked this feature.
Everything wasn't bespoke on the CC 8S though. The engine was a 4.7L Ford V8, which could also be found in a Taurus. It should be noted that Koenigsegg massaged some extra ponies out of that unit by running twin superchargers.
1 Any Maserati
Maserati is another car under the Fiat umbrella, or Fiat-Chrysler as it's known these days, so you can expect to find a lot of parts from cheaper cars in any of the exclusive Maserati models.
A while back there was a huge story about Maserati using Chrysler switchgear. Turned out the Maserati Ghibli had a bunch of Dodge Dart interior parts in it, meaning people were paying $80,000 for a luxury car but received equipment from a $19,000 compact sedan - and not very good equipment either. At least someone trading up from a Dart would feel right at home in the Maserati.
Sources: Top Gear, Car Throttle, Honest John