Journal: Is a Reproduction Ever Acceptable?

Is a Reproduction Ever Acceptable?

By Yoav Gilad
January 29, 2014

Yesterday, we ran an article discussing future potential car purchases. If you like, you can click the link and read it, we’ll wait. But basically, I’m considering purchasing a new (vintage) car and a couple of replicas are at the top of the list. No, none of them are based on the Pontiac Fiero. They’re both very well built and engineered replicas, which can be used on the street or track.

Opinions were mixed, both in the responses to the article and at the Petrolicious office, between people who think a replica is acceptable and those who question how it’s built and whether it’s a real replica or not. It’s easy to understand the conflict: purity versus cost and availability. But, like all other cars, replicas are not created equal. As I mentioned, I’m not talking about buying a home-chopped, neglected budget build. All of the replicas under consideration are tube-chassis, custom fabricated race cars.

Which brings us to today’s question(s): are replicas ever acceptable? Does build quality affect your position on this? Or is it a simple matter of purity and provenance? What if the car is too scarce and you can’t possibly hope to own it?

Click here to see the Cobra RM Auctions listing (Photography by Drew Shipley © 2014)

Click here to see the Countach RM Auctions listing (Photography by Darin Schnabel © 2014)

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Ilan Joseph
Ilan Joseph(@ilan_joseph)
2 years ago

What’s the difference between a reproduction and a replica? I purchased a reproduction 1957 356 built on a ‘68 VW chassis. When I purchased it I couldn’t care less what the official term was – I just wanted the damn thing. Now, for the sake of educating myself, I’d like to know what my reproduction 356 really means as compared to a replica. Thanks in advance!

Erik de Vries
Erik de Vries(@ermott)
7 years ago

I think it entirely depends on what you use the car for. If you plan to use it for racing, then fine. If you intend to dive the heck out of it, then great! If you plan to drive around “pretending” it’s the real thing, well you have your priorities a bit mixed up then, don’t you?

Bradley Price
Bradley Price(@fb_100003028226242)
7 years ago

One last point on this topic: It’s no secret that many of the cars racing today in historic events are nothing more than re-creations themselves–but with original chassis plates pried off of wrecked or destroyed cars. So this make the line between replica and restoration even more blurred.

Bradley Price
Bradley Price(@fb_100003028226242)
7 years ago

In my view, replicas of racing cars are more acceptable than those of road cars. Because of the risky nature of racing combined with the overall rarity and fragility of original racing cars, which we might want to preserve (ask Dr. Fred Simeone or read his book if you disagree), there is some logic to racing re-creations of these cars provided they are authentically done. With road cars, it seems the primary motive behind purchasing a replica has more to do with showing off or creating an impression on others rather than re-creating a driving experience or living the past.
I also have a big problem with replicas and re-creations where the correct badges are affixed. In my opinion, you can make your fake 330/P4 correct down to the last nut and bolt, but you have no right to put a prancing horse on the nose no matter how perfect the copy is. It is still a copy. Same goes for Beck 550 spyders. I would never deign to put a Porsche badge on one, even if it had a Porsche engine. I think the main purpose of these sorts of bolt for bolt re-creations is to provide a cheaper, sturdier, safer, more reliable way to enjoy the experience of driving a very rare and unattainable vintage car. And for that purpose, I think the replica route is actually arguably more sane than racing an actual vintage car with a significant history. After all, driving a Pur Sang T35 flat out, without a care in the world will be more like what it was like to race a Bugatti when it was new, compared to driving an 80-year-old authentic car in anger, wincing at every gear crunch. At the end of the day an authentic historic vehicle has a soul and a history that cannot be faked, but if the goal is to re-create the experience of racing these cars when they were new, then a re-creation is a viable solution, in my opinion.

Jon Warshawsky
Jon Warshawsky(@bullfighter)
7 years ago

Assuming you have sought and obtained permission from Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche or whatever company owns the rights to the design and the logo trademarks, no problem. Any replica enthusiast who has done the due diligence on this should be on solid ground.

7 years ago

Possibly I am mistaken, but what Dennis told me is that he had been allowed to race his car initialy with a 351 based 427 because it is a Mk2 and they origionaly ran a 427 although those were an FE and a 4 speed not zf 5 speed. For the past few years the cars unless a Fe big block Mk2 are a MK1 and they must run a steel 289 or 302 block althougha alum head Ok, they can be bored but mustr retain a 3.0 stroke.

As to the difference between a 289 and a 302 I am well aware. But a 302 is eesentialy a devloped 289 block and stronger, they both have the 8.2 deck height and 3.0 stroke. A 351 is a different motor and has a 9.5 deck height and numerous differences.

So as a SPF is a new build or continuation GT40, a 302 is essentialy continuation 289. A SPF with a carbed 302 is essentiilay the car that was built in the 60’s with some detail changes like 302 instead of 289 block, different switches aluminun uprights instead of magnesium and a few other bits. BUt if you look at a SPF tub, its is built the same and essentaily the same, just as a 302 is a 8.2 deck small block ford. Thie SPF with a 302 is from what I understand acceptable to SVRA and HSR. To race at good wood a SPF would need 30k in detail chnages and there was apparently one there.

As to origional cars, most if not all have bene retubbed due to sorrosion and most have repacement glass hwich begs the question as to what from the 60’s was left. Now some old GT40s are also runnign things like flat plabe cranks and all types of exotic internals, able to turn over 8k rpm, which is afar cry from how they were built in the 60’s. Some might even argue thta a SPF with 302 because it is scrutinsed so strongle is more authentic to what was built in the 60’s than the heavily modified datat plate 60’s cars still running.

In any event from what I hear and read, those who raced back in the 60’s or histiruc race GT40s, and have or have driven a spf clamn that they drive exactly the same, which to me it is colse enough.

Now other Gt40 replicas are different, a RCR or Bailey are essentialy modern cars undernath running different transaxles clothed ina GT40 body, same with KVA CAV GTD(which is tube frame). If you want the original suspension layout, a riveted and welded tub made with sheet metal and ribs as per lola, then its SPF Gelescoe or one of the safir builds if you can find one.

Michael Hainey
Michael Hainey(@lukewarmwater)
7 years ago

Acceptable to who? If you need someone else’s acceptance to make you feel okay about owning any car you then might be better off considering a nice Nissan or Honda.

Boxerman, even with a 302 your car will not really be that close to an original MkI. You do realize that right? What vintage series do you plan to race that would only accept a 302? They were actually 289 powered until 68/69 which were 4.9 liter not 5.0 liter powerplants. Both Olthoff cars that do race vintage series are running 427W engines including the Gulf MkI that was running a 302 until swapping in the 427.

Todd Cox
Todd Cox(@mc70)
7 years ago

I saw a blue 472 Cobra kit car (I couldn’t tell it was a kit) and stopped to shoot a few pictures for inspiration of my retro-mod project. I started talking to the guy and he told me about the car. It was a solid car that the couple had searched for; bought in California but the couple lived in TX. Clearly, there are replicas that are as sought after as the real ones.

I looked around that car for a good while, and I really examined it. The details were all spot-on. The parts used to build it were identical in appearance, and likely far superior in function than the original car would have used. Is being reliable, affordable, and something that can be used and shared everyday a negative trait of the well-built kit car? I don’t personally think so. And, on the dashboard was Carrol Shelby’s signature. For me, that cemented it. That man, really, just built a kit car. A small run was produced, but the Cobra was never, ever anything more than a garage kit car commissioned by Ford after the Shelby cars had such racing success, beating Ford themselves. To me, that signature on the dash said everything; if Carrol Shelby can appreciate a replica enough to grace it with his signature, I think we can all respect the car.

I will likely get a Porsche Speedster replica one of these days, but as the article points out there are wildly varying degrees of quality when it comes to a kit car. However, no matter how bad the kits might be, the VW chassis they sit on and the 1600 (now more commonly 1641) engines are more powerful and reliable than the early Porsche engines were; they are better today than they were, though I don’t believe they diminish the experience.

Bertram Wooster
Bertram Wooster(@fb_100002929454700)
7 years ago

Up front, my bias is that I finally finished an FFR MkII a year ago and it’s terrific. The experience also changed how I look at these things-

-There’s a freedom you get with a replica owners of originals usually don’t have: I can built or modify it as I see fit. Need to drill holes in the floor to fit a different seat? Go to EFI for lower emissions and better fuel economy as well as better running manners? No problem. You can get a much more useable car. Or not. Your choice. Do that to an original and you lose your investment and ‘street cred.’
-As satisfying as finishing a restoration is, building the entire car is even better!
-It changed my idea of what a dream car is. Most of the stuff unveiled at auto shows is nice, but now what I really want is to build another! It’s too bad that Ereminas GTZ replica is $38k…

Richard Holmes
Richard Holmes(@reholmes)
7 years ago

I drive a McBurnie and a Mera–daily! If they were real, I doubt if I would venture out of the garage.

Jon Warshawsky
Jon Warshawsky(@bullfighter)
7 years ago
Reply to  Richard Holmes

I drove my Ferrari 328 all the time (in dry weather). Terrific car all round, and eventually sold it for what I paid. Won a few concours events as well. I miss it.

7 years ago

I think when it comes to repros there are a number of categories which soemtimes get confused.
There are Kit cars, reproductions, recreations, tool room copies,and various greay areas in between.
In Kit cars we have a broad range of machines, from Vw powered bugattis, to vette ferraris, Countaches with Chevies, to even possibly FFr cobras. To me a kit car is eitehr an origional design, or a visual approximation of an out of production car, no kit car used the same build method or mechanical componants as an orgional. The FFr might be debatable, but the body is glass the chassis completly different, completly different suspemsion it has a sold axle and some type of pushrod v8.

Recreations are cars that are pretty clsoe to an orgional, but might or might not not be built under license an have some minor variances. Think Kirkham Cobra, or SPF GT40.

An era cobra would be in between example, the chassi layout is pretty close to a “real” cobra and it uses galss, most are 4 speed big blocks and probably drive more or less the same. A Bell Stratos, uses a different engine and different chassi but is really close in concept and execution. These two are somewhere between Kit and recreation.

A recreation will be built the same way as an orgional with origional materials to the extent possible and the origional style powerplant.Take the example of the SPF GT40, its built under licese, the tub is the same asa period build, the differences are in uprights in aluminum not magnesium, similar but more modern brakes and some cabin detail. Its a recreation will drive and appear the same as a period build. A pur sang Bugatti is anotehr example, there are some screws and bilts different to a 1929 car, and the distributor is different too. As Buggati people say, what makes a bugatti is how its made, the blueprint used and the materials used, not when. We can also add Lynx XKss here and some proteus Ctypes. You can these days also buy new 60s mustang shells and camaros. Depemnding on how its finished and motor used it could be a recreation, tool room copy or a restomod.
We might also argue that certain allegreti GTO’s are recreations, or they might be tool room copies.

If SPF GT40 runbs a 351 and not a 302 block, well its a grey recreation area potentialy.

Now tool room copies are nut and bolt rivet for rivet, switch for switch, instrument for instrument resurections. I think there have been some GTOs done in this vein, Croswaite did a few auto unionsGP cars for audi. Gelescoe does some GT40’s. Ferrai dis one of their early cars. An aston DB4GT zagato sanction 2 might be in this category or somewhere in between this and a recreation.

I am going to say a large number of vintage racers are tool room copies/recreations with an old data plate

Licensing also creates a grey area, Shelby licenses glass cobras, but unless aluminum bodeid they are like an ERa somewhere between Kit and recreation. An SPF GT40 is licensed, but it needs a bout 30K in detail changes to race at goodwood, a gelescoe GT40 does not but costs twice. So maybe a SPF is somewhere between a recreation and a tool room.

Or maybe we have grades of 1-3 in each category.

Whatever the category, i assume we are all car people and welcome people into the hobby. Kit cars are amazinbgly creative and some have great engineering, plus you have to respect the skill and enthisiasm of soemone who builds one of these, as long as its not a fake badge pose, its awesome..
An area where I see downside is with poseurs pretending. We see this in the kit car area with fake ferraris for a pose.

As to recreations on up, they have their own value now and are really new builds of period cars, built the same way to the same or betetr stabdards with origional materials, and doing agreat job of keeping the classic car keeping the hobby alive. Frankly i would love to see a race of period designs of the type we dont see on tarck anymore. Half the cars at the goodwood GT40 reunion were gelescoe.

These older cars were built for racing and racing hard, or being driven and used. As the period builds escalate in value into rare art, to enjoy the machines recreations fill the gap for drivers and spectators.

The other area I think is bad is when otherwise rare cars get chopped to make recreations. Yes there was a time when ferrari 250GTE’s were rusty 10K cars, so some GTos got made. But today you can get every part for your GTo inclusing the transmission cases and engine bocks no need to chop. The reason why Chops still take place is because if you chop a ferrari you can still put ferrari badges on it. I would argue thta acceopting recreations and tool room copies not only enhances the hobby, it also saves are old cars from the chop. The most egregious example of this was thre Ferrari can am car thta survived intact from the 60s as it had left the factory, had its body removed and changes made to the chassis, a replica body installed to turn it back into a P4
In other words a period pice intact from the 60s, from maranello was chopped and tuernd into a bitsa, to make a theoreticaly more desireable car.

In conclusion a cool car is a cool car. Kit cars are aht they are. reacreations and tool room copies seem to hold value and even appreciate, the audience is growing too. Buy what yoiu like and remember that as an investment its pretty hard to beat the right period buikt machine(investemnts go up and down), but if its for drivign there are lots of great choices.

7 years ago

Well…like many people here, I think it all depends on how it’s done. And of course, the quality of the work that goes in there. Which basically negates a whole lot of replica cars, like ones based on Fiero, or 80’s corvette. I’ve seen a few 250GTO replica made out of 240/260/280Zs, and they were pretty well done, but, seriously, that chassis/engine has no business pretending like GTOs, you know what I mean?

7 years ago

Absolutely, so long as it’s done right.

Personally, I have an idea for a company that produces new versions of old classic cars. You could go out and either buy the old tooling, or produce your own, to make brand new Alfa GTVs, or E-Types, or 911s, or Chargers, or any one of thousands of popular (and expensive) classic cars. You could sell them ostensibly as kit cars to get through the same legislation loopholes as Caterham.

These would still be replicas, but more akin to exact reproductions than most. Similar to what Pur Sang are doing with old Bugattis and Alfa 8Cs, albeit on a cheaper scale.

The economies of scale wouldn’t be there like the original production runs, but neither would the development costs. You could also make money selling whole new bodyshells and engines separately to keep existing cars on the road.

Matt C
Matt C (@longdx)
7 years ago

A well engineered replica is very desirable to me. Unfortunately this industry also includes some venders who are shifty. FFR, Beck, Intermeccanica, Thunder Ranch and others make top quality component cars. FFR is the largest for a reason, they use quality CAD designed frames, superior processes, and modern components. (not a schill, but I want the the new 818 badly).

Also a well engineered kit allows a mere mortal to enjoy the driving experience of a classic car (Cobra, Daytona Coupe, Porsche speedster, and dare I say Coutach) without the entrance cost and mainenance of the real thing. Dare I say that new replica Cobras will be more composed and drivable that Ole Carroll could have envisioned. Anytime someone turns their nose up at a Countach replica, I show them the Jalopnik article on the Basement Lamboghini (which I would rather have than the real thing).

However, a Lambo kit on the Camaro chassis (oh the horror!!!!) does the industry no good

Jesus Learte
Jesus Learte(@jlearte)
7 years ago

As far as I understand, there is no problem [i]per se[/i] in replicas. No one would make a replica from a car not being worthy. So, making replicas allows having on the road vehicles which are out of production, and are part of history. However, two commitments: 1) never pretend owning an original, because replica can be fantastic but has no personal history behind and 2) try to be respectful with the original. Motors should be not too far, as qualities.

7 years ago

It depends on what you get. For example, the Lancia Stratos is an incredibly rare and expensive car. It’s also a rather easy car to reproduce, (tubular chassis, fiberglass, basic engineering). But when a replica like the Hawk HF3000 is assembled and tuned properly, the result can be as good as, if not, better than the real one. Replica Ferraris on the other hand are terrible. The Shelby (or AC) Cobra kit cars are solid. Ford GT40 replicas, I’ve heard good things… but no.

Reproductions are only “acceptable” when they’re done right. It’s common for manufacturers to error on the the side of modernism as opposed to nostalgia.

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

The way I look at it, a heavily restored car can be as much a replica as a tubular frame, pure-to-the-brand repro. Yes, the restored proposition was at least once an original car, but depending on the rebirth, many of its parts will be replicated. Though reproduction replicas lack the personal history or some of the originality of a restored car, they can still be faithful to the brand their styling may represent. That’s really the key in determining whether or not a replicated car is “acceptable” or not.

Sid Widmer
Sid Widmer(@sid)
7 years ago

I echo the remarks about quality. When I was an autocross junkie I just assumed every Cobra that showed up was a replica but I wasn’t any less enamored with them when they thundered around the course.

Jeff S
Jeff S(@jps)
7 years ago

I am fine with replicas – for about 9 years I had an early Beck Spyder, bundle of fun was always upfront on what is was.

Not practical, not safe (over powered and 2′ off the ground), what’s not to love?

Saul Avila Hernandez
Saul Avila Hernandez(@fb_100001207603697)
7 years ago

I’m for it as well if they don’t try to pass off for originals but its a nice way for people to experience a blast from the past like a p4 replica with an authentic Ferrari drive-train. The Lister Bell STR Lancia Stratos replica is good example of this they had crappy build quality and these new ones aren’t originals, which means you can rally the crap out of it

Jared Lowell
Jared Lowell(@jlowell)
7 years ago

All good points here. For me, the quality of the replica is of foremost importance, and I am much more inclined to ‘accept’ built-from-scratch examples (e.g. Shelby continuations, Superformance cars, any number of D/C-Type replicas you’ll find, etc.) rather than cars that start as ’90s Mustangs, old Fieros, etc. In fact, I was really admiring the 50th Anniversary FIA Cobras Shelby had on display at Barrett-Jackson and could certainly envision owning one.

In summary – as with anything – Quality, Quality, Quality.

p.s. Even the very highest quality replica/re-creation may be difficult or virtually impossible to title in many states, so that’s an important consideration to take into account. Titling should be one of the very first and most thoroughly researched steps in your research.

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

The biggest problem I have with replicas is when the donor car is a rare and desirable model in it’s own right. How many 240Zs, and Ferrari 250 GTEs have been chopped up to make 250GTO replicas of varying quality.

Tobias Ostapchuk
Tobias Ostapchuk(@squad41)
7 years ago

This is an excellent discussion topic, although the terms “Replica” and “Reproduction” are not at all interchangeable. A “Replica” is a copy of a car, much like a Beck Speedster. A “Reproduction” would be the original manufacturer re-producing an earlier model, like the Shelby “Continuation-Series” Cobras. So, there are two distinct questions being asked. Replicas can be fun, easier to own than the originals, and very nice if properly built. I’m thinking about examples such as the ERA Cobra or ERA GT40 built in New Britain, Connecticut. These are much cheaper than an original or continuation-series cars, well-engineered, and visually as close to the original as possible. There’s also the Lister Bell Lancia Stratos, which looks as if it is just as nice, besides you can drive one without the fear of it being an irreplaceable original. Some of the reproductions out there are just as cool. Besides the Shelby Cobras, there are brand-new Allards and Cheetahs, which can be expensive but fun. And new. Ideally, you should probably just buy what you’d like and go from there. After all, if it isn’t fun, what’s the point, right?

7 years ago

If done well and not passed off as on original, I love a good replica. For rare/fabulously expensive cars a replica is the closest not only regular folks can get, but also even the closest the wealthiest of us could do. How many original Cobra Daytona coupes were made? Even if you could afford one, would you drive it anywhere?

The massive proliferation of Cobra replicas certainly proves this out. As Dustin points out, original Cobras are still highly valued even with the huge range of replicas out there. Lotus 7 as well. Heck, some of those replicas aren’t even all that cheap — first call after my lottery win might be to Kirkham for one of their aluminum roadsters. I’ve been to their shop in Utah, seriously quality product with a price to match.

Just don’t pretend it’s authentic. Enjoy it for what it is.

Bad kits trying to pass a Fiero off as a Ferrari, not my thing (but if you love them, all the better). Well executed GT40 replica? Have at it, just let me have a go too. 🙂

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle(@mosler)
7 years ago

To me personally replicas and reproductions are just fine. I don’t really see a problem with them if they are made with a decent amount of quality in the chassis and body. Im a big believer in keeping things close to original as possible so as long as the replica and/or the reproduction stays true to the authentic intent of the car and its design then i dont really see a problem with it. I know some people out there think it cheapens the original. i personally dont believe it the cobra has been replicated god knows how many times but the originals still brings big bucks. A replica is a great way to enjoy a dream car without having to be a millionaire to do it