My Car Quest

April 17, 2024

Should Clone Cars be Allowed?

A philosophical question…

by Wallace Wyss –

Of course they are here, they are called replicas or continuations. Many are not exactly clones. I think they’ve been around as long as cars have been around–you want a certain car, it’s no longer around, if it’s a popular enough car you might find someone’s making a replica.

I recently saw Zagato, while not calling it the Bizzarrini GT5300 Strada, is rebodying a modern front engine Corvette to look like a Bizzarrini (they’re calling it an Iso Rivolta GTZ as the Bizzarrini came out of the first Iso Rivolta Grifo design, the A3/C). It is in the original spirit of the Iso Grifo because it had the same 327 Chevy engine as the Corvette, and this new one has a Corvette engine too.

And Jaguar is making D-types. And Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato’s. Not “in the spirit of” but “tool room” copies. I imagine the purists are screaming it shouldn’t be allowed, but I say why not? You can’t say it will diminish the value of the originals because, in the case if the Cobra, even if there are a dozen replica makers, the price of the 998 originals is going through the roof, almost a million dollars each depending on the history (a car that raced at Le Mans would be worth considerably more, for example than one that was just road driven).

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation

Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation

And let’s compare it to other things we can buy. I bet there are homes all over the country that are a copy of some famous house like Thomas Jefferson’s house or one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. It’s a case of maybe a guy wasn’t born yet when these houses were built but he promised himself “If I ever hit it big, I’m gonna build me a copy of ____________ (You fill in the famous house name). Nobody’s objecting to going “retro” in custom home design.

Wallace Wyss and Bugatti

Wallace Wyss and a Bugatti

And then there’s clothing. I myself am trying to upgrade my (photographic) image by buying a suit like my late friend Tom Wolfe wore, white with a double breasted vest that had lapels. Not easily found where I live, a suburb so country I can see cows chewing cud about 100 ft. from my apartment. So I want to buy some design that’s 100 years old and willing to go to some trouble to get it. Nobody’s objecting if we go “retro” in clothes.

Let’s jump to women. Their look. I wonder how many women switching to blonde have a picture of Marilyn Monroe around as reference? I am not saying all blondes want to look like Marilyn but she is, you have to admit, a handy reference source for a “look” men find attractive. (I met the real Jayne Mansfield, and I’m here to tell ya, she was unforgettable…).

Now back to the cars. Let’s say a guy is only 40 so he wasn’t even born yet when the Ferrari short wheelbase Berlinetta ruled the GT category. If he can afford it why shouldn’t he be able to buy a copy right down to it being built on a frame of a lesser known lesser celebrated Ferrari? Why should he be denied the thrills of blasting through a tunnel at 6000 rpm to hear the siren song of the V12 from way back in the Sixties?

And now to the car that led me to expressing this thought. The Mk. 2 Jag four door saloon modified by a restoration shop called CMC in the UK, the mods made according to a recipe devised by their first customer for the restomod, retired Jaguar designer Ian Callum, buying it as a retirement present for himself. Now originally he was just having an old Jag kitted out as he would want it for modern day use. But once word got around and other people wanted one, you can see the dismay at Jaguar–what–people want a 50-year old design instead of their 2020 four door sedan? Heretofore all Jaguar ads have tried to sell a little history but turns out some people want a slice of the real thing. Because that new design’s got no history, no association with the Jaguar in their mind, y’see.

Ian Callum

Ian Callum finds his retromobile more satisfying than a modern Jag, even though he designed some modern Jaguars

And I think it’s a great thing. A guy who designed the 2020 Jags available right now, for his own car going back to a classic of 40-50 years ago and upgrading it. So Callum has a car loaded with nostalgia and when he takes a trip, every journey is an adventure.

Now Detroit back in the first decade of the 2000s, tried twice to go retro, and though the Ford GT was a success, with the cars now worth a lot more than they were new in ’05-’06, the revived T-Bird flopped. I say it was because they couldn’t help modernizing it. Well why don’t we go to Mt. Vernon or Thomas Jefferson’s house and “modernize” them? Ford would’ve sold more if they had offered a copy of the ’55, ’56 and ’57.

Bugatti EB112 deigned by Ital Design

Bugatti EB112 deigned by Ital Design

In a recent article, I even went so far in discussing the possibility Bugatti might change hands. When they do, odds are the new buyer will have to come up with a four door sedan. I suggest going back to the designs Ital Design submitted in the first years of the VW takeover. They were modern in terms of features but retro in styling, designs that ironically resemble the Jaguar Mk.2 saloon. I also suggest that they use as a model for a Retrofuture car, or whatever you want to call it, the Ghia Vignale Lagonda, a four door saloon done decades ago. It was classy but still could be totally modern mechanically and comfort wise.

Bugatti EB112 deigned by Ital Design

Bugatti EB112 deigned by Ital Design

And so it is. I like modern design (especially in kitchen utensils and dining room chairs). But I find the old shapes comfortable. So let’s not be so hard in judging those that like retro. They heard that famous literary line “You can’t go home again” and are asking “Why not?”

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has lectured on automotive design history at the Art Center College of Design. He is presently creating oil portraits of classic cars.


Should Clone Cars be Allowed?
Article Name
Should Clone Cars be Allowed?
I like modern design (especially in kitchen utensils and dining room chairs). But I find the old shapes comfortable. So let's not be so hard in judging those that like retro.


  1. “Ah, the Klassic Konundrum..Yes, there are a lot of Cobra’s and now so many “Sanctioned” other Marques. Do, they have their place? Yes, No & Maybe. Before Shelby went back to making Cobra’s in the 90’s, there were mainly lower end plastic replicas built to whatever standards. Many downright sub-par especially, if you wanted to continue breathing. The exception to the rule were they well known restorers that have been working on originals for decades. Both in the US and UK, there were nut and bolt tool room copies made. Unfortunately, some attempting to lay claim for MIA originals. Now with Historic FIA Paper Work, you may race a Tool Room Copy. Jag Lightweight E, Aston DB4-GT, James Bond DB5 and oh so many more? One has to think of how much they have to spend as opposed to buying an original. First, virtually no one(to my knowledge, maybe) building those cars had any real hands on experience in the day or possibly ever. Not certain, I will stand corrected but, from what I have seen, they unfortunately come as a work in progress for well into the 7 figures. Hard to imagine but true. It is my belief that these “Clones” should “Only” be done as “Tool Room” Copies with NO VIZIBLE Modernizations. I don’t see any conflict with the originals in that case and only a compliment to their existence. The rest is a mere hitting below the belt..

  2. Wallace Wyss says

    In the case of the “tool room” copies, I am wondering how you get the car legal for the street when it has no airbags, not laminated glass all around, no safety bumpers and on and on. But maybe in other countries they are sold to the well heeled that have ways of getting around the laws that apply to new cars, maybe even registering them as ’66 models when they are made in 2020. You got the money, I go back in the time machine and getcha what you want…

  3. SKIP HINOJOS says



  4. One thing you can’t clone is classic music ! Cheap trick tried.

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