Who wouldn’t want to own a Porsche 550 ‘James Dean’ Spyder, one of 4 Ferrari 330 P4’s, or a Jag C-type that recently sold at auction for close to $9 million?  Anyone with extra garage space, significant discretionary income and outstanding timing can buy one.  For the rest of us, there are replica cars to give us a taste of what it is like to own one of these ultra-rare cars.

  Replica cars, also known as kit cars, are built to have the same look and driving experience at a fraction of the cost of what it would it take to acquire an original.  Sharp Classics is going to dive into the world of replica cars to see if they can work for you or if you are better off saving your pennies and waiting for the unicorns of the classic car world to hit the market.

Acquisition cost:

Replica:

You can pick up a well-maintained used replica for as little as $15k depending on make and model.  For your more mainstream replicas, such as the Cobras and Porsche 550’s, you can expect to spend $20-40k.  Have a million to spare?  Grab a Norwood Ferrari P4 replica. http://www.p4bynorwood.com/ Typically, replica cars are comparable to your more mainstream original classic car pricing when buying used.  When looking at new replicas, they will be a more in line with a modern day sports car’s pricing.

Original:

For many of these ultra-rare cars, their owners are rich to the point where their car collection is worth more to them than any amount of money you could offer or they are long time owners who would rather be buried in the car than part with it.  Which means the only way these cars will hit the marketplace are because of the 4 D’s:  Death, Debt, Disease, or Divorce.  Once one of these traumatic events hit the owner, you are now in spending competition with every other rich guy waiting for that once in a lifetime opportunity.  Who says rich people don’t have problems?

Cool Factor:

Replica:

Outside of elite car shows, like the Concours d'Elegance, and very particular car collectors from the depths of classic car fanaticism, most car fans and the Everyman walking down the street will have no clue you are driving a replica.  Most people will have no idea that your replica car is based on a very rare original.  Often you will get the “Cool car, what is it?”  At that point, you can tell them the story of your car.  At no point should you ever be ashamed or embarrassed because you bought a “fake”.  Replicas are a great way to drive the car you always wanted with as many ‘thumbs up’s’ thrown your way as any classic car. 

Original:

If you do buy an original, it is very impressive to show off, but good chance, it is not going to out for Sunday cruises on a regular basis.  Many cars at this level are trailered and rarely, if ever, started.  They are works of art frozen in time.  These cars play a pivotal role in a person’s car collection.  Often these are the centerpiece of an otherwise impressive collection.

Insurance:

Insurance is a bit more complicated than ordering insurance for your new Honda, but it is manageable and many car owners have gone through the process of getting insurance in the past.  If possible, start the conversation with your insurance company prior to purchasing the car.  This will give you a good idea of the cost as well as what documents are required.

Replica:

In the event you are buying a shell over an existing car, such as putting the body panels of a Ferrari over a Subaru, your car might be insured as if it were a twenty-year-old Subaru.  If you call your insurance agent and give him the year, make and model off the car’s frame, you will receive a stated, or cash, value policy.  This means the insured value of the car will be equal to the value of that old car (several hundred to low thousands of dollars) and not your updated replica car (a huge multiple of that old car value).  Your insurance agent will need to know that you want an agreed upon policy which will insure your car for its actual market value and not its replacement cost based on the chassis for which your car is titled.  Any further modifications you make that affect the value of your car will need to be updated through the agreed upon value policy by documenting the modifications and discussing with your insurance agent.  Replica insurance is usually going to be cheaper than insurance for an original car. 

Original:

Similar to a replica, you need an agreed upon value policy to ensure that you are being protected for the car’s.  The market value of your ultra-limited edition car is much higher than the Blue Book value of your car.  To further complicate the issue, if your original is one of ten produced, it is very difficult to determine a value of the car since your limited run car does not have an active used car market such as a massed produced modern sedan.  That means your one-off 1968 Mustang Shelby EXP 500 is valued more like a rare Picasso or Patek Philippe watch than the other 317,000 1968 Mustangs produced.  Many of these policies will also dictate how many miles you can drive your car, how it must be stored as well as maintained.

Repairs:

Replica:

Since many replica cars are built over all or part of a mass produced chases and powertrain, parts are easy to acquire through OEM or aftermarket suppliers.  Most mechanics can do any of the work required to keep your car on the road.  Body parts can be a bit more difficult to acquire.  This is especially true if the manufacturer of your kit car is out of business.

Original:

Given that these cares were of limited production to begin with, finding parts can be almost impossible. Often times, these parts will need to be fabricated in a custom shop. Finding a qualified tech to install those parts could be even harder than getting the parts made. The cost for repairs for these cars can be prohibitively expensive without considering the value of these rare cars. To maintain the value of this car, it is essential to keep the car as original as possible. This is why doing the correct research on all repairs is essential.

Title and Registration:

Replica:

This varies state by state, so it is imperative that you figure out your state’s registration process for replicas or as they are often classified as “home built cars” with the state. Sometimes the cars are labeled as “Current year replica 1965” or “SEMA 1965”; make sure that you understand the emission and safety requirements for your car. Most dates will also require a certificate of origin as well as invoice or bill of sale to complete the registration process. Do research on registering your kit car with your state prior to purchase to avoid any difficult situations where you are unable to register your car.

Original:

This is one category where it is easier to register the original than the replica. Of course, this assumes that your car was approved for the road when it was built. In other words, if your vintage racecar was not allowed on the streets in 1955, it will be very difficult to get it approved for being street legal now.

Resale:

Replica:

There is an active secondary market for these cars. Like all classic cars, it is not a very liquid market so don’t expect to sell your car overnight, but by pricing it aggressively you should be able to get a fair price based on the quality of the build and parts used as well as the age and mileage of your replica in a reasonable amount of time. Many Facebook groups are dedicated to kit and replica cars. There may even be a group focusing on your specific make or model. You can also check out the classified section of major classic car sites.

Original:

Classic cars at this price point tend to trend in directions. Within the overall trend, there are submarkets that can increase or decrease in price. As the classic Porsche bubble cracked in the mid 2010’s, the high-end 1980’s cars exploded upward in value while the 1950s cars flat lined. No one knows what the value of these works of art will be at any given moment, but the general trend is flat to up. If the country heads into a 2009 style depression, there is a good chance that these higher priced cars will sell off too. Given the limited number of buyers and sellers at this price point of car, a bit of timing will play a role here too in the price you can get for your classic. If a new buyer has to have your car, you may do excellent on your sale. If you have major competition from other cars hitting the market at the same time yours does, it may behoove you to wait a bit longer to unload your work of art.

Investment:

Replica:

These cars are almost a hybrid between a new car and an equivalent priced classic car. Replica companies are constantly making new kit cars so no buyer is going to pay more for the used replica compared to ordering one made to their specifications new out of the factory. However, used replica cars do tend to have a floor in their depreciation as these cars tend to be driven and treated like any other classic car. Generally, they are well maintained, have low miles, and are protected from the elements, but these factors only limited the downside on your replica and do little to help price appreciation. Do not buy one of these cars is your sole purpose is using the vehicle to fund your investment objectives.

Original:

If you have a rare car worth a large amount of money, it is possible that you could do very well as your car appreciates when you go sell it. Cars that are in high demand and produced in limited numbers can fetch record prices in auctions or private transactions. These cars experience volatile price swings much other illiquid investments such as fine art or antiques. Lining up a buyer for exotic cars can take time, so do not plan on getting the best price on your schedule. You may have to wait for your buyer to find you.

Here is a link to buying cars as an investment for more detailed information. https://www.sharpclassics.com/articles/15-are-classic-cars-a-sound-investment

Safety:

Replica:

Replicas are designed to appear as the originals did, but what is underneath the sheet metal is often far from original. With disc brakes, improved safety harnesses, crumble zones, reinforced frames and numerous other safety features that were not invented, or implemented, when the original was created. These kit cars are built with driver’s health in mind.

Original:

Many of these cars were built for a specific purpose: speed. Couple speed with a lack of focus on safety standards from previous generations and you have a machine designed with limited interest in protecting the driver in the event of an accident.

Replica performance compared to original:

Surprisingly, replicas often outperform the original car. Decades of automotive improvements are hidden in these replicas resulting in better performance at a fraction of the cost of the original. When driving an original, there is always the fear that something will break resulting in a much greater repair bill than if you are driving a replica with a mass produced power train and suspension components. Reputable kit car manufactures are will be happy to share their performance with you.

Build your replica or buy it complete?

Unlike buying a real Porsche, Lamborghini or Ferrari, you are buying car made by an unaffiliated third party. Although there are good kit manufactures out there, there are some terrible ones that will sell you shotty plans or a car that has numerous issues. Make sure you research any replica company prior to purchase. Ask for customer references from the salesman, check out online forums dedicated to replica/kit cars, and talk to owners of these cars at shows. It is easy to cut a check. It is a lot harder to return your purchase, get support, and even get what was promised to you after the transaction from an unreliable company.

Even if you buy a good kit, you must ensure that it was built right. A dermatologist who spent three years building his first car will not be up to the quality of build as a shop that specializes in building replicas. Do your due diligence if you are buying a used replica. Ask questions regarding the age and mileage of the donor parts as well as who built the car. Request receipts for everything done to the car. Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions that may reveal a hidden problem.

As you cruise through ads, you will notice the same car will have different prices. Some of this is due to seller price sensitively, but make sure you are comparing the cars directly. Note the engine, transmission, suspension, and interior differences—which company made these components. Ask questions about age of the car and its major parts. Was the car ever raced? How many owners has it had? Has the car had any significant repairs? There is a lot more to these cars than pointing and clicking so dig in and get the answers you need.

Who wouldn’t want to say, “I built my own car”?

The problem arises when you realize how much time and money that goes into building these cars. Some hobbyists claim they can crank out a car in a month. That means, having decent mechanical knowledge, all the parts in your garage ready to be assembled along with spending ten to twelve hours a day on your car every day of the week. Other garage mechanics report these cars taking five years to assemble by working a couple hours a week when they have the free time or spending a large chunk of concentrated time followed by an extended break. If you choose to build your own car, do the research first on how much time it should take, then double or triple that number to provide a measure of safety. Once you start assembling the car, take your time. This is an ultramarathon, not a weekend project in between taking the garbage out and making dinner. Develop a plan and stick to it.

Even though these cars seem like oversize plastic models, things will break during assembly, maybe you screw up the paint job or you need to fabricate parts to get your donor engine or drivetrain to correctly fit in place. All these obstacles result in costing you more money. Make sure which firm you buy your kit from has great customer support and reviews. The last thing you want to deal with is a box of parts dropped on your front lawn with limited to no help on how to assemble your car.

If this all sounds like a lot of work, many replica companies can recommend a third party shop that will build your car for you or they will build your car for you. Your car will be complete much faster than you could do it yourself and you will avoid the head scratchers late at night as you contemplate why you decided building your own car was a good idea. This is not a cheap way to get your replica, but tradeoff of money for time and quality of build might be worth.

Eventually, replica cars come up for sale. Some guys just like building cars and not necessarily driving them, other times, they are selling because of downsizing their lifestyle or the more morbid driver, death or disease. Buying a used replica can be a great way to get a discounted, and rarely driven, replica for a fraction of the price of new. Just like buying any used car, bring an inspector who is very familiar with the replica builds, and do not be afraid to ask the seller, “Who built this car?” If he responds, “I did”, follow up with extra caution and a thorough inspection.

What to spend on your replica:

There are several companies out there selling Italian exotic kit cars for thousands of dollars. In general, these companies are a scam. Check out company reviews online and join Facebook chat rooms to help locate the best replica companies for your project car. Once you are comfortable with the company and have an idea of how much work you want to do to complete your—do you want a total DIY project or a turnkey car, then start looking into pricing.

Do not look at this as buying a multi-million dollar car for thousands. Instead, approach it as buying new car with a classic look. Many of these replicas are not inch-for-inch clones of the original. Safety features, mostly in the chassis area, have been put in place. Performance is often BETTER than the original in terms of speed and braking and modern tires, improved cooling systems, and these cars even are more comfortable than their originals.

Summary:

Whatever car, replica or original, you choose to pursue, do your research up front. Ask yourself what are you really looking for in a man toy? An investment? A Sunday cruiser? A long time garage project? A showpiece? By answering the questions of what you really want, you end up with a car that you are happy with once you find it.

Here is a list of some of the many replica and kit car companies out there. This list by Sharp Classics is not a recommended list. Please do your own due diligence before purchasing a replica.

CompanyWebsiteModels
Allard Motor Works http://www.allardj2x.com/ 1920's-1930's inspried roadster
ASM http://www.asmotorsport.co.uk/ Aston Martin DBR1 and DBR2
Back Draft http://backdraftracing.com/ AC Cobra
Bailey http://www.baileycarsnorthamerica.com/ Ford GT40, Ferrari P4, GT1, 2a, Porsche 917
Broadley http://broadleyautomotive.co.uk/ Various racecars
Caterham http://us.caterhamcars.com/ Various racecars
Coventry Classics http://www.coventry-classics.com/ Jaguar C and E Types
DDR Motorsport http://www.ddrmotorsport.com/ European Sports Kit Car
Delahaye http://www.delahayeusa.com/ Cars based on Bugatti, Auburn
Eagle https://www.eaglegb.com/ Jaguar E-type
Everett Morrison http://www.everett-morrison.com/ AC Cobra
Extreme Kit Cars http://www.extremekitcars.com Ferrari 355 and P4, Lamborghini Countach and Aventador, Porsche 356, Mercedes 550, AC Cobra
Factory Five https://www.factoryfive.com/ Cobra, GT40, 1933 Hot Rod, 1935 Truck, Daytona, Ferrari inspired car, Porsche inspired car
Gardner Douglas https://www.gdcars.com/ AC Cobra
Hawk Cars http://www.hawkcars.co.uk/ Cobra, Exotic 1970's inspired sports cars
Intermeccanica http://intermeccanica.com/ Porsche 356, Speedster
JH Classics http://www.jhclassics.com/ Ferrari Dino
JPS Motorsports https://www.jps-motorsports.com/ Porsche 356A, Speedster
Kirkham http://www.kirkhammotorsports.com/ AC Cobra, Daytona
Lucra https://www.lucra.cars/ Land Rover Defender, Mercedes Sprinter, Lucra original
Norwood http://www.p4bynorwood.com/ Ferrari P4
RCR http://race-car-replicas.com/ GT40, Porsche 917 and 962, Ferrari P4, T70, F1, F5000, Jaguar D-Type and XJ-13, Aston Martin DB3S,
Renucci http://www.calspyder.com/ Ferrari-based 1960's convertibles
Speedster Motorcars http://www.speedsterhardware.com/ Auburn Speedster
Spyder Creations https://www.spyder550sale.com/ Porsche 550
Stalker Cars http://stalkercars.com/ Various Kit Cars
Sterling Sports Cars http://sterlingsportscars.com/ European Sports Kit Car
Suffolk Sportscars Ltd https://suffolksportscars.com/ Jaguar SS100 and C type
Superformance https://www.superformance.com/ AC Cobra, GT 40, Daytona, Corvette, Caterham
Tornado Sports Cars http://www.tornadosportscars.com/ GT40
TWRR http://www.twrreplicas.com/ Jaguar C and D Types, XJ13, LM220C, XKSS, Porsche 917, Ford GT40
Ultima Sports Ltd http://www.ultimasports.co.uk/ Evolution Coupe and Convertible
Vintage Spyders https://www.vintagespyders.com/ Porsche Spyder, 356A, Speedster
Westfield https://westfield-sportscars.co.uk/ Various racecars

Additional Reading

https://classicmotorsports.com/articles/replica-vs-real/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/08/28/joy-replicas-5-million-car-50-000/554110001/

https://jalopnik.com/5972077/for-375000-is-13-a-lucky-number

https://www.forbes.com/sites/markewing/2017/04/04/pur-sang-bugatti-a-thoroughbred-reproduction-of-the-most-successful-racing-car-of-all-time/#46e2a4694c76

https://www.complex.com/sports/2012/08/the-25-coolest-retro-reproduction-and-replica-cars/gullwing-america-p904-carrera­

http://www.kitcarlist.com/

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