The Replica Syndrome in Historic Racing

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Sir,

Your article on historic racing raises questions on eligibility and originality which are taking on a entirely new dimension with the constructions of brand-new motor cars. Up till now most cars competing can lay some sort of claim to a chassis number – there is a continuous path of history from original construction to the present day. Now, we are looking at a new phenomenon not entirely divorced from avarice in the light escalating prices where it is cheaper to create a car from scratch with a number of period parts than to buy a real one; whether the greed is financial, in pursuit of victory, or just simply the desire of acquisitiveness is arguable. But it was against the knowledge that this replication was going to happen that the FISA Vehicle Identity Form was introduced in its present form; in this, the final responsibility for passing a car into International historic racing rests with the relevant clubs – a burden that is obviously increasing. If they “authenticate” a car it will be accepted until someone protests – virtually unheard of so far in historic racing – in which case the car goes before a technical committee of the FISA historic sub-commission.

So do we accept that these non-chassis number cars should race? Is a collection of period transmission and upright spares added to a 1966 derivative of the V6 in a 1979 chassis of no known parentage entitled to be called a 1960 Dino? Is a spare set of 300S parts assembled around a new chassis and body entitled to be called a 1957 Maserati 250 F? Is a Bugatti with newly cast engine parts and sundry other products of the active BOC spares scheme assembled into new chassis and body entitled to be called a 1926 Bugatti type 35B? Is an exact Deetype replica using the original rear suspension design entitled to be called a 1957 Jaguar D-type or does it become eligible because someone has found a spare chassis plate? Because all these and others are being created with an ultimate resale value of £50,000 plus for an outlay considerably less. And are these cars different from a car with a traceable history which has had to be totally rebuilt after a bad accident? These are the questions which must be answered for the benefit of all, including ruling bodies, by competitors, admirers and spectators of the historic racing scene, before the business of replication gets even more out of hand that it is already. Let us hope that the new single-seater body gets its own house in order, other than the order of elitism, before it starts to offer its circus package around.

Your reference to Listers being mostly “spurious” is as sweeping as it is inaccurate. Listers generally were very popular sports-racing cars which carried on as club racers on both sides of the Atlantic long after their eligibility for international formulae had ceased, whereas GP cars mostly just sat around once they had stopped racing. Small wonder that many reached such a stage of decay, either through accident or fair wear and tear, that it just wasn’t economical to repair them for the racing available. So they just sat around until the birth of the historic scene when it again became economical to restore them from scratch, which inevitably meant many virtually complete replacement exercises. Those racing in the Lloyds and Scottish this year all have a continuous line of history from their true dates to the present day; spurious suggests that they are forgeries. They use just hard-worked cars that have suffered a certain amount of replacement over the years in the Queen Anne’s axe syndrome; some have alternative period engines but all could have been built as they are if someone else had signed the original order book.

Heronsgate, Michael Bowler

We couldn’t agree more on the comments on the replica syndrome. The situation needs sorting out now before it escalates. The reference to Listers may have been sweeping, but it was not entirely inaccurate – C.R.)