A prolific industry
It had been our intention to feature a monthly article on the current state-of the art of building fake cars, whether for pleasure or monetary gain. By “fake” we encompass all the fancy “trade” words like replica, clone, look-alike, reproduction, all of which apply to cars that are demonstrably not what they appear to be.
We were going to deal with everything in alphabetical order, from A to Z, and to explain how to make a “Monza” Alfa Romeo from an 8C-2300 coupe, a Le Mans-type “Blower” Bentley from a production 41/2-litre Bentley saloon, a competition-style Delahaye 135 from a tired old 1947 saloon Delahaye, a K3 MG Magnette from a collection of used MG components, a SS100 from a 2 1/2-litre saloon, a Fox & Nicholl team Talbot from a 105 Tourer, and a 30/98 Vauxhall from an original crankcase.
All these things have been done, and in more than single examples, while some have reached production-line proportions, and there does not seem to be a “marque” that has escaped the attention of this prolific industry. In some cases it has merely been a question rebuilding a rather dull saloon or drop-head coupe original car, into a more exciting 2-seater sports version as offered by the manufacturers in their day, though few people seem to be prepared to make an exact copy of a 1925 or 1935 body, in light of knowledge of wood-work and panel beating, so that most re-bodied cars are pretty obvious.
In the racing-car world there are parameters, and the be-all and end-all of “Histories” is, not surprisingly, “History”. You find a little bit of obscure history and re-create the car around a few bits and pieces, most of which have to be thrown away during the “restoration” as they would not pass race-scrutineering. Your brand new car then takes on the mantle of the historic car, and all its racing history.
Truly historic racing cars that are still being raced inevitably have to be overhauled and rebuilt every now and then, so that very little of the original car is left, but the process is gradual and continuous, the car as it stands today is accepted as the original historic car. A perfect example of this is the well-known V12 Sunbeam “Tiger” which started life in 1925 as a Sunbeam works racing car. It went through a metamorphosis in 1931 at the hands of Thomson & Taylor for Malcolm Campbell and continued to race on and off, up to 1939. From 1947 it has been in almost continuous use by VSCC members for racing purposes and today there is very little left of the original 1925 Sunbeam works car, or for that matter, of the Thomson & Taylor version. It is still very active and very fast, and nobody would question its authenticity; it is still the Sunbeam V12 “Tiger”.
In another branch of historic racing there is a particular make of which only a handful were built at the time. A brand new one was built a few years ago, quite openly as a “replica to original specification”, and was stamped as such. Since then most of the original cars have undergone continuous development and improvement, and some people are getting a bit worried that future generations of enthusiasts will not know what an original car is like. The builder of the new one had to smile when he said: “It won’t be long before my “fake” car will be the only original one left!”
The ramifications of this building of fake cars are far-reaching and already the used-car dealers have changed direction. From trying to sell or auction rather dubious cars by being sparing with the truth, they now openly and honestly offer cars as “authentic replicas” or “non-original, built from spare parts etc”. Mind you, the prices asked for these fakes tend to make your eyes water, but the trade is quick to point out that “a genuine model would fetch £1 million, so the fake at £100,000 is really a bargain”.
It need hardly be mentioned that the high prices asked for “real” cars have been artificially forced up by the sellers, the trade and the auction houses. That such prices have upped the prices of fakes, and made them respectable, in merely following the “business trends” established long ago in the art world.
As was explained at the beginning of this article, it had been our intention to run an A-Z series in ensuing months, but unfortunately circumstances beyond our control, not unconnected with the laws of libel, the Trades Descriptions Act, the Office of Fair Trading, the international museums world, and the motor industry, have made it necessary to shelve the idea for the time being . DSJ