"...think about automotive replicas as cover bands."

“Oh, it’s actually a replica.” How do those words make you feel? Do you immediately dismiss the person for not owning the real deal? Or do you understand that paying $2 million for a car isn’t affordable to most people? We’re here to make a case for the latter as we believe that replica cars and replica builds are a perfectly acceptable alternative to owning some of the world’s rarest and most exclusive vehicles.

Over time, we’ve sold a few replicas ourselves, including a 2008 LMK 917, a 1931 Bugatti Type 51 by PurSang, and a 1965 Shelby Cobra CSX8000, which is half replica half continuation model. Individually, those cars are worth millions of dollars each in today’s market. 1931 Bugatti Type 51s have sold for around $4 million, Porsche 917s have achieved $14 Million+, and a Shelby Cobra can go for anywhere between $1 million to $4 million depending on the individual example. Even original examples of our most recent replica build, the 1972 Porsche 911 Carrera RSR, can bring $1.5-2.5 million. Our car was built from an original 1972 Porsche 911S making it a special, more authentic replica and cost effective option to purchasing an original.

For gearheads like you and I, a million dollars is likely more money than we’ll ever have in our lives. Even so, that doesn’t stop us from loving these incredible machines that have left their mark on automotive history in one way or another. So what seems like a reasonable solution to this issue? Stare at posters of those cars for the rest of our lives or spend a fraction of that price on a replica that brings us as close to the real thing as possible? 

In one of my DRIVETRIBE articles, I spoke to Ken Montes who is a well-known local car guy and the owner of a wonderful Ford GT40 replica. Much like the previous cars I mentioned, one of the eight GT40 Mark II examples built sold in 2018 for $9,795,000, which is above and beyond Ken’s disposable income. When I asked him how he thinks people should treat replica cars, he said this:

“People should take these kinds of cars more seriously and more to heart. They should try to teach the next generation how to build things properly and enjoy the hell out of cars.”

And that’s just it too! See, even if you do buy a one, two, three, or even four million dollar car, it’s a terrifying experience to drive it. On top of the car being unobtainium, if it breaks down or if you get in an accident, it’s a tragedy and the cost of fixing it will be proportional to the car’s value. If you spend a fraction of the price on a replica, you can drive it and enjoy it the way the original was meant to without being worried as much about what would happen if something went wrong. Replicas are also not always a case of “you get what you pay for.” The companies that produce well-made replicas usually use either some kind of original mold or extremely precise measurements to the point where there is no difference between the replica and the original. Why should we limit ourselves to dreaming about how such a car feels when we can experience the next best thing to it?

There are also different levels of replicas in something we like to call the “Replica Hierarchy.” At the very top are replicas built from an authentic car, like our 911 RSR which was built from a 1972 911S. Those are fully built to look and drive like the real deal with the addition of modern features that improve its safety, drivability, and overall performance. The Shelby-built contemporary Cobras or “continuation” cars would also fall into this top tier. The second tier of replicas are those built from scratch, like a Kirkham Cobra or a Jaguar D-Type built by Tempero as seen here:

While they are made to feel and drive like the real cars, they will never be worth as much as replicas made using an authentic car to begin with. There are also more nuanced factors to replica such as one built with an Alloy Body (more authentic) as opposed to cars built with a fiberglass body. In the lowest tier live the kit replicas, like the ones that turn a Pontiac Fiero into a Lamborghini Countach. Not only are those built on cars that are far from similar to the real thing, they are often poorly constructed, backyard creations. It’s best to stay away from those and instead focus on cars that are built by companies as they are more obligated to deliver a safe, quality product to their customers.

In closing, think about automotive replicas as cover bands. In the same way that many of us will never experience The Beatles or Pink Floyd perform together in concert, many of us will never experience the thrill of owning or even driving a 1970 Porsche 917 K. Owning such an automotive replica is a gearhead’s way of experiencing that vehicle through the only way possible. As long as you don’t try and pass it off as the real thing, there is nothing wrong with owning and enjoying a faithful copy of a unicorn car. It’s passing forward the torch and ensuring these legends are remembered by generations to come and instead of dismissing them as not being the real thing, we should treasure them and appreciate the thrills they allow us to experience.

Written by Gabriel Ionica for LBI Limited

Instagram – @gabopengo