Car restoration is nothing new, but reborn classic cars are. In recent years we’ve seen manufacturers such as Jaguar and other businesses like Singer build and develop what appear to be new classic cars, but with modern materials, techniques and build standards. The results have been some of the most incomprehensively beautiful reborn classics we’ve ever seen, and with that in mind we thought it was about time we have a look at some of our favourites.
The six best reborn classic cars
Jaguar was one of the first companies to start building its own new-old cars, and so far it has brought the Lightweight E-type, XKSS, D-type and C-type back into the world. However it’s the standard road-going E-type that makes our list.
This new E-type was unveiled in early 2021, just ahead of the original car’s official 60th birthday on 15th March. That was the day an E-type, a hand built coupe prototype with the registration ‘9600 HP’, was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show by Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons. As we’ve written several times before, that car proved so popular that the company’s test driver Norman Dewis was told to “drop everything” and drive a convertible E-type through the night to Switzerland ready for day two of the show.
The new E-types honour those two Geneva stars, with 12 set to be built as part of the ’60 Collection’. There will be six coupes and six convertibles, and where the continuation Lightweight E-types were created using unallocated chassis numbers, these machines will be made using existing and very early chassis. Everything, however, will be new, with a stainless steel centre console engraved with a map of the journey from Coventry to Geneva. If you’re looking for the ultimate E-type, surely it has to be an as-new car direct from the factory?
Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato Continuation
When the Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation was unveiled in 2016 the GRR office held a spontaneous party. The promise of 25 brand new DB4 GTs, one of Aston Martin’s most successful racing cars, being reborn was too much to handle. In 2019 though there was a GRR party the scale of which has never been seen before, as Aston Martin pulled away the covers on the DB4 GT Zagato Continuation.
For context the original was based on the DB4 GT and therefore had a shorter chassis, uprated straight-six engine and less weight compared to the ‘standard’ DB4, and was raced by the likes of Sir Stirling Moss (the car’s first major race was the Goodwood Easter Meeting in 1961 with Moss at the wheel, finishing third), Roy Salvadori and Graham Hill.
Available only as a pair with a new DBS GT Zagato as part of the DBZ Centenary Collection, only 19 will ever exist, a reflection of the number that were built in period. Rather than a 3.7-litre straight-six, as per the original, the new machines have 4.7-litre straight-six engines with around 395PS (290kW), while power goes to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential, just as it did in 1961. A track-only car, every one of the 19 will come with an FIA-spec roll cage and Borrani wheels, while the bodywork is hand sculpted using 1.2mm-thick aluminium panels. Everything is put together using the same techniques but, thanks to modern measuring and computer tech, the level of accuracy and build quality will be far higher. Even so, to build each is a 4,500-hour job.
You’d imagine a car like this would be pricey? Well you’d be right, as the DBZ Centenary Collection will cost each of the 19 lucky buyers a cool £6m plus taxes. Yes, there is a Goldfinger DB5 Continuation on the way, but the Zagato is the cooler car.
250 SWB Revival
Ferrari doesn’t do reborn classics, at least not yet, but thankfully there is one company that has very bravely decided to risk it for a biscuit and recreate a very special, very valuable Italian icon. That company is GTO Engineering and the car is the 250 SWB Revival.
The company says the 250 SWB Revival is “inspired by the Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione,” and as a result none of the cars built will use a Ferrari chassis number or be built to the exact specification of the original. Instead that word “inspired” is key, as each car built should be a “more usable, customisable and bespoke variant of the highly collectable original”.
So what do you get? Well first of all there’s the engine, and unlike the original car you have a choice between a 3.0-litre, 3.5-litre, 4.0-litre or a bespoke-sized handmade Columbo V12 engine, built in house at GTO’s headquarters in Twyford, Berkshire, UK, over the course of more than 300 hours. The gearbox, that’ll be a four- or five-speed, while the brakes are discs with optional aluminium calipers and the suspension set-up depends on what you want to use the car for, whether it be a track car or to-the-shops cruiser. Inside a car would come as standard trimmed in leather with a choice of belts or harnesses, and the headliner “is trimmed in the original perforated material that would have been on the original 1960 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Competizione”. Moreover, air conditioning is an option, with the fans mounted behind the driver so as not to ruin the look of the dash. There’s even a hidden USB port.
Each car takes 12-18 months to build, depending on the spec, and so far GTO Engineering has built more than 30. No, it’s not an original SWB, but that’s not the point. What it is, is beautiful, the detailing exquisite, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to have a go in one.
Frontline Developments MG Abingdon Edition
The MGs of today are very different to the MGs of years ago. Walk into an MG showroom now and you'll be greeted by a handful of SUVs, a hatchback and a lifted estate, but from the 1950s to the '70s the MG brand was built around a range of sportscars. By today's standards they moved at a near glacial pace, but they were light, simple and honest little vehicles, and even with various mechanical foibles they were plucky, entertaining companions.
As you can imagine a reborn classic MG wouldn't really work for the MG brand of today, which is why we're looking to a company called Frontline Developments for the ultimate reimagined MG. The company, established in 1989, takes old MGBs and to all intents and purposes entirely reengineers them, overhauling the chassis (it is baked in an oven at 650 degrees centigrade to remove all traces of rust, filler and paint) and creating all-new body panels to the exact specifications of the originals. The difference here however is that the measurements are exact, which they certainly weren't back in the day.
Frontline Developments offer two ready-to-go models, the MG LE50 and the MG Abingdon Edition. The LE50 is the less expensive of the two, essentially an MGB built to modern engineering standards. There's a modern Mazda engine under the bonnet, for example, enough for 217PS (159kW) and 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds. It's the MG Abingdon Edition we're going to focus on a little more, however, as its purpose is to deliver the looks and charm of a classic MG but with modern performance.
Named after the MG factory of 50 years, the Abingdon Edition is fitted with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Mazda engine with 293PS (215kW) and 326Nm (241lb ft) of torque, as well as a six-speed manual gearbox and limited-slip differential (a higher peak power, lower peak torque engine is available too). The result is 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 160mph. Consider the fact an original MGB would only just top 100mph... To go with the power and speed there's modern, high-performance suspension and brakes, while on the inside you'll find a mix of thick carpet, Alcantara and leather. You even get electric windows and a modern stereo, and air conditioning is available as an option.
Essentially you've got a car that looks every part the classic but will blow a considerable number of modern cars into the weeds. That sounds like a lot of fun, don't you think?
Porsche 911 restored and reimagined by Singer
Sadly Porsche, like Ferrari, is another company that hasn’t taken to building completely new cars from its back catalogue. That being said there are a handful of companies dotted around the world that try to bring back old 911s up to a standard that could be considered factory fresh, and if you’re a fan of old Porsches then you can probably guess which company we’re about to talk about: Singer.
For plenty of boring legal reasons Singer is very clear about what it does and does not to, and what its vehicles can and cannot be called. Singer “restores and modifies existing Porsches” and “does not manufacture or sell automobiles.” What’s more, none of its cars should “under any circumstances be referred to or described” as a Singer, Singer 911, Singer Porsche 911 or Porsche Singer 911, but a “Porsche 911 restored and reimagined by Singer” instead. But regardless of nomenclature Singer takes old Porsche 911s and restores, rebuilds and reimagines them to the exact specification the owner requires. The results are exquisite.
Because some of these cars are created without budget constraints, and because Singer can make use of technologies and manufacturing processes that simply weren’t around 40 years ago, often the cars are lighter, more rigid, powerful and faster than they were when new. Does a carbon-fibre body tickle your fancy? Or how about a Cosworth-developed 4.0-litre flat-six engine that’s been further fettled by Ed Pink Racing Engines to produce 390PS (287kW)? Whatever you want, it’s yours.
The results, as we’ve been lucky enough to see at the Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard on many occasions, are exquisite.
Eagle E-type Lightweight GT
OK, so we’ve already had an E-type in this list, but can you really blame us for wanting to include one of the world’s most beautiful cars twice? Besides, this is no ordinary E-type. This is a Lightweight GT E-type from Eagle.
The E-type Lightweight was a racing car pure and simple, a machine that incorporated what Jaguar had learnt from the Low-Drag Coupe but took things a little further. The bodies were made lighter with aluminium and an aluminium hardtop roof, the suspension geometry was revised, brakes upgraded, and the 3.8-litre engine treated to Lucas fuel injection and dry-sump lubrication to name just a few of the modifications. Only 12 were made, all strictly racing machines and now incredibly valuable. As we said at the top of this list Jaguar created six new Lightweights using six unused chassis numbers but Eagle has gone beyond copying the formula exactly to create a car that is true in spirit to the original but built to an even higher technical standard. Joy of joys, it’s also road legal.
In a build that takes a whopping 8,000 hours, an original Series 1 E-type is stripped back to its bare bones and the body panels replaced with modern aluminium parts (these are handmade and take 2,500 hours on their own). The wheel-arches are wider to accommodate larger 16-inch magnesium wheels and wider tyres, while the chassis is stiffened and made deeper to get the occupants lower to the ground and offer better headroom. The gearbox casing is made using magnesium alloys and the five-speed ‘box itself thoroughly engineered, while under the bonnet lies a utterly glorious 4.7-litre straight-six with 383PS (283kW) at 5,750rpm and 508Nm (375lb ft) at 4,000rpm. What’s more, because Eagle has used so much aluminium, magnesium, Inconel and titanium and even 3D printed the seat adjusters its Lightweight weighs only 1,017kg, and that’s with a beautifully crafted, leather-clad interior and air conditioning.
A road legal Lightweight that’ll do 170mph? Shut up and take our money.
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