Replica cars: The 'new classics' roaring back into the lead

A market for recently made replicas of old favourites is booming as drivers on budgets big and small seek some old-fashioned thrills

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The tranquillity of the country lanes of West Sussex will be shattered this weekend by the sound of historic Jaguars, classic Aston Martins and priceless Ferraris on their way to the Goodwood Revival race meeting. A closer look at this annual celebration of historic motoring and keen petrol heads will reveal that a growing number of these cars are actually new.

These so-called “new classics” range from £1m exact replicas of track-going race cars to more affordable models that have been updated with such modern luxuries as soft suspensions, air conditioning, digital sound systems and heated seats.

Small firms have always built new classics, but now major manufactures are getting in on the act. At Goodwood Revival, Jaguar will display its new Lightweight E-Types in Europe for the first time.

Eighteen Lightweight E-Type race cars were due to roll off Jaguar’s Browns Lane, Coventry production line in 1963, but only 12 were ever built. Now the firm’s historic cars division is “completing” the production run with the remaining six, even using the originally allocated chassis numbers. It’s a project set to excite classic car lovers – the E-Type has a massive following.

At a cost of £1m each, the new Lightweight E-Type will be an exact recreation of the “iconic” original, says Martyn Hollingsworth, who has worked for Jaguar for more than 30 years and came out of retirement to head the new project.

“The buyers of these cars are absolutely getting a slice of genuine 1960s motoring as we’ve built these cars to the original specifications,” he said. “We could have made them more modern with electronic aids, but that wouldn’t have been true to the spirit of the cars. The real challenge was making them as authentic as we could.”

According to Chas Hallett, the brand editor for Autocar magazine, there are a “few very good reasons” for the popularity of high-end new classics from firms such as Jaguar and also Eagle and Jensen International Automotive, which is recreating the famous Interceptor from the 1970s.

“Lots of people want to own a classic car but they don’t want the hassle of maintaining them, and these are a fuss-free way of doing it,” Mr Hallett said. “These new classics can also be seen as a reaction to the perception that some modern cars are homogenised and maybe even boring.”

At Classic Motor Cars in Shropshire, Nick Goldthorp has been producing heavily restored originals since the 1980s and he’s never been busier, now working on up to 80 cars a week. “More and more people want a classic car they can use on a regular basis, complete with a modern gearbox, uprated brakes and air conditioning,” he said. “Our customers want to keep a mechanical connection with the road.”

A thoroughly restored classic from CMC could cost £500,000 while Sussex firm Eagle offers fully-restored E-Type Jaguars for similar sums.

At the other end of the scale Caterham and Morgan have both introduced entry-level new classics recently, with Caterham offering the Seven 160 two-seater for £14,995 while Morgan’s 3 Wheeler sports cars start at £25,950.

“We make cars that are obviously a throwback to the 1960s with a design that is nearly 60 years old,” said David Ridley, Caterham’s chief commercial officer. “The new Seven 160 model is a particular throwback, because it’s about having fun and enjoyment with just less power – it has just 80 brake horsepower.”

Sharlie Goddard, an amateur racing driver from Hertfordshire, has been competing in Morgan sports cars for more than 10 years.

“There is no comparison with driving something with ABS brakes and power steering, and driving something like a Morgan on the road,” said Mrs Goddard, who owns two Morgans. “My road-going Morgans don’t have power steering or modern brakes; they have to be driven properly, not like modern cars that offer no challenge. And in a Morgan 3 Wheeler you can have wild fun on public roads at 50mph, while still being safe and within the speed limit.”

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