DB4 GT Zagato and the dilemma of continuation cars

Gorgeous, hallowed and expensive – but should they allowed? Are they not automotive blasphemy?

If I was a billionaire right now (even though I’m most excruciatingly and painfully aware that I’m not and the closest financial reality I could aspire to is a thousandaire) but if I was, hypothetically speaking, I’d be absolutely torn.

Do I fight it out at auction against my regular bidding nemesis, Sheikh Al Falafel,  for an original 1960s Dingleberry GT Excelsior at 10 million wotsits and counting, or should I just head over to Dingleberry itself and buy a 2019 continuation edition at half the money. At the next elite cars and cappuccino meet – I’ll just point at his ‘old’ car and tell him ‘but mine is new; zero-meter ya habibi!’ and cackle at his red-faced humiliation.

What are continuations cars?

A continuation car is a replica, rather than a restoration, of an original classic car, usually built by the same manufacturer. So it’s like a photocopy but on brand new paper rather than discoloured old parchment that’s had the creases ironed out umpteen times.

The cars are meant to be as original as possible. Although with the greater care, diligence and potentially modern materials, components and construction techniques employed, they probably end up a lot better than they ever did rolling out of the factory first time round.

Aston Martin has just announced the first deliveries of 19 hand-built DB4 GT Zagato Continuation models being delivered to their lucky, and filthy-wealthy, owners worldwide. Each car took 4500 hours to put together.

The DB4 GT Zagato was originally produced in the 1960s to take on Ferrari on track, and is probably the second most admired and adored classic Aston after Bond’s DB5. By the way a continuation series of the Goldfinger DB5 is also planned to go into production next year and Aston already sold 25 DB4 GT Continuation models in 2017 – although you’re a loser if you bought those and missed out on the sexy Zagato. Okay a very rich loser.

Aston aren’t alone of course. Jaguar has done E-Type and D-Types and even smaller outfits like Alvis will offer brand new old cars.

So what’s the problem with them?

Well I can’t help but think they dilute and detract from the uniqueness, charisma and rarity of the originals. Those true classics were of their time. The new ones are a bit contrived and it could be argued merely cynical attempts to separate the world’s stupidly rich from piffling amounts of loose change – which to you and I would still be utter fortunes.

For example while an original DB4 GT Zagato might go for well over £12m, the continuation cars aren’t exactly bargains at £6m each. Although to be fair Aston are throwing in a brand new and thoroughly modern DBS Zagato too. They’re not alone in their stratospherically high pricing either – Jaguar sold theirs for at least a mil point five for the lightweight E-Type for example, and an unknown but likely similarly shocking price for the D-Type.

But are they even still actually ‘classics’ though?  Are they cheats? Perhaps a pastiche? Could they be deemed fakes? Go further – how about ‘rip-offs’? Might they be likely to fool some potential investors in an elaborate con involving George Clooney and Brad Pitt – or at least they’d play the parts in a movie? Should these new-but-old cars even be allowed or entertained?

And what happens in say 20-30 years time, when they themselves do become ‘classics’? Would they of lesser or greater value than the originals?

If you’re thinking – well the point here is that you get to actually use and abuse a new build of a classic, that would otherwise be too rare, precious and sacrosanct to extract from its climate-controlled and dehumidified preservation chamber and unleash onto a road, I put it to you being so extraordinarily expensive they make that notion redundant.

No matter how rich you are, at £6m that would still give you some pause for thought wouldn’t it? And if it doesn’t, you’re very very fortunate indeed. And God, you sicken me!

But surely you can’t hate these brand new beauties?

That’s just it. I don’t. I actually love them!

Classic cars, and particularly the shape, styling and stance of them is just so evocative and desirable to both sentimental hearts and discerning modern eyes; and there is something very cool about bringing back legendary cars anew.

However I think a trick is being missed here. I would prefer it if rather than being a stickler for originality, the cars were modernised – restomodded as it were. Fitted with contemporary engines and transmissions, new brakes and suspension, and let’s say power steering, aircon and a modern infotainment system etc.

That way you get all the visual splendour of an original, but with the usability of something newer – which let’s face it, is what today’s motorists really want. Many think they crave originality only to find themselves on the wrong side of that old adage about meeting your heroes, as they finally spend their hard-saved earnings on an old ‘un and struggle, curse and grind the gears on the way home from the auction. What they really want is a car that looks like a classic but isn’t a cantankerous pain-in-the-oil-pan to live with, and cruelly cumbersome to drive.

I propose making them ‘modern’ enough to not corrupt the sensation of driving and enjoying a beloved icon, and also to unmistakeably stand them apart as understudies to the hallowed originals.

With more attainable pricing – which should be possible if we concur that we don’t really need an old dude harnessing traditional craftsmanship, wisdom and patience to take three weeks to beat one fender into shape? Just get some robots on it and surely the production costs would come down massively. Let the craftsmen tend to the real ancients.

That being the case – I want to see continuations of less aristocratic and blue-collar hero cars. Would you not line up, chequebook in hand, for a continuation Ford Capri, Audi ur-Quattro, Lancia Delta Integrale, Toyota 2000GT, Datsun 240Z, Pontiac Trans Am and at the slightly higher end, a Lamborghini Countach, Lotus Esprit and the Ferrari 308? And others of course – you tell me! DeLorean might already be happening – though they’ve been threatening that for two years now.

On the other hand you could just buy a Morgan or Caterham, both of which have been building new-old cars successfully and enticingly for decades.

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