My Car Quest

January 25, 2020

Editorial: Vintage Car Replicas Rule

Wherein an old racing historian accepts the inevitable of vintage car replicas…

by Wallace Wyss –

OK, I get it. People go to vintage races to see vintage cars. But some vintage races are now letting in cars that look old but may have in point of fact been built in, say, 2005, yet are still entered in the program as a Cobra or whatever from the Sixties.

At one time I was totally against it. When I went to a Chicago vintage race produced by Joe Marketti some decades ago, and saw a fake Ferrari P3/4 built atop a more modern Boxer, I was disgusted. But there were only maybe three Ferrari P3/4s built so maybe it was too much to expect somebody to thrash a real one. And that was back when they were only $100,000 collectibles.

But now that so many memorable cars have become too expensive to risk (I remember seeing a real Cobra Daytona coupe and a real Ferrari Testa Rossa crash at Monterey vintage events…), I have decided life’s too short, I’ll take the replicas rather than nothing.

SUPERFORMANCE FORD GT40 MKII

Ford GT40 Replica by Superfomance used in the movie Ford v Ferrari – photo by Mecum

If you are wondering who would race a $5 million car like a real Daytona coupe and risk crashing it, the driver was one of the family that owns Walmart, an enterprise which accounts for something over 20% of all retail sales in the U.S. That’s the kind of money it takes to race $5 million cars and not worry about it.

But there is not too many of those guys, so if we want to see the great cars of the Sixties race, we may have to go for stand-ins, sort of like those “tribute bands” where you can go see the Beatles only it’s not the real Beatles (which would be impossible anyway since two are deceased).

Peter Brock's Cobra Daytona

Peter Brock’s Cobra Daytona Replica

What would, say, a celebration of Cobras or Porsche Speedsters be at a vintage race without a lot of them? I am sure there will still be some real ones as parade cars or in concours at the same event.

REBUILT VINTAGE CAR ORIGINALS

And then there is the problem of the supposedly “vintage” cars being rebuilt. I was once sent a review copy of a book on Lola T-70s. It was a finely produced book, written by a historian who also bought and sold originals. But when I got to the fifth mention of “re-chassied” (the excuse is that the bolt holes get elongated so you have to remake the tub) I threw the book away, thinking “If it isn’t the chassis it was built with, it’s not the real car anymore.”

But let’s say I give way on that. I would at least like those “old” cars built in modern times to be identified in the program, say for instance properly identifying that ’65 GT40 Mk. V you see out on the track as one built by Safir in the 1980s under license.

I think those who enter car shows mis-representing their car as a famous once-thought-lost car (right down to appropriating the real car’s serial number) should be banned from future participation in that event. I remember one guy entered a racing Aston Martin at Pebble Beach, ad won an award, only to have the horror of the family of the original racer cropping up sometime later to say that not only was the car a fake but that the real one had been interred near a racetrack with their son in it!

Ferrari 330 P4 Replica - photo by Ultimate Car Page

Ferrari 330 P4 Replica – photo by Ultimate Car Page

The trouble with the world of 2020 is that it’s becoming easier to fake an old car than it used to be. Poppy Smith writing in the Telegraph wrote “Replica Ferrari GTOs, which are often cobbled together from new parts and second-hand components sourced from donor cars such as the cheaper GTE, can be so convincing that even the most knowledgeable experts have trouble differentiating them from the ‘real deal.”

FACTORY MADE VINTAGE CAR REPLICAS

Now where it gets really sticky is in the replicas that are being built by the same actual automakers who originally built them, say, for example, the Aston Martin DB4 GTZ made not in the original run, when they briefly contested with Ferrari 250 GTOs, but the more recent “continuation cars.” After Aston got away with reaching into the past and coming back with treasure when they made a batch of DB4GTZs, Jag thought something to the effect of “Well, we never completed those D-types we lost in the fire, let’s make some of those.” Last I heard Jaguar was making lightweight E-types again.

Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation

Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation – photo by Mike Gulett

And so it goes. What if Chevrolet makes more Gran Sports? Ferrari more 250 GTOs? Mercedes a few more Gullwing 300SL’s? Won’t that hurt the value of real ones on the auction circuit? In a way it’s a dis-service to those who’ve spent decades restoring their originals, that these “pretenders to the throne” will have the spotlight thrown on them at major events.

Then too, I am not sure how these replicas made by automakers square with modern safety and emissions laws? You mean to tell me that they can make a replica of a 1957 car and say “forget about it” when you ask “Hey, where’s the air bags, the catalytic converters, the side door guard beams, yadda yadda?”

We may have opened Pandora’s box by recognizing these replicas by allowing them to run in vintage races. I would like to dig my feet into the sand and continue to oppose them but on the other hand I have come to face reality. We all aren’t getting any younger. The same situation must be facing air shows. How many of us have ever seen a P51 Mustang in flight? I have, because I happened to live where there’s several air shows a year. But every year at least one of the remaining World War II vintage fighters crashes somewhere in the world.

I’m now ready to accept a 1:1 line-for-line bolt-for-bolt replica so I can see one make a low pass, machine guns firing. I’ve met pilots like the late John Fitch who flew one in combat and can appreciate more their sacrifice (he was shot down, spent time in a German POW camp) if I see a plane like they flew in action. So I’ll accept a replica.

Ford GT40 by Superformance and Wallace Wyss - Vintage Car Replica

Ford GT40 and Wallace Wyss (one of the replicas supplied by Superformance for the movie Ford v Ferrari)

And one I would pay to see is if March AFB Museum or one of the other museums that has a real SR-71 Blackbird fires it up and does a flyover at 2000 mph. Or even an exact replica, but I know it won’t happen, because it would take millions to make a new one, a plane that’s over half a century old.

At the risk of having my paws get slapped with a steel edged ruler by a “Me Too” suffragette, I’ll tell you a story about my encounter with nostalgia. I recall, when attending a car show in Beverly Hills some decades ago, I met a look-alike for Marilyn Monroe, blonde, shapely and exactly spot on right down to the mole on her cheek. I remember thinking “How could this be Marilyn, as the real one lies a-molderin’ in the grave less than five miles from here?” And yet, with my arm around her waist as we strolled down the avenue looking at the cars (and receiving the envious stares of the guys), that thought evaporated.

I thought “This is good. I could live with this…”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR Wallace Wyss is co-host of the Autotalk radio show on KUCR FM Riverside, California.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Summary
Editorial: Vintage Car Replicas Rule
Article Name
Editorial: Vintage Car Replicas Rule
Description
What if Chevrolet makes more Gran Sports? Ferrari more 250 GTOs? Mercedes a few more 300SL's? Won't that hurt the value of the real vintage cars on the auction circuit?
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Comments

  1. Martin Schroeder says

    Look at the Goodwood Revival of 2012 when Mercedes and Auto Union (Audi) brought their irreplacable GP Cars to Goodwood, invited period competitors like Alfa and Bugatti and had the cars driven by professionals. That was a wonderful racing show with wheelspin and overtaking, evenerybody yould smell the burnt Casrol and listen to the incredible sound, all without any accident.

    Martin Schroeder

  2. Gregory Franklin says

    Wallace, one of your best articles for sure! Most of your readers can’t afford the originals and having to witness one of the original 6 Daytona Coupes stuff its front end at the Monterey Historic races is reason enough in my reality to let the quality built replicas in on the game. If I got to stroll the paddock with a early 60’s version of Sophia Loren I would fine as well!

    Gregory Franklin

  3. wallace wyss says

    i am glad the owners of the real ones still bring them out, to the concours, or parade laps. Then too some of the originals have been so updated (wider wheels, lowe profile tires) that they hardly represent the original configuration anyhow. I think promoters of various events should lay out the red carpet for owners of originals to encourage them to keep bringing their cars out to events, so we can all tell youngsters what it was like to see a real 427 Cobra, Porsche 550 spyder, Ferrari 250, et al…

  4. SKIP HINOJOS says

    I ALWAYS WANTED A PORSCHE 904 , REPLICA. COULD NEVER AFFORD REAL ONE.

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