My Car Quest

November 18, 2018

Should Car Design Firms Copy Classic Designs?

The Toff’s Travels – Editorial

by Wallace Wyss –

When Deny Behar, once of Lotus, proposed recently that his new firm, Ares Design, make a lookalike body of the fabled Ferrari 250 GTO and make it available for rebodying modern Ferraris, it makes you wonder on a number of fronts.

ares-ferrari-250-gto

First of all, there is no denying the immortal 250 GTO is the most desirable of all Ferraris if you go only by the sales price at auction in Monterey last August of a Series 2 GTO for $48 million. Ironically that car sold had the second body design on the GTO, one done by Pininfarina, who felt left out when the original one didn’t have a body designer at all, just an engineer in charge, Giotto Bizzarrini, who dictated the Series 1 shape. Ironically that car started out life as a Series I before it was rebodied by Pininfarina so it could be rebodied anytime into a Series I to be the ultimate Ferrari.

But back to Ares Design. Their design looks kinda, sorta like the fabled 250 GTO. And would no doubt be fun to drive around town looking like, Yessir, I be ready to go out on the track at Le Mans any time you want.

Behar proposes that the base car be the Ferrari 812 Superfast, which is powered by a 789-horsepower, 6.5-liter V12. The story first came out in the Robb Report where Behar was quoted:

If you’re going to take on a car like the 250 GTO, you need to have good hands and big balls, because every line will be criticized. But I think the proportions of this car are perfect.

He is talking a limited edition of just ten cars, with a base price of $1.16 million, including the cost of the donor 812, which alone costs $335,275. They already have one order.

The Questions

Now my first question would be:

Does Ferrari own the shape of the 250 GTO? Did they ever file a design patent on it? I recall when Carroll Shelby sued the first few replica makers for stealing his design for the Cobra roadster, he lost because the replica makers were able to prove that the Cobra was naught but an AC 2.6 with minor body changes. The only Cobra shape Shelby-American developed internally in the Sixties was the Daytona coupe, but Shelby’s heirs don’t seem to be suing anybody over copying that shape.

The second question is:

Does Ferrari own the name GTO? I saw GTOs when they were still current models and I don’t remember (even on the street car I saw in Beverly Hills) any chrome lettering that identified it as a GTO. I never saw a Ferrari ad advertising it as a GTO. Ironically, Pontiac brought out the GTO model of the Tempest, so GM could argue they in fact own the name.

ares-ferrari-250-gto

Finally, I have to ask the philosophical question that must be asked:

How long are automakers going to continually dip into the past to find 50 year old body shapes to market today? Doesn’t that reveal just a wee bit of a lack of creativity that you have to piggyback on an old shape?

Shouldn’t automakers and independent design firms be venturing into new territory, coming up with new exciting shapes? What would happen if the whole auto industry just laid off most of their body designers and just replicated old shapes because there are pockets of fans who want that shape (which is the problem with the diesel tractor trailer industry, where truckers love the old upright radiators, upright windshields, totally ancient wind-dragging designs).

Marketing 101: Give ‘Em What They Want

Those going back to old designs might counter with the one word “marketing,” which justifies their motive. The GTO was one of the last racing Ferraris that could be driven to the grocery store just as easily as go out on the Le Mans circuit and race (I know, I was driven around one day in Steve Earle’s ’62 GTO while at Motor Trend).

Ferrari 250 GTO

Stephen Mitchell’s Ferrari 250 GTO in the parking lot at Riverside Raceway – photo by Larry Crane

So there is a lot of emotion and nostalgia that comes with that iconic shape. Of course the real ones are unapproachable price-wise for any but captains of industry, but why not, builders like Behar will argue, have a modern car underneath–modern engine, modern air conditioning, modern suspension, modern brakes– but clothed in a classic body style loaded with design cues hailing Ferrari’s greatest design achievement?

That is actually the case in private home design—many people go into the market telling an architect “I want a Southern mansion with a row of columns in front like the one in Gone with the Wind” or “I want a Craftsman house” and trot out a picture of a house designed in the 1930s.

And in clothing–look at all the small clothing companies that do nothing but make modern copies of ancient designs. A rider, I was looking for riding boots this morning and impressed that a company called Whole Horse in the UK markets boots that could easily have been designed in the 1800s.

So there are a lot of consumers who don’t want a new shape but something old in style that they are comfortable with.

But back to the effect on Ferrari. They can’t stop a private citizen from converting his privately-owned Ferrari into this ersatz GTO. But this could cause no small amount of confusion in the next couple of years because there was talk from the recently deceased chairman of FCS that Ferrari might enter the “continuation” car game like Jaguar and remake a classic that they made many decades ago. Jag is already on their second one, first the D-type and now the Lightweight XKE.

They somehow found a loophole in their time travel circuit that allows them to go back and make a car identical to the real ones from the Sixties.

So if Ferrari does offer a continuation 250 GTO, say a limited run of 25 cars, and here at the same time Ares is marketing a modern-but-old-style GTO, there could be some confusion in the marketplace on the part of consumers as to who is making what (and both will be licensed as Ferraris). Of course they are for two different markets but the general public could still be confused.

Ferrari’s idea makes more sense, in a way, because of the looseness of some vintage racing organizations over authenticating the cars that grace their evens. I have heard it inferred that some of the Ferraris and Cobras we see racing at major events today were not in fact built in the Sixties but are replicas.

Built because owners of the real ones now deem them too valuable to race. (Only guys like Rob Walton can afford to whack a Daytona Cobra coupe into a wall and shrug). So that’s where the exact replica GTOs could find a venue and then inevitably a few will somehow be licensed for the street though how they get through the airbags and other required safety devices loophole legislated since 1962 is a mystery.

But Behar’s idea? Maybe I should reserve judgement until after I see the reaction to the first one when the proud owner takes it to Monterey or Goodwood…maybe Ares will be inundated with orders and, in a free market system, don’t we have to give the public what they want?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
THE TOFF: Wallace Wyss is a fine artist, specializing in oil portraits of ‘60s classics. He is inviting gallery inquiries. He can be reached at photojournalistpro2@gmail.com.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Summary
Should Car Design Firms Copy Classic Designs?
Article Name
Should Car Design Firms Copy Classic Designs?
Description
Does Ferrari own the shape of the iconic Ferrari 250 GTO?
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Comments

  1. Robert Feldman says:

    Retro design cars have been capitalized on by many auto manufacturers including the big three. Look at the success of the new Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger. Some of the buyers had them when they were younger and want to have them again, but in a more modern version with today’s comfort and safety features.
    The Ares Design GTO is beautiful to behold and a few lucky buyers will have the retro look of a 1962 GTO with the performance, safety and usability of a modern Ferrari knowing there won’t be dozens of them for sale on ebay!
    If Ferrari does decide to offer a continuation car, the buyer will be a different client. If accepted for vintage racing, the client might be someone who already owns an original and wants to minimize risk. Or, the client might be someone who could never afford an original and wants to experience what few men get to do. Or, it might be somebody who just wants to cruise to “Cars and Coffee” events knowing everyone there will be blown away by a street driven GTO! If you can write the check there is no wrong reason to buy one!

  2. YES !!! ALL THE NEW CARS LOOK SO MUCH ALIKE YOU CANT EVEN TELL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE MANUFACTURERS, STYLES. AND THAT IS TRUE WITH THE CONVENTIONAL CARS AS WELL. THEY LOOK THE SAME , REGARDLESS OF WHICH COUNTRY THEY COME FROM. BUT IF I’M GOING TO PAY BIG MONEY FOR CAR, I WANT IT TO BE DISTINGUISHABLE FROM ALL THE OTHERS.

  3. Luca Fornetti says:

    Another copy, not a new model.
    Just like the 250 GTE converted into a Spyder California or whatever; one day the old car is worth more than the replica so they will disappear, they’re dead
    If you want a one off, Ferrari itself can make it for you and proudly show the badge!

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