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More recently, there has been a boom in the number of tribute bands which perform music originally made famous by, well, the original band or artist.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.
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.
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?