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Some ViaRETRO readers may remember the pay-off in the adverts for Memorex cassette tapes. These adverts featured the great Ella Fitzgerald, in which she would sing a note that shattered a glass while being recorded on a Memorex cassette. On playback, the recording also broke the glass, which prompted the question, “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”. I’m sure many of us bought Memorex cassettes to use in our cars through the 1970’s and early 1980’s as a result (though I was a TDK man myself).

More recently, there has been a boom in the number of tribute bands which perform music originally made famous by, well, the original band or artist. Bands like Nearly Dan (Steely Dan), The Bootleg Beatles, Brit Floyd, Viva Santana and many others play to sometimes quite large audiences performing the music of the originals with sometimes quite stunning accuracy. Indeed, I have been to see Genesis tribute act The Musical Box twice now. They go to such lengths to recreate the sight and sound of early-to-mid 1970’s Genesis – replicating the original stage set-ups of tours, using the actual back-projection slides from those tours, and analogue instruments – that if you close your eyes, you are transported back to a 1970’s Genesis concert. In fact, they are so good, that original Genesis members such as guitarist Steve Hackett and drummer Phil Collins have performed with them, and gone so far as to say that TMB are better than Genesis themselves were back in the day.

So what does this have to do with classic cars? Well, over the past few months, some of you may have noticed my disappointment at spotting a rare and exquisite classic at a show, only to find upon checking that it was a replica or, a more recent development, a recreation. And yes, there is a clear difference between the two, which I’ll come to.

This has happened with Lancia Stratos’s which turn out to be a Hawk or Lister Bell, AC Cobra’s which are in fact made by Hawk (again) or DAX or Autokraft (among several others), 356 Porsche’s that are in fact Chesil’s, and so on. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen a genuine AC Cobra for years, except in the body shop at Brooklands. Even on the AC stand at the NEC show last year, Hawks were used to represent famous AC racing cars, which I personally think is a little sad.

These seem to be the most common replicas; especially “Porsche 356’s” and “AC Cobra’s”. I guess that for the 356, sharing a layout as it does with the VW Beetle, potential donor cars are plentiful and cheap.

Let me make it clear at this point that I have nothing against replica classics per se – I completely understand that if an original AC Cobra is either too rare or too expensive, or both, a replica – particularly a good one – will be the nearest an enthusiast can get to the original experience. Not even confined to the driving experience either, but also looking out and seeing a “Cobra” on the drive, or to enjoying the head-turning attention as they rumble down their local high street.

Interestingly, the models replicated tend to be mainly – but obviously not limited to – the AC Cobra, Lancia Stratos, Porsche 356 and to a lesser extent, the Lotus 7. In fact, a look through Pistonheads classifieds under Kit Cars turns up scores of adverts, almost half of which are for “Cobra’s”. There also seems to be an increasing number of BMW 2002 Turbo look-alikes. A testament to the rarity, increasing value and cool of the ultimate incarnation of the ’02.

Might like a 2002 Turbo – but beneath the cosmetics, it’s merely a 1602.

Some replicas are really very high-quality, clearly put together with great attention to detail (a bit too much for me, but I’ll come to that) and in some cases, most definitely not cheap either (though of course still substantially cheaper than the original).

Recreations – a relatively recent thing – contrive to be copies of the original in terms of overall body style and configuration, but with modern mechanicals and all the equipment you would expect to find on a new car, such as aircon, electric and/or power everything, and crucially, modern wheels and tyres. One of the best-known is the Eagle E-Type, launched a few years back. Eagle will build you a car using an original donor body, with all mod-cons underneath, or even build you a car from scratch; effectively, a new E-Type. Prices start around the £500k mark and up, so we’re already breathing in thin air.

In a similar vein, you can buy a Singer-bodied Porsche 911 (usually a re-bodied 964 911 with modern wheels, electrics, engines etc.) for circa EUR 525,000… on top of the cost of the donor 964.

Not a longhood pre-’74 911, but a Singer. So effectively a 964 pretending to be something it is not.

Aston Martin got in on the act with its run of 25 “Goldfinger” DB5 recreations of the car “as used by James Bond”. This modern re-invention – or continuation, as Aston Martin insist on calling it – of perhaps the most famous of all classics (by which I mean specifically the James Bond DB5) is built to exacting quality standards and comes with an eye-watering price tag; the “new” DB5 costs a staggering £3.3m (EUR 3.775m) in the UK, which is “only” £600k less than the original prototype used in the films was auctioned for in 2010, and they’re not even going to be road legal, which seems utterly barmy to me.

These recreations, continuations, call them what you will, are at the extreme end in terms of both quality and price. They are very definitely not kit-cars, and in the case of Aston Martin, they are of course the original manufacturer, so perhaps more entitled than anyone to resurrect the DB5. And while the Eagle E-Type carries Jaguar badges externally, you could argue that as the donor car is an E-Type, this is OK, and the Eagle name can in fact be found in the interior of the car.

However, this is where I start to get frustrated with many replicas.

If a Beatles tribute band went around calling itself The Beatles, they’d be sued immediately, as would be a band that isn’t the Rolling Stones if they used the original band name. Some tribute bands make very small changes to the original band name, such as The Smyths, or Bon Giovi, but they make those changes nevertheless.

So why is it OK for a DAX or Hawk Cobra to be covered in AC Cobra badges? Or a Hawk Stratos in Lancia and Stratos badges? Surely somewhere on the car it should carry a DAX or Hawk badge? Some owners go further, plastering their replicas with classic car rally stickers in an attempt to add authenticity. Many Porsche 356’s that are in fact Chesils or another replica, actually carry Reutter coachworks badges on them.

Of course, in the vast majority of cases, as soon as you pop the bonnet open, the replica is revealed to have one of any number of engines, so the “authenticity” is literally only skin-deep. So perhaps I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but it does bother me, perhaps irrationally so, and would bother me a lot less if they were just honest enough to display their own badges somewhere on the exterior of the cars. But I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

Am I alone in being irritated by this, or do other ViaRETRO readers feel the same?


9 Responses

  1. GTeglman

    @tony-wawryk, You are not alone ! I do share the same irritation when it comes to replicas, continuations and recreations. No question that the quality of eg. the Singer (Porsche), and the Eagle (Jag) is very very high, and in many way far better cars than the origins that they where build on, but they are still not and will never be the real McCoy.
    They are just brand new cars with all the comfort (and reliability) of any modern car..- not a Classic Car in any way.
    I’ll even stretch it and, claim that some of them are falsification of history.
    And then there is the eye-watering price tags..- they are just to expensive ! But as the Gran Tour trio said in the last episode, “The customers that buy these cars, will invariably arrive to the workshop / dealers in a helicopter with a Ukrainian girl friend, and Lewis Hamiltons watch, and if you are going to show off, you are going to be ripped off !”


  2. jens henriksen

    well, there are many levels of replicas and recreations,
    to me it is ok as long as the replica is an honest copy ( nuts and bolts if possible ) of the original, and of course you shouldn’t try to hide the fact, that is a replica.

    don’t like look-alikes …
    the worst ones being those built on a VW Beetle platform

  3. Jon

    If i wanted a classic that I couldn’t afford…I would resign myself to that fact that i just won’t be able to have it. I couldn’t derive satisfaction from looking out on my drive at a fake car…. Just buy an AUTHENTIC car, that’s in your price range, and cherish it. Who ‘seriously’ enjoys looking out at a fake Type 33 or 356, and saying ”I made it, I finally got that fake Bugatti of my dreams”! You could buy a REALLY great, and GENUINE classic car with history (MG, RILEY Etc..) for the price of a fake Bugatti. I can’t afford a Rolex, so I bought a good Seiko, not a fake Rolex.

  4. Anders Bilidt

    It’s an interesting topic Tony. Largely I share your point of view too, however I feel it can be divided in to three separate sub-topics.

    First there are the factory-backed continuations. These are frankly the ones that annoy me the most. I simply find it shocking that companies with such significant and rich heritage are seemingly more than happy to piss it all away just to increase there profit margin a little. They make it quite clear to everyone, that they have zero regard for their own history, and prioritise a quick-buck-in-their-pocket much higher. I’ve written about the phenomena previously here:

    Then there are the companies like Singer, Eagle and similar who are not factory-backed, but build what is essentially highly capable, reliable and comfortable modern sportscars which on the outside look like a classic car. I’m not sure that these cars actually annoy me as such. However, I don’t understand the concept one bit. To me, there seems to be a conflict of interest within the people buying these cars. Posing as a classic car enthusiast on the one hand, but not in any way wanting to take part in the actual experience of driving something from yesteryear. I simply don’t see the allure…

    Finally there are the often home-assembled kits, where a MGB frame becomes a Cobra, or a Beetle platform becomes a 356. Well, at least these cars will still drive as something which is after all a classic car. They just try to look like something rarer and more expensive than what they really are. Again, they don’t appeal to me. Like @jon, I would much rather drive a real MGB than I would a fake Cobra. But each to their own I suppose.

    But to answer Tony’s question: Yes, I too feel that either one of these sub-groups of replicas, recreations, tributes and so on, should all wear badging which was more honest about what they actually are. But I suppose that one undermine the whole reason why their owners have these cars in the first place…

  5. Niels V

    @tony, technically an AutoKraft is not a replica, they had the license to the AC name, so that makes them more of a continuations.

    I personally don’t mind replicas, when they are as close as possible (nut and bolt) and when they are not “portrayed” as being an original.
    But I am not very open minded towards, the lesser accurate replicas, e.g. fiberglass bodied cobra with jaguar V12 or BMW V8, or enlarged with creature comforts etc. I dont understand why people bother.

    I do enjoy the craftsmanship and engineering in something like a Singer 911, but that’s about it, I do enjoy old cars being quirky and sometime uncomfortable.

    Last year I did look in to what a Kirkham (the most accurate on the market) 289 Cobra replica would cost on the road here in Denmark, but it quickly became clear, that it would not be relevant, and for a smaller amount I could get another original car from the sixties with similar performance.

  6. Tony Wawryk

    @niels-v – I didn’t know that, thanks for the info!
    It seems we are mostly of one accord on this – indeed @jon sums it up perfectly for me.
    The manufacturer “continuations” do my head in, not least because of the prices, and with the “Goldfinger” DB5, not even road legal…
    Like @anders-bilidt I have less of a problem with the Singer Porsche and Eagle E-Type, though I also don’t quite get the rationale, and as @gteglman says, they’re simply not classic cars.
    As for the numerous VW-based “look-alikes”, I feel the same as @jens-henriksen

    Incidentally, of the cars pictured above, there is just one that is the genuine article, and it’s not the yellow Stratos as I initially thought, which, though it is a Lancia, has a 1995cc engine and was possibly a Monte Carlo…the blue long-nose D-Type in the foreground of the picture of the pair is an actual Ecurie Ecosse car; the car behind it is a replica.

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    It’s an important question, @tony-wawryk – and not one to be taken lightly nor one that is possible to answer objectively. Except when using an approved scale-of-annoyance, of course.

    Many years ago (was it around 2002-2004? I can’t recall the exact year) I wrote a piece on the fact that the FIA now would grant Historical Technical Passports to replicas of cars like Cobra, GT40, T70 and 250GTO. My point made was that 1) this would give us some practical problems many many years later and 2) that it would water down the joy of seeing original cars once driven by Ickx, Rodriguez, Salvadori, Moss and the like as they would now be joined by lookalikes that were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing but were just built yesterday as a toolroom copy. I stand by that.

    On the other hand: I once saw a Lancia D25 Fifties Formula One car at Spa Francorchamps. And years later in Monaco a 1961 Ferrari 156 “Sharknose”. None of these cars exists as originals today and I was absolutely stunned by seeing (and hearing, mind…) them in the flesh anyway. This was only possible because they were replicas, of course – and in THESE CASES I was prepared to make an exception: I would never in my life have seen these cars otherwise and I was thankful I did. They were to the best of my knowledge absolutely correct recreations of the extinct and legendary originals.

    But other than that: I would take the point of @jon. There are really sufficient really nice original classics out there, so it should be possible to find one for most people. And if my money didn’t stretch to an original legend I’d find a lesser legendary car that did. I’d rather drive an original Tiger than a replica Cobra, for example. Or an original 356 coupé instead of a fake 356 Speedster, for that matter.

    If we’re talking historic racing cars, though, I’d change my stand a bit: Originals carry a premium for being that, and I would in fact be tempted myself to use for example a Kirkham FIA replica for racing instead of an original for ten times the price. However it annoys me too when at race meetings as a spectator I can’t actually see the difference!

    Factory “continuations”? That’s in my eyes another subcategory of replicas, only with a nicer sound to their genre. As far as I can see they are primarily made to make the factories money and in many cases you could have an equally good replica built yourself for less money. Go figure.

  8. Dave Leadbetter

    For me it’s quite simple. If it’s done well, that’s fine with me. Take for example a Martin & Walker Technic 550 Spyder or a Hawk Stratos. Both well engineered cars and in the case of the latter, so good that they’re a source of panels for the originals. But if we veer towards rubbish like “Jaguar” Aristocats or idiots butchering perfectly good MR2s to make poundshop Ferrari replicas, that’s when I get the urge to stamp on my hat. As for continuations, you can’t knock the craftsmanship that goes into something like a brand new Lightweight E-Type so as much as they’re a bit of a cynical cash-in, I can’t bring myself to dismiss them completely. Given enough money I could groove that way, but I’d much prefer an original.

  9. Michael Wynn

    I share your disappointment regarding factory continuation cars cheapening the history of the marque. Furthermore, copies purported as real articles should be shunned and the people responsible cast out from society and denounced as the cheats that they clearly are. It’s analogous to films that attempt to rewrite history or politicians who deliberately seek to discredit data driven science. However, there is a place for a copy provided that it’s openly stated. The value of some originals mean that racing such examples is an activity limited to a few with very large bank accounts,
    Yet why should we prevent the remaining majority of enthusiasts from experiencing (nearly), the same pleasure? We could have races limited to original cars and separate races for cars that might be silhouette specials. No mixing of the two and open declaration of the facts.


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