Rebadging is a common practice nowadays done by companies looking to fill in their lineups but who don't have the type of funding to make something of their own. Sometimes companies do it to offer something from a foreign country under a more familiar name, like GM did with a lot of Isuzu cars in the 90s.
Some of the rarest cars made came from this practice. Not all of them are good but most have an interesting story to go along with them and the specific trims that were offered to try and separate the model from the car it was based from.
Whole companies have been made off of rebadges, with Asuna and Geo coming to mind when GM rebadged Isuzu cars under a GM name. Eventually, Geo replaced Asuna, only to be discontinued in 1997. Sadly, throughout the beginning of the millenia, we lost Oldsmobile and Pontiac as they became nothing more than companies littered with rebadged GM products. I don't want to go on about GM, though, and not mention that Chrysler did the same in the 70s and 80s and that Ford has done it with both Mazda and Lincoln. We've even seen the loss of Mercury due to this practice, as well.
Sometimes, the rarest cars come from rebadging and have survived through the years. It's almost like a personal secret just how rare some of these cars really are. It doesn't always make them valuable but certainly makes them special to some people who are in the know.
25 Plymouth Conquest (Mitsubishi Starion) $9,750
Everyone more or less knows about the relationship Chrysler and Mitsubishi had in the 80s and throughout the 90s. From this, we received some of the coolest Chrysler products to come out since the late 1970s. One of these was a Mitsubishi Starion that was rebadged as the Dodge and Plymouth Conquest. The Plymouth became the rarer version, as it was offered only from a few years before Chrysler rebadged it as their own. Only 5,153 were made in the short span and were priced at just over $12,000 apiece back in the late 1980s. They haven't depreciated too much, especially the Turbo models which can fetch even more depending on condition.
24 Pontiac Grand Am 2+2 (Chevrolet Monte Carlo Aerocoupe) $13,500
This car was completely new to me when I saw a picture of it the other day on social media. Made for only one year was the 2+2 Aerocoupe that was really just a refaced, NASCAR-homologized Monte Carlo. The 2+2 was less powerful, heavier, and at $18,200, it was $2,000 more expensive than its Monte Carlo sister. The Pontiac wasn't very fast, with it's gearing more oriented towards top speed than acceleration. The 2+2 did the quarter mile in 17.7 seconds, while the Monte Carlo was 1 second faster. The one year wonder may have only produced just over a thousand examples but the prices for it have stayed low, making it more available to an endearing public.
23 Kia Vigato (Lotus Elan) $25,000
The Vigato was a rebadge of a rebadge. Lotus had first offered the Elan in the late 80s and ran it until 1995. Kia then took it over and built it as a Kia Elan for the market in Asia. It was sold as the Vigato, however, in Japan. The Vigato is the rarest of the bunch, with only a portion of the Kia Elans being rebadged as such. It sold for nearly $40,000 when brand new and has since retained over half of its value, making it an attainable Kia-powered Lotus for those who need more obscurity than any old 340R.
22 Aston Martin Cygnet (Toyota iQ) $42,800
The Cygnet was a product of convenience. The UK changed emission regulations and Aston Martin fell short of with its array of powerhouse cars including the V12 Vantage. But instead of creating something themselves, Aston Martin reached out to Toyota, who gave them the iQ. Aston Martin then replaced the front end with the Aston Martin grille and filled the interior with the Aston Martin charm. Priced at $50,000, the Cygnet wasn't priced to sell and it didn't, with only 300 examples produced over three years. Aston Martin, of course, was not leaving the Cygnet alone and put their true spin on the car, stuffing a V8 in between the narrow bodywork.
21 Chevrolet Nova Twin-Cam (Toyota Corolla) $3,475
Finally, this is one I've actually seen! The Nova was sold in the mid-80s (for just over $11,000) as a rebadged and facelifted Toyota Corolla (talk about a deviation away from form). The higher performance, 110-hp motor scooted the baby Nova to 60 in just shy of 10 seconds. The Nova was discontinued shortly after only 3,300 were made and it was replaced with the Geo Prizm, which got a GSi trim line that rivaled the Twin-Cam Nova. For a car that didn't last long and faded quietly into history, it's surprising to even see these still around, for sale even.
20 Asuna Sunfire (Isuzu Piazza) $11,900
Asuna was a GM brand in Canada that only lasted a few months before being dropped and replaced with the Geo brand. During this short stint, the Asuna brand sold rebadged Isuzus and Saabs, one of which being a rebadged Piazza that sold for just over $15,679. There are only guesses of how many where produced, and according to IsuzuPerformance.com's registry, only 38 are out there roaming the streets, owned by proud enthusiasts who own an insanely rare car.
19 Suzuki Cara (Mazda Autozam AZ-1) $18,150
The Autozam is known around the world for being a very cool and very unique car in the Kei-car genre. Some fans know that the small Mazda was powered by a Suzuki motor, bigger fans know that Suzuki made the car, as well, while the AZ-1 enthusiast knows about this little number, the Cara. Only 530 examples of this little mid-engined car were made. The Cara sells at about the same as the AZ-1 and most go for around $18,000 nowadays, though I fear the prices will only increase as time goes on.
18 Saab-Lancia 600 (Lancia Delta) $2,900
We love the Lancia Delta Integrale but an Integrale this is not. The Saab-Lancia 600 was a rebadged Delta that was brought to Sweden, Finland, and Norway after Saab helped Fiat in the “Type 4” project that yielded platforms for the Saab 9000, the Alfa Romeo 164, and the Lancia Thema. Since Saab was having troubles adding new models to their lineup, they looked to other companies that could provide what they lacked. Thus, the 600 came to be and went out slowly, with only 6,419 made over the course of two years.
17 Willys Interlagos Berlinetta (Renault-Alpine A108) $27,000
Another beloved rally icon has a sister that if you look really hard at, looks just as good and moves just as well. The little Willys Overland (yes, the very same company that's famous for the invention of the “Jeep” during WWII) had a body of the Alpine A108 with the heart of the same Renault 4CV that was tuned by Gordini. Depending on the source, either 744 or 822 Interlagos examples were made from 1962 to 1966. Originally sold for a base price of $2,000, they now go for around $27,000.
16 Plymouth Scamp (Dodge Rampage) $2,750
For the Mopar guys, no, this is most likely not the Scamp you were thinking of. In the mid-eighties, this very strange offering from Dodge appeared in the form of the Rampage. The tiny pickup was made to give opposition to the Chevy El Camino, whose sales at the time were also dwindling. From the Rampage came the even shorter-lived Plymouth Scamp pickup. The Scamp didn't sell well—much like the Rampage—because it was only taking a small market and making it smaller. Only 3,564 Scamps were made, each sold new for around $6,600 (give or take due to options).
15 Shelby CSX-VNT (Dodge Shadow) $6,875
Now we're getting really obscure (as if this list isn't filled with enough rarities). The Shelby CSX-VNT (Carroll Shelby eXperimental- Variable Nozzle Turbo) was a Dodge Shadow in a ballgown drinking some Jolt Cola. The turbocharged, 2.2-liter four-banger put down a respectable 175 horsepower through a five-speed transaxle and a suspension setup from the Shelby Daytona. The experimental bit comes in here and there, most notably on the rims, which were made out of what was called “Fiberide” which was basically fiberglass and plastic. The CSX-VNT examples were only made for a low production total of 500 cars (including 2 prototypes) and they were sold for almost $16,000 each (or around $32,000 today).
14 Dodge Omni 024 DeTomaso (Chrysler Omni) $2,850
The pre-Charger Omni 024 and its sister car, the Plymouth Horizon TC, had more interesting trims back in the day. The TC had the Turismo while the 024 had the more enticing DeTomaso trim. All this meant for buyers was DeTomaso designed trim, wheels, and decals; the motors were left unchanged. Through the two years, only 1,952 were made, each costing around $7,000 in 1980. The Omni 024 would slowly become the Charger in 1981, with the introduction of the Charger 2.2 package that came with the larger 2.2-liter motor.
13 GMC Sprint SP (Chevrolet El Camino SS) $15,000
The GMC Sprint was sold a year after the height of the muscle era, in 1970. Base models came with the 250ci inline-six, a 307 small-block, and the famous 350ci engine that went into everything at the time. The SP trim, however, received the big-boy 402 and the 454, which got discontinued in 1975. Only 782 SP trims were made from 1971 to 1977, when the Sprint was replaced with the Caballero, which continued until 1987 with its own performance package, the Diablo.
12 Pontiac Astre Formula (Chevrolet Vega) $14,500
Known as the “Baby Bird” for its decal design resembling that of the Firebird Formula, the Astre was a rebadged Vega sold by Pontiac for four years between 1973 and 1977. This rebadge spawned a couple of unique trim lines worth mentioning: the Formula seen here and the Lil' Wide Track, which is even rarer. The Formula trim was offered for the final year (in 1977) which included a handling package and some fast-looking body bits. Only 1,554 examples were made in the one year.
11 Pontiac Trans Am (Chevrolet Camaro) $45,000
The Trans Am is now a beloved muscle car from the era when muscle cars were struggling. The Trans Am has always been a Firebird trim since it was first introduced in 1969 and. though named after the Trans-Am racing series, the car couldn't compete, as the smallest engine offered still exceeded the SCCA's five-liter displacement limit, with the engine being a 6.6-liter V8 that could put down 500 horsepower when someone optioned for the Ram Air V. Only 705 Trans Ams were made in 1969 and they started at $3,667 for the base model.
9 Isuzu Impulse (Isuzu Piazza) $3,450
The Impulse is that one guilty pleasure of the car world that there isn't enough of today. The car may be more known for being the rebadged Geo Storm. The Impulse could be had in a couple of variations, including a Wagonback variant that perhaps is the rarest of the two. I couldn't seem to find any specific production numbers but from my research, I found that there are only around 2,300 registered today, making this oddball very rare but not necessarily valuable, as they can be found for around $3,500. Meanwhile, they originally could go for around $15,679 for the top-of-the-line Turbo.
8 BMW Dixi (Austin Seven) $29,000
Perhaps the first rebadging ever happened way back in 1928 when some old Austin Sevens were rebadged into the BMW Dixi. After WWI, the Treaty of Versailles limited airplane production in Germany, leaving BMW in a pinch. They expanded into farm equipment, motorcycles, and even office furniture. This wasn't enough and they needed something more. A small company named Dixi originally sold the car on their own but was still struggling. In 1928, they merged and the BMW Dixi was born. Only 150 were made that one year until the car was badged as a DA-1 3/15 and thereafter, 25,000 were made until 1931.
7 Lincoln Blackwood (Ford F-150) $15,500
The Lincoln Blackwood is known as the notorious fail of a Ford F-150 rebadge. For those who don't know, the Blackwood was sold for only one year (2002) and was discontinued due to bad sales after only 3,356 were made and sold that first year. The Lincoln was often criticized for being pointless, as the Blackwood didn't really have carrying capacity and the bedcover (along with the split rear tailgate) made the bed more of a big trunk. With a price tag of $52,500 for one of these back in 2002, it's no wonder it wasn't a big seller.
6 Bentley T-Series (Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow) $18,000
A little-remembered fact is that Rolls-Royce and Bentley are pretty much one and the same, as Rolls-Royce acquired the company in 1931. The sporting image Bentley was known for had not been tarnished since the takeover, but this model was perhaps the farthest deviation away from Bentley's usual. The T-Series was made from 1965 until 1980 and through its 15-year production run, only 2,280 were made and sold. Long since forgotten, the T-Series serves no purpose apart from being a more affordable Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow.
5 Vauxhall VXR220 (Opel Speedster Turbo) $23,000
The VX220 was just a rebadged Opel Speedster which, in turn, was just a re-bodied Lotus Elise. The VX220 enjoyed moderate success next to the Speedster and both of them received turbos in 2003. Towards the end of the run in 2005, the track-ready VXR220 was introduced and only a limited run of 60 or so was built. These track-melters can be found every now and again for about $23,000, a price that leaves the public with a conundrum. Hardtop Lotus Exige or roadster VXR220? Decisions decisions...
4 Daimler Super 8 (SWB) (Jaguar XK) $3,821
The Daimler Super 8 was a rebadged Jaguar XJ that came in two forms: the long wheelbase (LWB) version and the short wheelbase (SWB) version. The SWB was the rarer of the two, with only 76 made throughout its five-year run. A Super 8 can be had nowadays for about $4,000, though, which is far off from the original $90,000 price tag they came with when they were sold along with the Jaguar XK. It was a more prestigious, powerful, and luxurious option, as it was sold with a supercharged V8 and a plush leather interior.
3 Saab 9-5 Aero (Chevrolet Impala) $14,000
Saab was taken over by GM—this is not a new development but helps explain both why the 9-5 is essentially a rebadged Impala and also why Saab got into trouble, leading to their discontinuance. The 9-5 started off as an Impala that was sent to the factory in Sweden. What came out, however, wasn't even the same size as the Impala because Saab had changed it so much. The top-of-the-line Aero trim went for around $50,000, which hindered the final-generation 9-5 Aero to slow sales, leading to only 1,044 being made before Saab's closing.
2 Saab 9-3 Turbo X (Chevrolet Malibu) $9,500
Meant to both introduce the new XWD and to celebrate 30 years of using turbos in their cars, the 9-3 Turbo X is a rare beast in any market. Only 2,000 were made and only 600 were sent to the US, where they were sold for around $45,000 each. Being an anniversary model, the Turbo X only came in black. Of the 600 sent here to the States, only 122 were the SportCombi wagons. Of those, only 39 came with a manual transmission, easily making them the rarest of all.
1 Pontiac G8 GXP (Holden Commodore) $27,600
The G8 GXP is perhaps the true swan song for Pontiac, a company that is known for the “Goat” GTO and the “screaming chicken” Trans Am and that ended on a high note with what may have been a rebadge of the Holden Commodore from Australia. For $37,610, you could buy a G8 with a 6.2-liter Corvette V8 attached to a six-speed transmission and why did only 1,829 people get this incredible combination? Well, for those that missed the opportunity, they opted for the spiritual successor, the Chevrolet SS.
Sources: Jalopnik, Road & Track, VWVortex, Hemmings, and NADAguides.