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Top 10: Mutton dressed as luxury lamb

The Aston Martin Cygnet was a brave experiment. The ideology behind its creation was straightforward enough - to offer existing customers the opportunity to extend their garage portfolio by offering a city car to match their DB9, Vantage or One-77. The company often spoke of its iQ-based mini car as a the equivalent to a mooring dinghy for the most exclusive of yachts.

But for those who didn't quite understand the £30,000-plus mini car, with a beautiful and bespoke interior, it just looked like poor value for money, and a cynical marketing exercise. Of course, Aston Martin is far from the first - and it won't be the last - carmaker to attempt to build a 'groundbreaking' luxury car out of a more humble small car. Alongside the Cygnet, we line up 10 earlier cars that prove luxury is much more than skin-deep.

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Panther Rio (1975-1977)

The Rio was a reaction to the energy crisis of 1973. Panther owner Robert Jankel recognised that demand for his six- and V12-cylinder powered cars was going to fall though the floor in an era of the 50mph limit and where fuel rationing was a very real possibility. He also realised that his customers would not compromise on quality and luxury in the pursuit of economy.

So Jankel devised a new luxury car, hand-made in aluminium, and trimmed like a Rolls-Royce. The idea was sound - but the problem with the Rio was two-fold. It was hugely expensive, costing more than a Jaguar XJ12, and was closely based on the Triumph Dolomite 1850HL (and Sprint in the case of the Especial model), and didn't actually drive any differently. The styling was also a mixed bag. The outcome was inevitable - just 35 were made.


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