Sometimes things are better with a partner – but not always.
Over the years there have been collaborations between car brands and third parties that have produced some landmark machines. But things don’t always go to plan, and sometimes pooling resources leads to disaster. These 25 automotive collaborations prove that it can be better with two (or even three) – but you can’t always count on it. Let’s start with the successes:
THE GOOD - AC and Shelby
The AC Ace was a gentleman's sports car, powered by a 2.2 or 2.6-litre straight-six engine for decent (rather than indecent) performance. Then Carroll Shelby got his hands on one and fitted a 4.2-litre (260ci) Ford V8, later uprated to a 4.7-litre (289ci) unit to create the Cobra. Then things got really serious and a 7-litre (427ci) V8 was shoehorned into the engine bay and the car became a complete animal.
Alpine and Renault
Alpine is now just a division of Renault, but when Jean Rédélé set up the company in 1955 to build sports cars with Renault running gear, his company was entirely independent. He worked with Renault to produce a run of greats including the original A110 (pictured), but developing the A310 in the early 1970s almost bankrupted Rédélé’s company and Renault took a 70% stake to stop him going under. Still, the cars were great.
Aston Martin and Zagato
It's the gift that keeps on giving; we've recently had Zagato variations on a spate of different themes including the Vanquish (pictured), V12 Vantage and DB9. Before that we had the Aston Martin DB7 and V8 Vantage, but it all started with the DB4 GT back in 1960. Just 19 were built and now they're the holy grail of classic car collectors.
Audi and Porsche
Produced for just over a year, the RS2 Avant was the first RS model to come from Audi – and what an opening salvo it was. It may have packed a mere 2.2-litre five-pot engine, but thanks to a turbocharger there was 311bhp on tap which was enough to take the car to over 160mph. All of the near-3000 RS2s built also came with a six-speed manual gearbox and quattro four-wheel drive.
BMC and Cooper
When Alec Issigonis designed the Mini his intention was to create something that put economy first – there were never supposed to be any sporting pretensions. Then John Cooper approached BMC with a view to working together and while Issigonis initially resisted, the Mini Cooper arrived in 1961, with the Cooper S appearing two years later. The car went on to be a massive success in the showroom as well as in rallying and circuit racing.
BMW and Alpina
Alpina has always taken great BMWs and made them even better, but since 1983 the company has been recognised as a car manufacturer in its own right, rather than merely a tuner. It all started in 1962 when Alpina founder Burkard Bovensiepen developed a Weber fuel system for the BMW 1500, which the factory rather liked. Cars with this modification retained their BMW guarantee and the relationship blossomed from there. PICTURED: BMW Alpina 3.0 CSL (1974)
British Leyland and Honda
When British Leyland/Austin Rover teamed up with Honda it seemed that maybe the company had finally turned things round; instead it transpired that the partnership merely delayed the inevitable. For a while it was great though, the first fruit being a rebadged Honda Ballade which would prove to be Triumph's swansong in the form of the Acclaim. Later we got the 200, 400, 600 and 800 series, but after a series of ownership changes it all was ultimately for nought.
Citroen, Peugeot and Toyota
The cost of developing an all-new car is stratospheric, and the smaller the car the smaller the profits. So when PSA and Toyota wanted to produce a new city car at the start of the 21st century it made sense for the two companies to work together. The result was a brilliantly affordable small car that survived for almost a decade, available as a Citroen C1 (pictured), Peugeot 107 and Toyota Aygo.
Fiat and Mazda
Car makers are collaborating more and more, to share the development costs of new models. One of the most recent joint ventures is between Fiat and Mazda which has produced the 124 Spider (pictured) and MX-5 respectively. It was a good move for Fiat, which needed to inject some brio into its range – but while the 124 Spider makes a great halo model, we’d take the MX-5 over it every time.
Ford and Cosworth
Ford bought British firm Cosworth Racing in 1998, but the relationship started in the early 1960s when Cosworth designed the camshaft and manifold for the Cortina GT. In 1965 Ford commissioned Cosworth to create a new F1 engine; the result was the V8 DFV which was unveiled in 1967 and went on to become the most successful F1 engine of all time. For road car fans the pinnacle came in 1986 however, with the introduction of the bespoilered Cosworth Sierra (pictured), which was succeeded by the Escort in 1992.
Ford and Lotus
In the UK, one of the most high-profile 1960s automotive joint ventures was between Ford and Lotus, which resulted in the Lotus Cortina. This hot two-door saloon featured a twin-cam 1558cc four-pot rated at just 105bhp – but it turned the lightweight Cortina into a giant killer. The Lotus Cortina proved such a hit that a Mk2 edition followed, now called the Cortina Lotus.
Ford and Shelby
Carroll Shelby had the Midas touch in the 1960s – everything he touched turned to gold. He created the AC Cobra, Sunbeam Tiger and this – the Mustang GT350 (or the Shelby GT350 from 1966) with its 306bhp 4.7-litre V8. Later came the GT500 with a 7.0-litre V8, but by 1969 it was all over. Ford revived the Shelby Mustang in 2005 though and the model is still available in 2018.
Innocenti and De Tomaso
We love left-field classics and you don't get much more left-field than this. Innocenti offered its own version of the classic Mini, designed by Bertone and launched in 1974. At first power came from a Mini-sourced A-series engine but from 1982 a three-cylinder Daihatsu engine was fitted. De Tomaso offered hotter versions of both Mini (pictured) and Daihatsu editions, including a turbocharged version of the latter.
Jaguar and TWR
Scotsman Tom Walkinshaw founded his own racing team and engineering company in 1976; within six years he had developed Jaguar's XJS for the European Touring Car Championship. Later on would come Le Mans cars plus a heated up XJ220, along with some rather glorious XJS road cars including the 6.0-litre XJR-S (pictured).
Mercedes and Porsche
The W124 is one of the greatest Mercedes models ever and top of the W124 tree is the 500E (from 1994 the E500) that was created in conjunction with fellow Stuttgart firm Porsche. Packing a 4973cc V8 as seen in the contemporary SL, more than 10,000 of these 322bhp super saloons were built between 1990 and 1995, by the same people who built the Audi RS2.
Renault and Gordini
Although Amedée Gordini raced and tuned cars in the 1930s, it wouldn't be until 1957 that he first worked with Renault, the first fruit of which was a heated up Dauphine. In 1962 the first Gordini-tuned Renaults took part in the Le Mans 24 Hours then two years later came the all-time Renault-Gordini great, the R8 (pictured). Later we'd also get the 12 and the 17, the latter being killed off in 1978. Renault dusted down the Gordini brand in 2010, for hot versions of the Twingo and Clio, but by now Gordini was little more than a badge.
Rootes and Shelby
The Sunbeam Alpine looked great, but with its 1.6-litre engine the performance was rather lacklustre - especially in the US market where a bit more muscle was required. Sunbeam was part of the Rootes Group and Ian Garrad, Rootes’ US West Coast manager, realised there was an opportunity to spice things up a bit. He approached Carroll Shelby who repeated his AC Cobra trick, shoehorned a 4.2-litre V8 into the nose and voila! An Alpine that was rather more swift, and now called the Tiger.
Subaru and Toyota
This collaboration seems rather one-sided because while both the Subaru BRZ (pictured) and Toyota GT86 are brilliant to drive, it's the latter that gets all of the coverage and most of the sales. That's despite the BRZ being cheaper and better value - and it was also Subaru that did most of the development work. We ran a BRZ for six months and loved it.
Vauxhall and Brabham
While Vauxhall's work with Lotus is widely remembered, its collaboration with Australian Formula One champion Jack Brabham (pictured) is now largely forgotten - probably because it was for a single project back in the 1960s. Launched in 1967 and canned in 1968, just a handful of Brabham HB Vivas were built, each with twin carbs plus a straight-through exhaust with an improved manifold - enough to give a whopping 9bhp boost.
Vauxhall and Lotus
The Lotus-powered Vauxhall Carlton was a 377bhp, 177mph super saloon that was so fast and powerful that it upset some newspapers. For some reason, it was fine for Ferrari and co to make fast cars, but not a mainstream company. There were many positives about this car, which could transport a family and its luggage at warp speed across continents.
Volkswagen, Ghia and Karmann
Why stick with one partner when you can have two? This particular menage a trois involved Volkswagen, which in the early 1950s was producing the Beetle and the Transporter. It wanted a more upmarket model to sell and approached Karmann which in turn got Ghia to come up with a design. The result was a car based on the Beetle's floorpan and running gear, styled by Ghia, built by Karmann and sold through VW dealerships. More than half a million were built between 1955 and 1974.
THE BAD - Chrysler and Maserati
The 1980s wasn't a great period for Chrysler and it was pretty dire for Maserati too. So when the two collaborated on a luxury convertible the outcome wasn't likely to be an all-time great. And so it wasn't, because the Chrysler TC by Maserati was lambasted by all who reviewed it. Poorly built, lacking in power and overpriced, just 7300 were built in a three-year production run; Chrysler had initially hoped to sell up to 10,000 of them each year.
Lancia and Ferrari
The V8-powered Lancia Thema 8.32 made pretty much no sense as it was nose-heavy and no faster than the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot - but what a glorious anachronism. It wasn't the first time that Lancia had borrowed one of Ferrari's engines though, as the Stratos shared the Dino's V6.
Mitsubishi and Volvo
You'd be hard pressed to successfully argue that any of the cars that resulted from Mitsubishi and Volvo working together were landmark cars. We got the most inappropriately named Carisma (pictured), the 440 and 460 plus the original S40 and V40, all as lacklustre as each other. The collaboration produced Volvo’s first front-wheel drive cars but they were utterly forgettable aside from the quirky 480 ES.
THE UGLY - Alfa Romeo and Nissan
Is this early 1980s collaboration the most disastrous? The marriage produced two children: the Alfa Romeo ARNA (Alfa Romeo Nissan Autoveicoli) and the Nissan Cherry Europe, both of which proved a disaster for their respective makers. This reheated Nissan Cherry used Alfa boxer engines and a mixture of Alfasud and Cherry suspension with Italian electrics. Italian car fans saw it as Japanese so they shunned it, while Japanese car fans saw it as Italian so they gave it a wide berth too. The project was a complete disaster from start to finish.