Andrew Frankel has been racing cars for over 20 years and testing them for nearer to 30. He is senior contributing writer to both Autocar and MotorSport magazines, sits on the Car of the Year jury and was chief car tester for the Sunday Times for 15 years. He cites driving and writing as the only disciplines for which he has any talent and therefore considers himself vocationally employed. When he is not working he lives quietly in the Wye Valley with his family, a small and unimportant accumulation of cheap old cars and some sheep.
Twenty-one years ago, I blithely proclaimed that the McLaren F1 would be the fastest road car the world would ever know. Since then I have cut back on making rash predictions. However seeing as it’s Christmas (nearly) and I’m entirely sure that what I’m about to say will come true (almost) here is one to ponder over the mince pies. 2016 will be the year of the recreation.
Or should that be re-creation? It has always puzzled me that car manufacturers have not sweated their heritage by making more of the cars that once made them great, and it seems they are cottoning onto the immense opportunities that can result. This year we saw Jaguar make six new lightweight E-types and despite the fact they were turned down for racing at Goodwood and that Jaguar was unable to homologate them for use on the road in the UK, all sold for a million pounds a pop. Rumours that the nine XKSS chassis that burned in the Browns Lane fire in 1957 are next to be re-created refuse to go away or, indeed, be denied by Jaguar. And now I hear it’s thinking hard about doing a few C-types too.
And why not? Replica C’s have sold strongly for years and these would not be replicas, fakes or even toolroom copies: if they are built by Jaguar, they are C-types whose production has been somewhat delayed. Late they may be, but genuine continuation cars they undoubtedly are too. As for the homologation issue, while Jaguar as a large company is unable to type approve cars on a single vehicle basis, I am told that customers can. Indeed it would not be beyond the wit of Jaguar to sell said customers a kit of parts that would enable the car to be homologated, and which could then be set aside as soon as the number plate is issued.
Last year Lister Cars made 10 more Knobblies and sold them all with such ease it now has big plans to re-create certain other Lister models of which more once the information enters the public domain.
So why would Aston not produce a few more DB5s or even some DB3S racers? There would be no problem having FIA papers issued for them because these do not require the cars to have been built in period, merely to be in period specification. And would not Ferrari make a killing by making a few more GTOs, LMs and SWBs when originals are so rare, revered and financially out of sight?
But there is an issue with these cars. When the originals are worth so many millions and the recreations literally indistinguishable, there is always the possibility that one might be mistaken for the other and that a less than scrupulously honest owner may not be too swift to make the distinction.
Sadly alongside the history of classic road and racing cars runs a parallel and rather less noble history of cars acquiring identities to which they are not entitled. I cannot remember the precise numbers, but there is a great, and I hope not apocryphal, story about a gathering of Listers held in Brian Lister’s honour at which the great man is said to have stood up and commented, ‘it’s so nice to see that of the x number of cars I built, y have turned today’, the point being that y was a larger number than x.
It might seem hard to believe that anyone could be fooled into thinking a car built in 2015 with no history at all could be passed off as one made in the 1950s or ‘60s, but a decade or two from now with some patina, and paint faded almost as much as our memories? Well, it has happened before.
But on balance I am in favour of the idea of official or officially sanctioned re-creations. They’ve been happening for years (remember the Sanction 2 Aston Zagatos and the continuation Lola T70s?) and if they mean more people can enjoy the exact shape, sound and feel of these wonderful cars, surely that has to be a good thing. Some are even made by those who already own originals and wish to preserve their history and so long as they are honest about what they are, I don’t have a problem with that either.
Jaguar photography courtesy of Jaguar