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By Tom Endean

Clone wars

Mona TomMany people that go to Paris visit The Louvre. Most then skip nearly all the museum, spend a few minutes looking at Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and leave. On the way out, they might visit the gift shop and buy a poster of the one painting they saw.

This is what my parents did a couple of years back, and on returning to Britain they sourced a lovely classic looking frame and mounted the poster in their dining room. I like it; and at a glance you don’t even realise it’s a poster; you know it’s a replica, but it looks good.

I’m a fan of art and see nothing wrong with this. I only own one original piece with others being prints. I certainly wouldn’t think of anyone who owns reproductions as a lesser being. However, in the classic car and bike world, I often come across people with very split views on classic reproductions.

Like some works of arts, many cars and bikes only exist as a sole piece; either because only one was ever made, or it’s the sole survivor. Either way, that one machine can command huge prices and respect. This is also true for rare machines that only exist as a limited flock, such as the Jaguar XKSS.

Many of these rare vehicles spawn numerous replicas. I love some and absolutely hate other, thinking that the creator should be forced to lick the exhaust manifold after a 50 mile drive. It all depends on what type of replica it is. So here's my guide:

Full Monty

The whole-hog version that tries to replicate every nut and bolt of the original, even the flaws and annoyances in an attempt to recreate the full experience. These have to be fully respected for their dedication to authenticity.

Full Monty – Reloaded

The “improved” whole-hog, which is the same as the above, but with small tweaks here and there to make the machine more useable. Nothing obvious or noticeable to the passing eye, but little under-the-body changes that make the car look the same, but with a few of the original issues ironed out. Companies like Eagle do this very well. Some disagree with this, but these are a good thing. They keep the spirit of the car or bike alive, but with added usability.

Ugly Twin

The poor twin replica, at a glance looks completely authentic, until you get close and find the many cut corners. Then you turn the key and quite often, that’s when it becomes obvious. I can fully understand these, but they range from understandably cheap and cheerful replicas to just plain upsetting.

This is the danger zone for replicas, where a good AC Cobra replica can be ruined by fitting a Rover K-Series engine because it was cheaper.

The other common sight in this area is the rebadging of a base model to make it look like the rare sports version. No! You’re not fooling anyone. It’s sad. Stop it!

The Dog

They only fool those that know nothing about vehicles or are blind. They are the misspelt Armani luggage and the dive watch that breaks in the rain. This is where I have my issues with replicas.

If it’s quite clearly a joke car, like a Nissan Sunny dressed up like the General Lee, I sort of understand. This is clearly someone enjoying a lacklustre car by injecting a bit of humour. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I get it. It’s the serious ones that make me weep for humanity.

Why go the effort of building a replica, if you’re going to do such a bad job – especially when they cut up a perfectly good classic to get there. The Ford GT40, Mustangs, Cobras, Lotus Sevens, Ferrari F40s – they all have been reproduced as cheap knock-off kits or garage built disasters.

I get why people want to do it, but I also want a TVR Speed 12. However I have the sense to know that if I built a replica it would be shoddy at best – so I don’t!

What to do

Replicas have their place. I’ve seen a fabulous replica of a Jaguar XJ13 go round a track, which got a reaction as if it were the one and only. I’ve seen (and heard) awesome Cobra 427 replicas tear up the road and I’ve been hugely impressed with an outstanding replica of a Bentley Blower.

So I leave you with this: If you think you can produce a replica of a classic car or motorcycle legend with a level of conscientiousness you would want to operate on your own eye, then fabulous, crack on. Otherwise, accept your shortcomings, put the spanners away and buy yourself an Airfix kit instead.

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