My Car Quest

June 24, 2018

The Trouble With Tributes

by Wallace Wyss –

Oh, it’s certainly undeniably glorious when somebody rolls out a tribute car; or continuation car or whatever they want to call it.

We get to see an example of our favorite car all dolled up, squeaky clean, ready to go to car show or vintage race or concours.

The only trouble is—it’s messin’ with history big-time.

THE MOTIVE

Now sometimes the car is built surreptitiously by private parties. I will never forget I’m driving down the street in Italy and I see three 330GT or 250GT bodies stacked up on top of each other in a lot. Why? Because those were the bodies of “donor” cars whose chassis had been made into more sporting Ferraris.

Ferrari 212

Stripped Down Classic Ferrari Used To Make A Replica

Now the cognoscenti, the tifosi, those who are charter subscribers to the Ferrari magazines, they scoff at the mere suggestion that anybody could mistake one of these re-creations for the real thing.

Well, I’m here to tell ya that sometimes the trail gets quite murky. If you go to a site called barchetta.cc, armed with a serial number, then you could come across more than one car history where it says “chassis replaced”.

Considering the older Ferraris have a steel tube chassis that is the backbone of the car; the basis on which it is built, once you replace the chassis, well, to me, you’re on your way to building a clone.

I once sent a photographer out to photograph a restored 250LM and he came back and said: “They told me the chassis has been replaced, the engine has been replaced, the trans has been replaced and the body is new.” My response: “Well then where’s the real car?”

I once was given a book on the Lola T70 to review. I couldn’t review it. Oh, it had lots of pretty pictures and information but the problem for me re-occurred every few pages where it would say “and then a new chassis was built.” Well, to me the old car ceased to exist when the new chassis was built.

Now when some of those re-creations, say a 250GTO in aluminum, were commissioned in the ‘70’s, ‘80s and ‘90s, the customer and the builder knew damn well they were building a replica clone of a model that, for real ones, is up in the $30-50 million range. So they didn’t think, or pretend they didn’t think, that anyone would mistake what they were building for the real thing.

But let’s say you are copying a lesser known Ferrari than a 250GTO, will the average Joe off the street at an auction be able to tell if it was that model when it first rolled out of Maranello? As the clone moves from owner to owner over 30, 40 and 50 years, are all those buyers going to be filled in by all those sellers of the car’s history?

What if the original commissioner of the car is deceased, do his relatives have a clue as to what car that is? I think sometimes the heirs just want that piece of junk out of the garage tout de suite.

RACE CARS A REAL MESS RECORDS WISE

This is particularly a problem with race cars. Sometimes automakers like Porsche would send, say, a 904GTS to the track for testing but then send along a spare chassis just in case the already finished race car crashes in practice. I have even seen pictures of identical cars, right down to the numbers in the roundels, one to be hidden in storage at the track in case the main car crashes (“Boy, that was a fast rebuild…”).

Ferrari 250 LM and Ken Phillips

A Real Ferrari 250 LM and Ken Phillips

And then there’s cars built after the fact, after the factory supposedly stopped building them. There’s at least one Gullwing Mercedes like that, and a 904GTS, both built out of spare parts later (in both cases, you could order the chassis out of the parts catalog).

ORPHAN MARQUES EASIER TO FAKE

One of the biggest problem areas with clones/tributes/outright fakes is in the area of marques that have fallen by the wayside. Unlike say Porsche where you can check a database and find out if that is a real 356 chassis number (I even sent a chassis number reported to be that of James Dean’s 356 Speedster to Porsche and they confirmed it was a real number but couldn’t tell me who bought it).

Porsche can even tell you what engine number a 356 was built with. Handy to have a factory backing you up like that. But when you are dealing with obscure deceased marques like Iso, Bizzarrini, Intermeccanica, DeTomaso, Monteverdi, etc. factory records are few and far between, often thrown away when the factory closed down. So now we have Bizzarrinis appearing that never existed in their original era.

Bizzarrini GT 5300

Not What It Appears To Be

Auction companies are being sloppy in labeling them. I remember an Iso that was sold for heavy bread as “an Iso prototype” when in fact it was some Itlaian car dealer’s stillborn project based on an Iso chassis. The Iso factory never saw it. Yet it sold for near half a million some poor sucker going home to show his buddies his “factory prototype”. The auction company should have labeled it “Iso-based prototype.” That added word is all the difference in the world.

You’re telling me that the average nouveau riche that goes to the Barrett Jackson, or any other auction, knows from 50 feet away if that car on stage was built that way by the original maker? I don’t think so. And some of those buying these “barn find” discoveries are new to the car game, having a lark, bidding on something to show the guys back home how astute a buyer they are. They eat crow later when doubt is thrown on the authenticity of what they brought home.

A COMPARISON TO THE ART MARKET

In an article by Eileen Kinsella (04/01/11) on Art News.com they already were raising the alarm about fake Andy Warhol clones of his canvas silk screenprints five years ago. In the article, called “The Trouble with Warhol,” they write of the Board that was supposed to authenticate Warhol prints; “The board had another problem to deal with. A few months before the auctions, it admitted in a report that it had been misled about some of the artist’s most iconic works”.

Warhol-Campbell_Soup-1-screenprint-1968

Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can

Dozens of Brillo boxes the board had authenticated over the years had to be “reclassified” as posthumous works, the report said, because they were fabricated not in 1968, but in 1990, three years after the artist’s death (see The Brillo-Box Scandal,November 2009).”

Now it’s 2016 and I would say the problem with Warhol works is much worse: a much darker shadow has been cast over the authenticity of all Andy Warhol prints. Unlike faking a car, all you need to fake one is a good eye, a set of silk screens and a silk screen press. I would say, increasingly, art is becoming a bad investment vehicle because of rampant cloning.

COMPANY SPONSORED CLONES

Now not everybody building fake cars is an individual or a small cabal planning to pull the wool over our eyes. Sometimes its major corporations like Jaguar. I cringed when, a few years back, they announced the Lightweight E-type program, where they said in effect: “Gee, we were supposed to build 18 but only built twelve so we’ll build a few more.”

I don’t think it’s possible for them to build old cars without using modern methods. Allow me first to go through the shop and confiscate all tools made after the year of the car they are cloning. No Cad Cam. In fact no computers. They can use slide rules like the original engineers. It is really unfair to owners of the real cars that these clones will be welcomed at concours, and at vintage races, shown alongside cars that owners took decades to restore.

Now Jaguar is doing it again. Now they are resurrecting the XKSS, the road-legal version of the D-Type that won Le Mans. This time they are saying in effect “the plant caught fire,” we didn’t get to finish the ones on the line. Well, sorry guys, if I went back in my time machine and resurrected all the other stuff destroyed in fires and war, I could make money too.

Jaguar XKSS

1957 Jaguar XKSS Once Owned by Steve McQueen

The car magazines, TV car programs and websites who celebrate these clones are guilty of riding along on the gravy train of these factory built clones. And why is that? Don’tcha think these clones are being introduced at nice soirees, with the champagne flowing, at places like Goodwood and Monterey and Amelia? A good time was had by all at the intro but meanwhile each new introduction of clones means more confusion being sewn down the road in the classic marketplace of the future.

Jaguar is using serial numbers that were in the records of the time. “Oh, but everybody will know by the chassis numbers that these are clones” I can hear you pro-clonesters saying. But I am talking 10, 20, 30 years down the road, is that chassis number list going to be that available?

THE SHELBY RE-DO

It all reminds me when I skewered Carroll Shelby in my last book on him for claiming he had re-discovered a number of chassis built for 427 Cobras. He announced he was going to complete them.

Working with a Cobra restorer in Torrance, at least five rolled out the door, some fetching sales prices in excess of $500,000.

Now back in the ‘80s, when the Department of Motor Vehicles in California began to question when the chassis were laid down. Shelby moved his whole operation to Nevada and phased out the use of the word “continuation” or whatever he was calling them (completion cars?). But the demand is still there. And wouldn’tcha know, a Shelby press release told a little of that story.

The first 100 cars were designated to be competition versions so that the car could compete in FIA races, ergo the “S/C” designation appearing after ‘427.’ Only 53 were completed before Henry Ford II made his special request of Carroll to take on Ferrari in the “Prototype” class. This, in reality, marked the end of the Shelby Cobra builds…998 in all. Until now!

Carroll Shelby began the sacred task of completing the “Remaining 43” in 1988 when he hired the legendary restorer Mike McCluskey, who began the painstaking job of making the tooling, jigs and fixtures necessary to build these vintage cars true to their original specifications.”

Shelby AC Cobra

The Real AC Shelby Cobra CSX 2001

Carroll completed and sold five of the 427 S/C Cobras for $500,000 each between 1990 and 1992”

But the amazing thing is that the same press release of May 12, 2015 goes on to say they are resurrecting the project and building out the run to 100 cars. Using the numbers accorded them by the FIA in the Sixties.

But now they have a firmer leg to stand on with Jaguar doing it.

And nobody is criticizing them (except me, and it’s lonesome adopting this position).

WHEN WILL THE OTHER AUTOMAKERS JOIN IN?

Now look at the luxury sports car field. You don’t have to be too smart to predict that It’s only a matter of time before the other automakers will take note of the millions Jag is raking in on these clones. If not already soon they will be asking themselves: “What do we have in our past that people want?”

Like in Mercedes, the 300SLR or at least a few more Gullwings.

Porsche: How ‘bout some 904’s, 906s and 908s and oh,yeah, some 356 Carrera Speedsters.

Porsche 904

Porsche 904

Lamborghini: Hey, how ‘bout some more Miuras, this time Targas or Jotas too.

The amazing thing is, if they are exact copies as they maintain, they will ignore all the laws about new 2016 cars having to have air bags, side door guard beams, crush zones, dual master cylinders, yadda yadda. How can they do that? Oh, they are whatever year they look like—a ’57 Gullwing, etc. Back then even seat belts weren’t mandatory.

I don’t know if California will buy that ruse but I can bet those cars will be out and about, maybe registered in some place where you can buy a PO box and use the street address of that and pay the annual license plate fee. Or run on dealer plates, in some states it doesn’t take much to score one of those (had one myself before they tightened the rules).

And so it is, the private clonesters inspired one automaker to jump in and you can bet that if Jag succeeds, others will follow.

All of which will make classic car auctions a lot more dicey in the future…

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is a former barn finder who regales readers with his stories in the Incredible Barn Finds series (Enthusiast Books).

 

 

bag of money

Summary
The Trouble With Tributes
Article Name
The Trouble With Tributes
Description
Messin’ with collector car history big-time.
Author

Comments

  1. Paul Harvey says:

    Well said Sir.

    Proper ‘restorers’ always make sure new interventions can be distinguished form the original.
    If necessary, they sign their work in such a way there can never be any doubt on a visual inspection.

    To get my support, and maybe even yours, all these guys you are talking about would just need to recommence the Carozzeria fashion of hand stamping ‘their’ new parts. End of argument.

  2. Jim Levitt says:

    Well Wally, what has it been, 45 years since you wrote the Autoweek article on my Speedster?
    Finally…this is an excellent article and food for serious thought!

  3. John in Fargo says:

    “Posthumous Works”…snicker.

  4. Jack Nelson says:

    Agree…but you left out the “Mother of them all”:
    Ferrari Classiche….they will re-stamp, re-cast re-make etc etc AND sprinkle the all important “holy water” Factory Stamp. Compared to this, Jag is a piker, lol!!

    Jack

  5. The lines are being blurred. Only one of the GT40s that participated in the Goodwood Members Meet recently was a real car. The rest were re-creations. While some of those car owners may readily admit they are running a re-creation, others may not. Likewise with Cobras. Walk around any “show & shine” and see how many “1965 Ac Cobra” signs you see on replicas. Are these people ashamed they own a kit car and hope the uneducated enthusiast will take their word for it? Don’t get me started on Bizzarrinis…

  6. I understand peoples points of clones, replicas and forgeries, but I have a few questions. In the article you commented about the chassis and having them replaced, but after all these years some have been damaged or rusted to the point of no return, so how does a restorer address this issue? The same goes for the body and if a restorer just put patches over the areas the part would no longer be original anyways so why not build a new section, or even body / frame.
    So many purists talk about keeping it original but when they have these vehicles restored they go so far over the top that there is not much original anyway with the new materials used and the perfect glass finishes, new upholstery, stainless steel hardware etc, and then they them original. What then is the difference between a well built replica and a restored original?
    Like the art scene there are many forgeries, and this has been the case as soon as art became a collectable item so it is not a supprise when it happens to cars as well. The issue that causes the problem is the people who collect as an investment or to speculate. These people drive up the prices to insane levels and it ruins the car culture for people who drive them.
    Cars were meant to be driven and enjoyed, not kept in a glass container and taken out once a year. If these people would go back to enjoying cars the counterfiters would be pretty much run out of business. This I would say is also the reason car companies are going back to build these classics, because people want them and in many cases cannot get them.
    Let the speculators and collectors go find another product to artificially inflate and let us have our cars back. I do not mean to offend anyone here, but the reproduction builders are just doing what the restorers are and that is building classics.

  7. Wallace Wyss says:

    OK ,this is the author. I, too, wish those buying cars as investments would move on to say, violins, but they are here to stay. Your sentence “What’s the difference between a well built replica and a restored original?” is what sticks in my craw. The difference is that one existed (at least the chassis) inn the original era, and was built by the real workers of that time in the real factory under the supervision of the original engineers. The other is a well-concocted very convincing replication but can never be “real” and should never be parked in the same company as the real cars because to do so insults the owners of the real cars.

    To give an example from aviation–Jack Roush’s Mustang fighter. He built one from scratch. Probably used the original plans, an original engine, yadda-yadda but I would not call the one he built a “WWII” airplane. VJ Day ended WWII. Any P51’s built after that are “World War II-era’ planes and even that is stretching it.

    What is going to happen if Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari and Maserati all start making clones is that the classic car auctions will have a spate of cars being pulled at the last minute because they are unmasked as clones. Remember this incident from back in 2014?
    ———————————————————————————————

    Ex-Siffert Porsche 917k Pulled From Gooding’s Pebble Beach Auction
    flatsixes.com/cars/…/ex-siffert-gulf-917k-le-mans-pulled-goodings-monterey-auction/
    Jul 30, 2014 – Gooding & Company does not comment on property withdrawn from … Bringing Ex-Siffert Gulf 917K from “Le Mans” To Pebble Beach Auction
    ——————————————————————————–

    How many new collectors will want to buy a classic if every major auction has unmasked clones? It’s already happening in the art world, awash with fake Warhols.

    I’ll tell a story about human replicates. I was at a car show in Beverly Hills and met a woman that looked exactly like Marilyn Monroe, right down to the spot on her cheek. We walked around arm-and-arm and I felt top-of-the-world-ma for a few minutes but in the back of my mind I knew the real Marilyn had been dead for years and was a-molderin’ away in the grave just a few miles away….

  8. Another aspect of the theme: BMW had the so called Kamm Coupé reprodiced. The original car was crashed, the remains used by Ernst Loof on earley Veritas RSes. BMW put a “H” (historic car) plate on the reproduced car, indicating to the public a car elder than 30 years and let it participate in the Mille Miglia and other “races”. For my article on “Original and …?” I sent an official query to BMW of how they explain a 2010 finished car beeing 30 years old, but never receives an answer!

    Martin Schroeder

    • I don’t criticize the fast they reprocued the car as a museum replica. That is legal, of course. But it is not okay to prsent the car to the public – having not detailed knowledge – as a “elder than 30 years” car, to suggesting of an original old car.

      Martin Schroeder

  9. wallace wyss says:

    This response to Martin from the original author:
    Thanks, I didn’t know BMW did this too. I don’t mind when an automaker makes one car for display, such as to be a parade car or to celebrate a big anniversary. I understand Ferrari wanted an early barchetta to display at their museum, but couldn’t find one at a bargain so had the students at their technical institute build it. But Jaguar, (with ’50s and ’60s models) and Shelby with 60s models are intent on building brand new clones using originally assigned SN. It won’t be long until these get in the pipeline at classic car auctions and onto racetracks at Monterey and concours and spectators will be paying $70-$700 to see not “vintage” cars but recently built cars that look vintage. I believe in music there is a phenomena called “tribute bands’ where they look like the original band and sing their songs but it’s not the same as seeing the original band.

    As a fine artist all I can say if you want a preview of the chaos that will ensue is to go to Google and type in “Andy Warhol fakes.” The rampant counterfeiting has undermined the whole art market.

  10. Mr Wyss.
    We are closer in opinion than you think on this issue. Perhaps my wording was not as good as could have been but my main point is that if you take any classic car their will be issues with it.
    Chassis have area’s that are gone and in some instances need to be rebuilt or repaired. Depending on the value of the vehicle a person will rebuild a larger percentage of a chassis, or fully replace it. I have also seen bodies that have large percentages rebuilt. If the chassis has to be built in the factory in the era then so should the bodies and nothing past that point should be called original and everything past that should be called a replica.
    The question becomes should the person who had the rebuild sections then state at the showing that the car is only one half original? If so then almost every car out there would not be original and in fact a replica to some degree which then means that they cannot park beside the originals either. This would then have almost all cars in the replica side and one or two in the original side, which would have a devestating effect on the cars and the owners.
    At this point the work the restorer and the replica builder are one and the same because they both built after the fact and not under the factory specs as you say, (which I agree with). This is why I asked what is the difference, it was not to be controversial but to show that at this point they are doing the same thing.
    I do fully agree with you that if it is not an original car (but an intentionaly built replica) then it should not be called original, but at what point does the term original lose its status? There should be boundaries set to address this point but it will never happen as it would affect too many people who claim an original car.
    The extreme boundaries I put out here from rebuilding a part and adding it to an original all the way to building the complete car may seem to you that I do not see the your point, but I do.
    This is something that I deal with regularly but it just seems that the only view that gets spoken of is that of a replica, not at what point it becomes a replica and no longer original, which is where people should look as it may address the rest of the issues. There is a spectrum from original to replica where is the dividing line located?
    I hope I am not coming across as confrontational and I hope I have not drifted to far off topic but this has been a sore point for me for many years as well and these points are related.
    Brian

  11. And I thought I was just me!!.

    Great article Wallace.

    I attended the first London Classic Car Show in 2015. The car on the promo material, website and brochure was the pontoon nose racing Testarossa. Rare and stunning. As Id never seen one in the metal, and as a classic car enthusiast, I headed along. What I found was not an original at all (so please tell me why the organisers signed it off as their poster car?).
    It was, in fact, a recently completed tool-room copy (don’t you just love the wording they use to try to build credibity?) which used, I believe, a Ferrari 330 as its underpinnings.

    I was shocked that they used ( & were allowed to use!) all Ferrari badging and what’s more they had an asking price of £750,000 GBP Sterling.

    The chap on the stand was somewhat offended (and condescending) when, in shock, I blurted out: What?

    What are buyers of these cars thinking? And what resale value will they have, going forward?
    The salesman assumed I was unaware of the current auction value of these rare classics and felt, in comparison to those prices, his £750k represented fair value.
    Despite the obvious skilled craftsmanship involved in fabricating such a replica, it is just that: a replica.
    If those skilled hands are so expensive per hour that the only way to make it profitable is that sticker price then, in my humble opinion, they shouldnt bother to build it. I simply dont think it has the attributes of value that make a car worth that sort of money.

    What do you think?

    Regards

    Mark

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