What Automotive Ripoff Is Better Than The Original?

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Sometimes a song cover is better than the original. Tracks like Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along The Watchtower,” Grace Mitchell’s “Maneater,” or Daddy Issues’ “Boys of Summer” (no, not the Ataris version) all improve on their source material in some way. Today, we ask: What’s the automotive equivalent?

Automakers and parts suppliers copy each other’s work all the time. Whenever an OEM rushes a car to market to meet a competitor, that’s a cover — and sometimes, that new model is better than the thing it’s built to compete against. Jalops, what automotive ripoff is better than the original?

We’re taking a broad view of the word “ripoff” here. The modern Ford Bronco’s unashamedly Wrangler-like design, the way the MG inspired the Miata — if you can make an argument for it, I’ll count it when rounding up your answers. But, my pick isn’t a car at all: It’s a wheel.


In Japanese tuner culture, few wheels are more immediately recognizable than the RS Watanabe. They’re popular on Miatas, BRZs, and even Initial D–replica AE86s — yes, Takumi drove on them too. “Slam it on Wats” is an established way to make JDM cars look cool, but few think about where the Watanabe design comes from: An earlier British wheel called the Minilite.

The Minilite may have come first — albeit, not by very much time — but the Watanabe is the wheel better recognized by fans of Japanese car culture. It’s a cover that sounds better than the original, but it’s not the only one.

What’s your pick for an automotive ripoff that’s better than the source material? Leave your answers below, and we’ll compile the best later this week. The more obscure, the better.

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