Featured: In Defense of the Clone

In Defense of the Clone

By Adam Kaslikowski
June 10, 2013

Wherein I explore the intersection of stickers, cubic zirconia, and piecemeal dreams.

If you own a highly sought-after vehicle, it is easy to get frustrated when you see a clone of your ride. Typically a clone is made from a model of lesser performance or pedigree and dressed it up and altered it to ape the style and performance of your genuine article, but it can also be a frame-up replica. Anger is an understandable reaction to have when thinking of these fakers. You likely spent quite a bit of time and money researching and obtaining the perfect car for you. All that work and now some yokel with enough money to buy new bumpers and badges is stealing your glory. You have every right to dislike them.

I am here to tell you that you should be thanking them.

Let’s not forget our mother’s words of wisdom: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Whether it’s the dorky kid copying your childhood catchphrases or the weekend mechanic copying your car, the initial driver is the same. They want to be you. More immediately gratifying you get to say, “Yes, its real,” when asked at the gas station or parking lot. That’s just the best, isn’t it?

Since yours is real, and since you want to separate yourself from “them,” you get to form super-anal clubs with pretentious stickers and ill-fitting pastel polo shirts. Super fun! Think of all the meetups and one-make concourses you would miss out on if not for clones.

Thirdly, despite what you may think, clones are not destroying the value for your vehicle. On the contrary, they are enhancing the market for genuine articles such as yours. Cubic zirconias did not destroy the market for diamonds, nor have the reproduction posters/postcards/ties/mugs/shower curtains destroyed the value of the Mona Lisa or Starry Night. No, by making the vehicle more public and wanted, clones drive up the values of your vehicles. Feel free to tell the pretenders, “Thank you.”

Lastly, and least selfishly, when you see someone driving their clone around town, you are not seeing them drive a car. No, you are seeing them inside their dream that they have achieved and built piece by piece. The vehicle sparked the same amount of love and desire out of both of you. Circumstances conspired to require them to build a replica out of a more inexpensive car while you were able to get hold of the real deal. But now after much labor and effort they’ve got what they wanted and get to drive around in it. This should be recognized and celebrated, by both purists and the automotive community at large.

At the end of the day, owners of genuinely rare cars and owners of clones share the same love. Nobody is hurt here, and everyone gets some version of the car they love. The public, in turn, has more opportunity to see these cars and hopefully spark their own enthusiasms. So lets bury the hatchet between these groups. At the end of the day we’re all Petrolisti. 

Photo Sources: flickr.com, flickr.com

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4 years ago

Well done clones such as good Cobras, GT40s or your 356 reps are one thing. Crappy MR2 or worse, Fiero based Ferrari, ahem, ‘replicas’ are quite another and should be burned, crushed, then burned again

Jon Warshawsky
Jon Warshawsky(@bullfighter)
7 years ago

Those replicas have Porsche branding on them. That’s probably crossing the line, for a company that is protective of its trademarks.

Alec DeJovani
Alec DeJovani(@250berlinetta)
8 years ago

Replicas do make the real deal that much more special. If every Cobra one saw was a real one, they wouldn’t be that exotic. But if you’ve got a real one in a world with many replicas, your car stands out as something special. As for replicas themselves, many enthusiasts are limited to replicating their dream cars. As the article points out, people being enthusiastic about vintage cars enough to replicate them is more welcome than said people losing interest cars.

I personally hope to at least acquire a less than perfect example of a 250 GTE, as to make a Lusso or SWB Berlinetta replica. It’s not the real thing, but it may be my only chance. And that said, it’s still a Ferrari and a period correct 250 car.

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru(@leuceaalexandru)
8 years ago

Well, good news, thanks to cloning a cheaper alternative to the Ferrari California exists, and it can be yours for just 20.000$ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_pmN7phgK4
I would have a replica only if i could not afford the original, but want it badly. BUT only if it was build from scratch with high quality parts and made as closer to the original as it can possibly get. Only then. By no means i would ride in a wannabe Ferrari build on a MR2 chassis.

Xander Cesari
Xander Cesari(@xander18)
8 years ago

I understand if people feel that it’s not worth owning a clone, but what gives you the right to turn your nose up at a car show? If it’s a crappy VW-based Bugatti then few people are going to think it’s a real thing. If it’s a Pur Sang then the owner probably truly appreciates what makes those cars special and wanted a much more drivable version of the real thing. Many Bugatti people have grown to respect Pur Sangs, especially the ones that get vintage raced and the like.

I don’t understand how being ‘against clones’ is any different than being against BMWs, or American cars, or trucks, or whatever else you dislike. Some people like them, or can only afford them, and as long as they’re getting pleasure out of the car it really doesn’t matter how it makes you, the observer, feel.

We can all agree that purposefully trying to pass a clone off as the real thing is deceitful but openly driving a clone shouldn’t be a point of derision.

Kenyon Stewart
Kenyon Stewart(@fb_100003857475356)
8 years ago
Reply to  Xander Cesari

I have to agree with Xander. While I would not buy most replicas, and some are just an abhorrence, who are we to say what someone else should and shouldn’t build or buy. If owning and driving it makes them happy then good for them. And If you are a lucky enough to have an $800k Ferrari but only own it just so that people will know you have a very rare and expensive car, then in my opinion you are missing the point. The whole rarity thing doesn’t do it for me anyway. I like cars that I think are cool for whatever reason, usually looks, character, or driving pleasure. If it’s rare, that just means it’s more expensive to own and maintain which for certain cars is worth it because they are so cool. Just about any vintage car being driven on the road today will be somewhat “rare” and cool just by default.

Jon Warshawsky
Jon Warshawsky(@bullfighter)
7 years ago
Reply to  Kenyon Stewart

“Nobody is hurt here…” except the companies’ whose designs/brands are being used without their permission. Kind of like a replica Rolex, replica Gucci bag, etc., which trades on those brands. Ferrari recently used the courts to shut down a replica maker in Spain, and Mercedes has also cracked down on fake Gullwings.

Too many very attainable classic sports cars available, IMHO. I would go authentic every time, in every price range.

Ben Jewell
Ben Jewell(@fb_1293440522)
8 years ago

For me, the biggest advantage of replicas is that they can be used as a base for the modification of your dream car, you can do things to it you would never dare to do to an original car. Hopefully this would go some way to saving a few rare examples

8 years ago

I think the above article is a well thought out, optimistic perspective on what the die hard car culture its about. While I agree with those who have pointed out the “kit” car fiero type to be a black mark on the spirit, there are plenty of excellent recreations out there that allow people who would otherwise be unable to afford or unwilling to drive (which i think is integral to actually enjoying a car) the real thing. Take the cobra for example, superformance makes a FANTASTIC “resto-mod” recreation of the original Shelby. It has the proper smiths gauges, toggles, et cetera that are so difinitive Shelby; but with modern brakes, wiring, tires, and your own choice of running gear.

Call me a blaphamist, but there is next to no chance that I will ever get the opportunity to drive a REAL cobra in my life time. So why is it wrong to seek out something that is attainable, that embodies all the original spirit with the added bonus of some more modern components? Sounds like a win to me.

I feel it’s not the idea of a replica that is wrong, it is the way in which it is executed. That notion in itself can be applied to any sub-culture of the automotive industry. Asian, German, American muscle, all have their own following and level of acceptance. Anything done with thought, care, and taste I think is worth a pass.

Alex Clise
Alex Clise(@highonchai)
8 years ago

There are a few different degrees of “replication” being discussed here, and I think they need to be defined, and thought of differently… here’s how I define them… in no particular order…
We have “Clones” – cars build around Fiero, Beetle, etc… chassis – typically bolted together poorly from inferior materials. (The Rodney Dangerfields)
We have “Replicas” – like autos build by Pur Sang in Argentina from original blueprints, castings, etc… – in most ways identical to, yet technically superior to and more use-able than the original. (About as close as you’re going to get to an original without your eyes getting wet, and nearly as pricey.)
We have “Tributes” – cars like “uptheorg’s” ’73 RSR built from a factory 911, with all factory parts. (Respectable autos for sure, that only the true purists might scoff at)
And we have “Recreations” – Cobras, Daytonas, Spyders, etc… all built on brand new tube-chassis, using brand new bodywork, new suspension, and new or re-purposed power plants & drive trains. (Cars built for a respectable purpose, but that shouldn’t be passed of as original or perhaps even badged as such)
I think my definitions are apt…
Personally I don’t have a problem with any of these cars, provided they’re treated for what they truly are; beyond face value. How often do you get the chance to see an original 550 Spyder? I get excited when I see a well executed replica/clone/tribute/recreation. It’s like having a cousin who once had a pint with Sir Stirling Moss… not the real experience, but damn cool nonetheless.

Glenn Stephens
Glenn Stephens(@gearhead)
8 years ago

I own a car that is often cloned and I am ok with that, although many people assume mine is a clone as well. The only problem I really have with clones is when they are for looks or bragging rights only and do not duplicate the experience of the original. A 550 spider with a VW motor is an example, or for that matter, a Cobra kit with an 800hp Nascar motor. One is a ‘look at me’ poseur and the other is a ‘look at what I can buy but don’t know how to drive’.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia(@afshinb)
8 years ago

I never had any respect for clones until I read Adam’s arguments. Still, though I’m a bit more understanding now, I haven’t changed my position much: clones are not cool.

First as many of you point out, we should define what a clone is. The worst offenders are, of course, the cheap ghastly creatures built on top of Fieros or similar cars.

At the other end of the spectrum you have fake Alfa Romeo TZs or Ferrari GTOs built on top Alfa Romeo Sprints or Ferrari 250 GTEs respectively. Sure, these are a step up, but let’s call them what they are: fakes. Regardless of how much high-end used car dealers insist on abusing language and calling them “recreations” or “tributes”, they’re still fakes.

Regarding the argument that the real thing is not always affordable, personally, I’d rather buy an authentic machine than I can afford than a clone of one that I cannot.

All that said, I really enjoyed Adam’s article and was eager to see other people’s thoughts on this touchy subject.

8 years ago

Interesting topic! First thought I had when reading it: for owners of the real thing: odds are very good that the first time you saw the car you own that it was a replica you were looking at. So, to agree with the article, the clones serve the purpose of exciting the public about a car they may have only a passing knowledge of.

As to my own experience, I have owned two clones through the years (in addition to a long line of German, Italian, and British cars). As I think about it, I realize that when I bought these cars, my goal was to get a good [u]car[/u] that looked cool, rather than simply something that looked the part. The Shelby Cobra that I had started as a Backdraft roller and then we added a 565 hp Kieth Craft built engine — this was a great [u]car[/u] that also looked good. I currently have a 1973 Porsche RSR replica which is built exclusively from Porsche parts — beautiful to behold, handles amazingly, and fast as can be. First and foremost, it is a great [u]car[/u] — it is after all 100\% Porsche. I am sure the cars that I have owned offend some original owners, but, to me, the greater transgression would be to own something that is barely a car and more of an exercise in paint and plastic to make it look like a rare and expensive vehicle.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia(@afshinb)
8 years ago
Reply to  uptheorg

I think certain cars, such as the 911, due to its very long production run, deserve special consideration for modifications, just like [url=”http://petrolicious.com/one-car-to-do-it-all-jack-olsen-s-911″]Jack Olsen’s car[/url], as you can mix and match parts from various years of production. Jack doesn’t pretend his car is anything that it’s not. His is purpose built for his taste and driving preferences. Likewise, building a 911 that looks like an 73 RSR doesn’t feel so offensive like building an SWB from a GTE, so long as no one tries to pass off the 911 as an RSR.

Jeff Lannigan
Jeff Lannigan(@fedge)
8 years ago

I don’t have a problem with replicas as long as they are clearly represented as such; this allows us to accordingly rank their merit to an appropriate standard. There is certainly a point where a propensity of replicas waters down the virtue of the originals (Shelby Cobras for example), but many replicas are passionately created by true craftsmen and are likely as good or better than the cars they emulate (Pur Sang’s Alfa and Bugatti copies come to mind). These cars can still be appreciated and in some cases even used and driven more effectively than the real thing. However, I do hang up on the badging – if it didn’t come from the maker’s factory, it should not carry the maker’s mark.

Steve Fitz
Steve Fitz(@monovich)
8 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Lannigan

So true about Cobras. When I see one I first assume it’s a replica unless proven otherwise.

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
8 years ago

There are so many shades of grey with clones/ replicas or whatever that it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion. On the one hand there is the wonderful nut and bolt exact replica of a Ferrari 196 Sharknose a car that doesn’t even exist in original form any more. On the other there is the cheap and nasty Ferrari or Lamborghini clones usually based on a Fiero that after many hours of work look less desirable than the base car. Somewhere in between are the Ferrari 250GTO clones based on a 250GTE of 330GT 2+2. While the workmanship is great it means an already rare car has been cut up mainly in the name of money.

Niklaus Gingro
Niklaus Gingro(@kingcrowing)
8 years ago

I love the 550 Spyder, but honestly, even if I could afford one I wouldn’t buy one because I’d be too afraid of damaging a piece of history. With a replica I can have a lot more fun and worry a lot less about it. Someday I may look into buying one just because the replicas look so good and with a Subaru boxer in them – I’d want a 2.2, 167hp should be more than enough – it’s going to be a lot cheaper to maintain.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson(@valvebounce)
8 years ago

The $10 Rolex or $20 Louis Vuitton bag, Stealing copyrighted photographs from your website, downloading MP3s for free, tweeting without acknowledgment, where does it end? There’s two aspects to this; the petrolhead getting a fix (which I’m sure everyone will agree is good), but copying a design and selling it is just plain wrong.

I love all aspects of car culture, and there’e room for everyone. For every “super-anal club with pretentious stickers and ill-fitting pastel polo shirts” there’s one with cool “attitude” baggy jeans and serious hair. One probably doesn’t give a second thought to the other, why should they.

Clones will never stop but I think designers and owners of patent and copyright should follow Mercedes-Benz. They have the right idea

8 years ago
Reply to  Paul Thompson

Maybe I’d agree with you if Mercedes was still selling the 300sl, Jaguar was still selling the C-type or Shelby was still selling the Cobra – but the examples you have provided of copyright infringement and intellectual property theft are not comparable to re-producing cars that went out of production 50 years ago, especially considering that these cars are NOT being sold as genuine. Mercedes is not losing money when a 300sl replica is sold, and the owner of a true 300sl is not losing money either. Mercedes’ behavior in this case is nothing short of disgusting.

Alex Clise
Alex Clise(@highonchai)
8 years ago

Well put. I must assume that owners of “Real McCoy” cars also get a bit jealous while their original Shelby Cobra or Model T Roadster sits at home in the garage only to be admired, pampered, and babied to the occasional car show, and they see others actually enjoying a replica. But as Jim Glickenhaus famously quipped: “Not driving your Ferrari is like not having sex with your girlfriend so she’ll be more desirable to her next boyfriend.”

8 years ago

What you are saying “In Defense of The Clone”, is simply nonsense. When these fake 356’ers are trying to get $15-25K for a car that doesn’t run or sound like the car they are duplicating. And If someone has a real 356, they took the time and money to maintain or restore a car from the grave then it de-valvue the brand. You can admire the real cars, I don’t see a lot of fake 50’s Corvettes, Vipers or Ferrari’s. You see it is the thought of most uneducated that these cars (356 Porsches) are interchangeable with a VW of the same years produced and they are not. A 356 is a different car, it’s an actual race car from the 50 or 60’s, so no fake 356 will appear at Monterey, Dana Point or and 356 event and be apart of their Concourse. Next you will be trying to copy the R Gruppe with a fake Porsche