Hooniverse Asks- What Foreign Car is the Most 'Merican'?

German engineering, Italian styling, Continental dimensions, you just can’t get more European than Volkswagen’s original generation of Golf, er Rabbit. That is until VW decided to build the car at their Westmoreland, PA assembly plant. Slapping the car together in the U.S. wasn’t enough, the company also had to redesign the taut Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned body of the Golf/Rabbit, as well as give its interior a Jersey Shore make over. The result was a car – all rectangular lights and awkward, heavy chrome grille surround – that VW thought would look More American.
Unfortunately for VW, it turned out that the people who were mostly buying their cars were those who thought American cars looked like ass and gravitated to the European iron specifically because they weren’t whorehouses on wheels. Needless to say, the Westmoreland plant lasted all of a decade, and today, the majority of VWs come from Mexico, while looking like they got ready for the dance in Der Vaterland.
That’s just one example of a car from afar that is intended to integrate into American automotive culture like a terrorist sleeper cell, or Ricky Gervais. There have also been fin-fendered Mercedes Benz 220s, Buick disguise-wearing Toyota Avalons, and the occasional Japanese station wagon with – god help me – faux woodgrain. All of these cars have been foisted on our shores in an attempt to fit in. Like high school kids trying to both blend in to the lemming drop off that is graduation, they wore the awkward clothes of our fashion-handicapped nation. The question is, which one was the most successful at visually assimilating?
Image source: [dubjah.org]

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81 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What Foreign Car is the Most 'Merican'?”

  1. west_coaster Avatar

    Gotta go with the Avalon. It isn't even sold outside North America.

    1. fhrblig Avatar

      I thought they still sold it as the 'Pronard' (really, Toyota?) in Japan, but I checked their website and it ain't there. I guess it was just the last generation Avalon.

  2. muthalovin Avatar

    Toyota Tundra.

    1. $kaycog Avatar

      I can't hear you!

      1. Alff Avatar

        Nissan Armada

  3. OA5599 Avatar

    This one Americanized after the fact, but this car was designed and built in England: from genuine English smoke:
    <img src="http://supercar.biz/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/AC-Ace-3.jpg"&gt;
    Many years later, this was designed in America and built in somebody's American garage from American components:
    <img src="http://www.car2.co/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/1964-Shelby-Cobra-green-fa-1280×960-lr.jpg&quot; width=500>

  4. P161911 Avatar

    Nissan Titan
    <img src="http://de.academic.ru/pictures/dewiki/50/2008_Nissan_Titan.jpg"width=500&gt;
    It out F-350s the F-150.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      +1 for the explanation.

  5. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Large, bad fuel economy, and bad reliability… <img src="http://princecars.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/The-All-New-Land-Rover-Discovery.jpg&quot; width= 500"">

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      Since when is "bad reliability" not a British trait?

      1. Syrax Avatar

        But this is the 'American" bad reliabilty, the one you think it won't be so bad only to painfully discover it is. The British bad reliability was well present in the Disco I and II, where you knew what you were getting into.

      2. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

        At the rate I'm replacing parts on the Jeep, it should have been British then.

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    <img src="http://images.hemmings.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/holden%20utes.jpg"&gt;
    I want to go to there. Seriously, though, Utes are so 'Murican, they, uh, whats a good American analogy? Fat, or something?

    1. ptschett Avatar

      My thoughts also went down under, but with a close relative of those cars.
      <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/20/2006-Pontiac-GTO.jpg/800px-2006-Pontiac-GTO.jpg&quot; width="500"/>

      1. ptschett Avatar

        Also (other than the steering wheel obviously being on the "wrong side"):
        <img src="http://image.musclemustangfastfords.com/f/9331712/0112mmfp_01z+1975_ford_falcon_xb_gt_351+left_front_view.jpg&quot; width="500"/>
        Image from Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords

      2. ptschett Avatar


  7. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    Volvo 262C. Supposedly inspired by the Lincoln Mark IV.
    <img src="http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2458/3894020681_fd4918c875.jpg"&gt;

    1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
      mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      If you are prepared to have your mind blown and world rocked, click on each of these…
      <img src="http://www.chooseyouritem.com/classics/photos/319500/319735.1940.Ford.Deluxe.Coupe.jpg&quot; width="424">1940 Ford Deluxe
      <img src=""http://media.popularmechanics.com/images/1955-chrysler-300-0708.jpg width="424">1955 Chrysler 300
      <img src="http://www.autozoeker.nl/img/tumb/05032709335179-0.jpg&quot; width="424">1978 Buick Century

      1. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
        mr. mzs zsm msz esq


  8. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    And, my "pretend it's Tuesday" answer:
    <img src="http://www.visordown.com/members/images/168663/Gallery/triumph_x-75_hurricane_02.jpg"&gt;

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Shouldn't that be a big chromed out V-Twin of some sort?

      1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
        Peter Tanshanomi

        Ah, but big, chromed-out V-twins are popular all over the world. The Hurricane was a traditionally British configuration redesigned to be uniquely American on every level from the high concept to the most minute detail, targeted specifically and solely at American riders. There were other attempts, of course: Moto Morini Excalibur, Ducati Indiana, Kawasaki 900 LTD, Moto Guzzi California…but the Hurricane was first, and none of the others were as successful or as iconic, had such a fascinating backstory, or jacked into the brain-stem of the American psyche so squarely and directly.
        <img src="http://www.motorcyclemuseum.org/Libraries/Riding_Street_Images/Vetterhurricane.sflb.ashx"&gt;

        1. Black Steelies Avatar

          Maybe it's the "Ah, but", but I have a feeling you were waiting for someone to ask that.

        2. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
          Slow Joe Crow

          I'll see your Triumph and raise you the Norton Commando High Rider, actually sold in the US for several years
          <img src="http://www.realclassic.co.uk/opinionfiles/opinion07060804.jpg"&gt;

          1. Alff Avatar

            Eek. It's the Schwinn StingRay of motorcycles.

  9. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
    Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

    Erich, zee customers are komplainink zat our car ist not fazt enough….vat shall ve do?

    1. Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr. Avatar
      Jennings R. Scroggs, Jr.

      Rudi, kalm down…AT VONCE! I haf zee zoulutions. Vee vill stuff und VeeAucht into zee car.
      <DIV style="OVERFLOW: auto"><img src="http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5084/5233218854_e7ff078756.jpg"&gt;
      Zen, vee vill go home und drink beer und eat bratwurst.

    2. Armand4 Avatar

      "Vell, Herr Uhlenhaut, I say ve pull ze inline-six out of ze 300SEL and put in ze V8 from ze 600. Ve von't call it ze 630SEL, just "6.3." It vill be like American muscle car, except mit nice interior und proper independent zuspension."
      "Sounds gut, Erich!"

      1. Black Steelies Avatar

        Ve vant ze mooney lebovski. Elze ve fucks you up, man!

  10. Syrax Avatar

    I don't think woodgrain was just an attempt to fit in as it was available in wagons that never hoped to make it to US too.
    <img src="http://images.forum-auto.com/mesimages/422689/nissan_cedric_wagon_15038.jpg"width="500"&gt;

    1. Black Steelies Avatar

      Looks like a flattened Caravan.

      1. Syrax Avatar


        1. Black Steelies Avatar
  11. skitter Avatar

    <img src="http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt237/jskitter/hooniverse/contisc3.jpg&quot; width="500">
    This narrowly edges the Chaika GAZ M13.

  12. P161911 Avatar

    This ZIL is NOT a Packard.
    <img src="http://www.blogcdn.com/www.luxist.com/media/2010/03/stalinlimo.jpg&quot; width="500/">
    There is still debate if this is a copy made with Packard's help or not.

    1. tonyola Avatar

      It's a ZIS, not a ZIL. The factory name (Zavod imeni Stalina) was changed to Zavod imeni Likhachova in 1956 after Khrushchev decided that his former boss and mentor wasn't really a very nice man after all. Although the Packard's-help debate continues, there is more of a consensus these days that the ZIS was reverse-engineered from an "acquired" early-'40s Packard 180.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      (knew I shoulda researched it better)

  13. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
    Peter Tanshanomi

    The RX30 Cressida coupe. very American sheetmetal.
    <img src="http://www.toyotaoldies.de/neue%20Bilder/X3-3.jpg"&gt;
    Oh, wait…

  14. citroen67 Avatar

    The Traction Avant!
    <img src="http://lotpro.com/blogphotos/Misc%20Article%20Images/Citroen%20Traction%20Avant.jpg"&gt;
    After all, it was designed with the help of American engineers…and a talented individual by the name of Jean Daninos…which you might remember from another little adventure that he was involved in called Facel-Vega.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      And what's more American than a Vega?

      1. citroen67 Avatar

        Indeed. Weighing nearly two tons, zero to sixty in just under a minute…they definitely pick up on some of the finer points of American pudge.

        1. facelvega Avatar

          A Facel II did 0-60 in 7.8 seconds and had a top speed around 150mph (Autocar, 3 August 1962), which in 1962 was seriously fast indeed, and actually considerably faster than, say, the Aston Martin DB4 Autocar had reviewed the previous year.
          Was it a hugely heavy car for the amount of space it offered? Sure. Also pretty flexible frame for the bulk and power as well. But it was also about as fast as you could get in its day.

          1. citroen67 Avatar

            Didn't really mean to strike a nerve. I guess sarcasm is hard to gauge on the Internetz…

          2. facelvega Avatar

            Look at my username, man, I've got a duty to perform here. But wait a minute, look at your username…

  15. SSurfer321 Avatar

    <img src="http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRoTrKfE-UZH-rMiRWQdkW3UEbWxkmozDffEqjJ6NIygyqR1cHV&quot; ,="" width="500/">
    According to Car and Driver, my F150 is assembled in America with 60% domestic parts; while the Toyota Camry is assembled in America with over 80% domestic parts.
    In order for a product to be considered a Domestic Product it must contain over 75% domestic parts.
    So apparently a Toyota Camry is more American than my F150…
    I has a sad 🙁

    1. muthalovin Avatar

      Man, that is mind boggling. Considering the Camry is considered domestic, I would be happy to claim my F150 an import.

    2. e325rkh Avatar

      To make matters worse, domestic includes Canada and Mexico. Much of the American (North American?) cars have parts and assembly in Canada or Mexico. Could it be that the F-150 is actually..CANADIAN?!?!

  16. LTDScott Avatar
    1. Alff Avatar

      Never has TRD badging been so appropriate.

      1. muthalovin Avatar
    2. Lotte Avatar

      Led to some pretty interesting parts, too:
      <img src="http://cache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/12/2008/07/medium_Toyota_GM.jpg&quot; width=350">

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      Quietly lusting aways after the Genesis coupe… It's just so awesome.

  17. tonyola Avatar

    Mazda 929 from the late '70s. Though not imported into the US, it's pure American Malaise – all it needs are big bumpers to perfect the illusion.
    I know I'm in the minority here on this, but I thought the styling changes for the 1981+ US-built Rabbit improved the looks of the car, with the rectangular lights, wraparound turn signals, and bigger taillights. These made the car look more unified and just a bit less stubby. I do, however, draw the line at the overly color-coordinated interiors.
    <img src="http://carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/1/3154/1961/7883480001_large.jpg"&gt;

  18. dragon951 Avatar

    My car when I drop in a 'vette LS1. Suck it 928, I have a 948 courtesy of Amurica!
    Or I will have…someday…

  19. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Hmmm…. <img src=http://t3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTWuo64k_v6ipAQ3lJ8qMrJ2K1grI7CYNG3I_WTp2035s3hJzi2sQ> or <img src=http://t0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQFGSLcmygxTM8RDSWfM_j_rNd2NoTu3qwiD41KoYdPcFvukIPj>

  20. facelvega Avatar

    Lately I've been admiring all the Horizon/Omni pictures we've been posting and thinking that it really was a crisp, sensible design after all, forgetting how junky I thought they were when my parents gave one to each of my siblings in a row as I was growing up. Then a couple of days ago, I saw one wheeze past me in front of the stoop of my brownstone in Brooklyn. Holy moly what a piece of junk.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      That a car designed as a crapbox in the 70's and which rolled off an assembly line in the 70's to mid 80's was still around to wheeze past your brownstone all these years later indicates it might not have been such a piece of junk after all. I never see Chevettes or Pintos on the road anymore, but I cross paths with a couple of Chrysler L-bodies each week.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        The Omni/Horizon were produced until late 1990. The Pinto had been out of production by nearly a decade at that point. I still see some Chevettes – they're crude but tough and hard to kill.

        1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
          Peter Tanshanomi

          A good friend of mine has a Chevette 4-door in reasonably cherry shape. I'll have to get some pics up as a feature.

        2. OA5599 Avatar

          Oops. I brainfarted and misremembered the end of production of turbo-equipped Omnis in 1986 as the end of the model.
          Chevette production was probably 3 times the numbers of Omnis made (I'm too lazy to do all the addition with Wikipedia data). I bet the numbers skew the other direction for counting the cars still on the road today.
          Still, I'd be quite happy with a low buck 500 CID Chevette:
          <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/ChevetteV8.JPG&quot; width=500>

    2. humblejanitor Avatar

      Definitely not a piece of junk, especially IF you take care of it.
      I miss the Horizons that my mother owned. They were decent little cars and of course, buying a Rabbit would have been out of the question as my father is strictly a Chrysler fan (though my mom now drives a 2010 Ford Focus).

  21. facelvega Avatar

    If the next thread is what cars are the least American, here's my early candidate with some sweet European flat cornering:
    <img src="http://images.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/10/citroen-ami6-in-curva.jpg"&gt;

  22. ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs Avatar
    ɹǝʌoɹ ǝБuɐɹʇs

    It's tough to beat the Camry and Avalon, but so far as cars actually built outside North America, I'd go with my 2007 Optima, built in Hwasung, South Korea. It's a big, boring car with floaty suspension and awesome cupholders. The only thing un-mericun about mine is that I snagged one of the exceedingly rare manual transmission models. Well, that and the fact that is has a cigarette lighter/ashtray. That's VERY Korean. Bonus points-this picture was taken at my work.
    <img src="http://images.usedcheapcars.org/used-kia/2007-kia-optima-lx-v6/112_0701_2007_coty_67z_2007_Kia_Optima_front-ucc.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. tonyola Avatar

      We got the Kia Amanti in the US, and it looked like a bad parody of US "luxury" styling with a hint of Jaguar thrown in.
      <img src="http://www.tomstrongman.com/RoadTests/Kia/Images/21Kia.jpg&quot; width=400>

  23. Whateverist Avatar

    May I present the DKW 1000sp:
    <img src="http://i.imgur.com/VrFha.jpg"&gt;
    I'M A THUNDERBIRD! Really I am!

    1. tonyola Avatar

      Simca got bitten by the T-bird bug too, though a little less blatantly.
      <img src="http://simcafacel.levillage.org/IMG/jpg/simca_dans_les_vosges_.jpg&quot; width=400>

  24. dwegmull Avatar

    It started as the SIMCA horizon. At that time SIMCA was Chrysler Europe. It is my understanding that the version sold in the US was re-engineered to match the production tooling available. As a result they look the same but have surprisingly few common parts… Once Chrysler pulled out of Europe, the Horizon lived for a while under the Talbot badge until Peugeot replaced most of the SIMCA designs with their own.

  25. Jim-Bob Avatar

    The interesting thing is that, if memory serves, the early Omnirizons used the same drivetrains as the VW Rabbit too as Chrysler had not yet tooled up to produce their own FWD powertrains yet. (Oddly, AMC also used VW SOHC l4's from the Porsche 924 in the 78-79 Gremlin, Spirit and Concord.)

  26. Jim-Bob Avatar

    How about the new VW Jetta? it isn't sold anywhere else and was designed just for the US market. All but the GLI have spongy, Buick-like suspensions and an overall lack of a quality feel. They don't do anything well but are supposed to be cheap (which they still aren't for what you get…)

  27. Jim-Bob Avatar

    another great nominee would be the Australian-only Leyland P76.
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/01/Leyland_P76_yellow.jpg/800px-Leyland_P76_yellow.jpg&quot; size=300>
    It was big, luxurious, and used a lot of gas with it's Rover-refined Buick V8.

  28. AlexiusG55 Avatar

    GM Europe and GM UK had an "American" phase- here's the Vauxhall Cresta PC
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Vauxhall_Cresta_PC_license_plate_1970.jpg/800px-Vauxhall_Cresta_PC_license_plate_1970.jpg&quot; width="500">

    1. tonyola Avatar

      Good point. Here'e the Opel Diplomat coupe – take away the rectangular headlights and you have pure 1965 American GM.
      <img src="http://pics.livejournal.com/tarrantry/pic/001x9xe0/s640x480&quot; width=400>

  29. mr. mzs zsm msz esq Avatar
    mr. mzs zsm msz esq


  30. rocketrodeo Avatar

    Don't get me wrong, I love the Hurricane and I wish I had picked one up while they were still affordable, before British enthusiasts repatriated most of them. But there wasn't much traditionally British about the Beezumphs. They were the first mass-produced multis and predated the Honda CB750s as superbikes by at least a few weeks. I worked at the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame when we accessioned the Craig Vetter collection that included the original Hurricane prototype that he designed, along with the Quicksilver concept and a truckload of fairings. Though you didn't caption him, I'm sure you're aware that's him in the pic above.
    I think it's the superbike itself that was an offshore response to American demand, and though they were certainly sold elsewhere it would be hard to consider the CB750s, KZ900s, and GS1000s as anything other than American-inspired. The Beezumphs hardly figured into those sales, because ultimately they didn't get quite an American-enough take on the superbike.

    1. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar
      Peter Tanshanomi

      By "traditionally British configuration" I meant that the engine was a vertical, pushrod, chain-primary, in-line motor (not a V-twin). Sure, it was a "new" (-ish) 3-cylinder superbike, but the design was little more than just 1-&-1/2 T100 500cc twins siamesed together. So its basic layout and many of the parts dated back to '59.
      You worked at the museum/HOF? Impressive. The AMA flew me up to the museum sometime around '95 or '96 to interview for an editorial position at AM. It started well enough but went downhill when they wanted me to do an editorial markup on a story draft. It was obvious by the time I left that I'd crashed and burned.

      1. rocketrodeo Avatar

        I was the assistant director of the Motorcycle Heritage Museum from '98 to '99, during its move from Westerville to Pickerington, when it became the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and Museum. Accessions and exhibits, loans and logistics. In some ways, I was a glorified shipping clerk. It may be just as well you didn't get that job. The place was a serious pressure cooker, and few people left of their own volition. The regimes have changed a couple times since then, but the institutional culture hasn't from what I've heard. I was swept out during the Youngblood purge, in the aftermath of the Edmondson lawsuit if you remember that mess. The director was fired a short time later. It seriously ticked me off at the time because it was the definition of a dream job, but it was the excuse I needed to do my grand tour. Put about 45,000 miles on my bike that year.

  31. 2stroke4life Avatar

    Mitsubishi Debonair