The Top 10 Automotive Rivalries of All Time

There’s nothing like a good rivalry to get a lively debate going. However, allegiances are seldom swapped, regardless of how compelling the arguments that are made may be. Fans of X don’t like Y or its fans, and vice versa.

Two areas in which this is eminently evident are cars and sports. Most guys (and a good many gals) have their favorite automakers and their favorite teams. Rare is the devotee of one that gets along with the devotee of another, and in many cases the companies and teams themselves can’t stand each other. So in honor of that big rugby match (or whatever the hell it is) taking place in Indianapolis this Sunday, we’ve cooked up the following list of what we feel are the 10 fiercest rivalries in the motoring world. Some are between individual models, and others are between entire marques, but all defy neutrality.

Porsche vs. Ferrari

Porsche 917 vs. Ferrari 512S

As sports car companies go, you couldn’t really ask for much more different philosophies than the ones that govern Porsche and Ferrari. The former maintains some ties to the past through cars like the 911 and Boxster, but keeps most of its focus on the 21st century by way of the Cayenne and Panamera, as well as offering diesel and hybrid models. The latter, on the other hand, refuses to risk tainting its legacy by offering a sedan or SUV, and places style and passion ahead of beaucoup engineering and practicality. But despite all their differences, both are firmly committed to motorsports, and both face each other in multiple endurance racing series worldwide to this day.

Ford vs. Holden

HSV Commodore vs. FPV Falcon

If the PorscheFerrari rivalry burns with the intensity of a thousand suns, the HoldenFord (the former being GM’s Australian subsidiary) rivalry incinerates its surroundings with the ferociousness of a million supernovas. Nowhere is this animosity more strongly felt than at the tracks of the V8 Supercar Series, where heavily modified Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons square off. If you happen to wander into an area dominated by spectators wearing the gear of one nameplate while you yourself are wearing the garb of the other (Helpful hint: Holden=red, Ford=blue), be prepared for jeering and taunting at the very least. Like the Internet, Ford vs. Holden is serious business Down Under.

MG vs. Triumph

MG MGB vs. Triumph TR4

To the casual observer, it would seem that fans of all brands of British sports cars have always gotten along swimmingly. “Bollocks to that,” says Reality. The fact of the matter is there was (and to a certain extent still is) a fair bit of tribalism within the tweed cap and stringback glove set, particularly when the question of “Triumph or MG?” arose. Needless to say, the pub chatter took a dramatic turn in 1968 when MG parent BMC merged with Triumph parent Leyland to form the doomed British Leyland über-conglomerate. These days, MG maniacs can (kinda) say they have the last laugh, as the now Chinese-owned nameplate is producing cars wearing the octagon badge once more, whereas Triumph’s last four-wheeled product was the 1984 Acclaim, essentially a British-built, rebadged Honda Civic.

Camaro vs. Mustang

Chevrolet Camaro vs. Ford Mustang

When Ford launched the Mustang in 1964, it caught its fellow domestics pretty much completely off-guard (save for the Plymouth Barracuda, which actually arrived a few weeks earlier). For its part, Chevrolet brass knew neither the Corvair nor the Nova was a match for the ‘Stang, no matter how many racy names and shiny trinkets they threw at them. So work began on the Camaro (and its Pontiac sister, the Firebird), culminating with its 1967 introduction. Ever since then (even from 2003 to ’08, when there were no new Camaros being made), these crosstown rivals have been going toe-to-toe on the street, on the track and on the auction block.

Toyota vs. Honda

Toyota Supra vs. Acura NSX

Japan’s two most prolific automakers have never really been buddy-buddy (even though Soichiro Honda did supply pistons to Toyota before World War II). In fact, the story goes that Honda went against the wishes of the island nation’s manufacturing cartel/good ol’ boy network when it introduced its first automobile – the T360 pickup – in 1963. And whether they’ve been battling each other for family sedan sales crowns with the Accord and Camry, wrestling for the title of King of the ‘90s Japanese Supercars with the NSX and Supra, or jockeying for on-track superiority in racing disciplines like Indycar, Super GT and Formula 1, one thing is for sure: Wherever one of these two leviathans from the Land of the Rising Sun is, the other is almost certainly nearby.

Ferrari vs. Lamborghini

Ferrari F430 vs. Lamborghini Gallardo

When one company owes its existence to the founder’s beef with the head of another company that’s in the same business, ill-will is as certain as the sun rising in the east and Steven Tyler maiming the “Star Spangled Banner.” No surprise, then, that Ferrari (which prides itself on its racing pedigree) and Lamborghini (which prides itself on its extroversion-out-the-ears styling and engineering) aren’t on each other’s Christmas card lists (we think). What’s more, a lot of old guard Ferrari fans dismiss Lamborghini owners as hair-plug-festooned, key-party-atttending weirdos, while Lambo lovers sometimes stereotype Fezza fanciers as insecure dweebs who always wear at least two items of Ferrari branded apparel at any given time and fervently try to BS their way through conversations involving subjects like fine wine and investing. Personally, we can appreciate both nameplates, since both offer a great selection of loud, fast and back-room-of-the-video-store sexy supercars.

Evo vs. WRX

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X vs. Subaru WRX STI

In late 1992, Mitsubishi and Subaru both decided (along with many other manufacturers) to downsize the homologation models for their World Rally Championship entrants: Mitsubishi replaced the Galant VR4 with the Lancer Evolution, while Subaru swapped the Legacy RS Turbo for the Impreza WRX. Both the road and rally versions of each would go on to receive nearly annual updates through the rest of the ‘90s in hopes of beating each other and everyone else, which they did routinely. And even though neither still competes in the WRC with factory support, the current revisions of both street models are within a whisker of each other in terms of size and performance.

BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz E-Class vs. BMW 5 Series

For a couple of luxury car makers hailing from southern Germany, BMW and Mercedes-Benz sure march to the beats of different drummers. Mercedes aims its wares at customers looking for a comfy and opulent means of getting to your destination, while BMW positions its creations as vehicles that make the journey as fun as any destination. Exhibit A: BMW offers some U.S.-spec 5 Series models with a manual transmission, something you can’t get on any American E-Class. In other words, best of luck getting devotees of one nameplate to defect to the other. As for the junior execs and trust fund babies who just see them as status symbols, well…let’s just say their loyalty is a bit flimsier.

Ford vs. Ferrari

Ford GT40 Mk. IV vs. Ferrari 330P4

It’s a classic story: Boy sees Italian sports car company. Boy offers to buy Italian sports car company. Italian sports car company founder agrees to sell, only to back out at 11th hour. Boy gets pissed the blanket-blank off and vows revenge. The boy, in this case, was Henry Ford II, and after being rebuffed by Enzo Ferrari, told his underlings to do whatever it took the beat the Prancing Horse at Le Mans. The resulting GT40 program did just that (four consecutive times), though not for a lack of effort on Maranello’s part. The feud was renewed earlier this century when Dearborn dropped the retro-riffic GT onto the market, giving the 360 Modena and F430 (and their owners) more than a few headaches.

GT-R vs. 911 Turbo

Porsche 911 Turbo vs. Nissan GT-R

The Porsche 911 Turbo has, for the last dozen or so years, been the benchmark for wicked fast yet fairly practical 2+2s. But the Nissan GT-R has been prompting a lot of pundits to change their tunes. Porsche, understandably, has not taken this news very well, going as far as accusing Nissan of stretching the definition of “stock” with regard to the R35s used to set Nürburgring lap times. Nissan, for its part, has just shrugged its proverbial shoulders and kept selling GT-Rs, each one stickering for tens of thousands of dollars less than the 911 Turbo. And with a 991-based Turbo just over the horizon and the GT-R gaining a dozen-or-so horsepower on what seems like an annual basis, we can’t help thinking this relatively cold war will soon be going thermonuclear. We can’t wait.



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