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New Old Cars: Why Manufacturers Are Rebuilding Replicas of Classics

London (dpa) – The Jaguar C-Type should be over 70 years old and yet it has barely a mile on the odometer.

It’s cramped inside and when you drive it you need all your senses to keep it on track. But if you take a quick look around, you’ll start thinking about this car.

Fresh leather, smooth, shiny paint, and ridiculously low mileage—there’s nothing to suggest we’re driving a million-dollar classic car around a test track. The C-Type looks like a 1953 car and yet it’s new. So what’s going on?

The solution of the riddle

What is racing in the British Midlands over the summer is the first C-Type of the so-called Continuation Series. With this series, the British car manufacturer revives some of its famous models.

“We use the latest techniques to rebuild cars according to old plans with original materials,” says David Foster, manager of Jaguar Classic. “If there is a demand from collectors and there is business for us, then a project like this has a good chance.”

Jaguar started with the lightweight version of the 1963 E-Type, followed by the 1957 XKSS and then the D-Type, which made Jaguar the series winner at Le Mans from 1955 to 1957.

Prices for these ‘new’ classics range from £1.2m to £1.75m plus tax. That’s a lot of money, but still a lot less than what an original model would cost.

In the case of the C-Type, for example, Foster estimates the price difference to be as much as £6m.

And it takes a lot of work: up to 10,000 man-hours to build every single vehicle, and that’s not even counting the two or three years spent in archives and building.

Classics are revived throughout the industry

Other automakers have also jumped into the action. Bentley has rebuilt a dozen of the supercharged ‘Blower’ Bentleys that driver Tim Birkin raced at Le Mans in the late 1920s.

This summer, 12 examples of the Speed-Six were announced which won at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930.

In 2017, Aston Martin recreated the 1960s DB4GT for £1.5m each and then followed it up with 19 examples of the DB4GT Zagato.

It was expensive fun for those who wanted one, because it was only available as a double pack with a current DBS Zagato, costing over 8 million euros.

The highlight of this development was the DB5 from the James Bond film “Goldfinger”, which the British reissued for the 25th anniversary of the 007 series.

As in the film, the car has rotating number plates, (fake) machine guns behind the headlights and a bulletproof shield to cover the rear window.

It’s not just British car manufacturers that are rebuilding their classic cars. It took Italian carmaker Lamborghini 25,000 man-hours to rebuild the prototype of the first Countach.

However, according to Lamborghini’s Alessandro Farmeschi, there was one crucial difference: unlike Jaguar & Co, the original Countach was a one-of-a-kind piece that was destroyed in a crash test.

Is it about the story or the money?

There’s nothing wrong with these replicas, says classic car specialist Frank Wilke of Classic Analytics.

Firstly, manufacturers do not hide the year of production, and secondly, unlike outside companies, they have literally every right to make such replicas. They can also achieve maximum authenticity.

Even so, Wilke sees it mostly as a money-making exercise with producers cannibalizing their own story for money. But the people who buy them probably don’t care.

“Because, first of all, they save a lot of money in the process, if the original ever goes on sale,” he says. “And secondly, they usually get the best car.”

Jaguar’s Foster believes the practice is justified on economic grounds: “We’re not a club, we’re a company and we need to make a profit.”

Bentley’s Mike Sayer also sees benefits: “Projects like this allow us to develop new skills to maintain, protect and preserve historic Bentleys, both originals and continuations. To keep these special cars ready to run for the future.”