Automotive renaissance: Old is the new black
The classics are now the hottest, why?
We live in an era where technology advances at the speed of light. As humans’ imaginations thrive, new concepts and designs dominate every next moment of our lives. However, in a part of the car industry, things are going backwards.
Porsche Classic Project Gold 993 Turbo / Credit: Porsche AG
Last week, Porsche’s one-off “Project Gold” 911 Turbo sports car went under the hammer at the world-famous RM Sotheby’s auction. Within ten minutes after the bidding started, the car was sold for an eye-watering £2.6 million, with all the net proceeds donated to charity.
Built by Porsche’s Classic division, this golden Porsche 911 Turbo (Type 993) is a specially restored version of the original car, which was introduced in 1995. It took Porsche one and a half years to complete the construction. The “Porsche Classic” is a classic continuation programme which allows Porsche to help customers preserve old cars as well as “reintroduce” some special models such as the Project Gold.
In early 2016, Jaguar announced that they were producing the 1957 Jaguar XKSS again, the road-going version of the famous Jaguar D-Type Le Mans racing car. The new Jaguar XKSS is a faithful replica, properly built according to the original blueprint with genuine Jaguar parts. However, each Jaguar XKSS costs £1 million.
Jaguar XKSS / Credit: Jaguar
Later that year, Aston Martin started the production of the beautiful 1959 Aston Martin DB4 GT again, with a price tag of over £1 million. This year, they decided to continue the production of the renowned 1963 Goldfinger DB5 and the 1960 DB4 GT Zagato.
The Aston Martin DB4 GT riviled the Jaguar D-Type. / Credit: Classic Driver
These are the “continuation cars”, new cars built to old standards. Unlike any restored cars, they are not just built to preserve the car itself, but the precious skills in classic car production, car culture and racing culture. According to Mike Fernie at DriveTribe, companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and Porsche are now in the process of going electric; hence why they've sprouted these Classic sectors to keep the diehards happy. These continuation and restoration programmes remind people of the “good old days” while moving towards the future at the other end of the business. But of course, these cars bring about huge profits, too.
Apart from the continuation cars, there are also new cars that pay homage to particular old cars. Ferrari, for instance, released the “Monza Icona Special Series” a month ago. The first batch of the series, the SP1 and SP2, are models based on the current Ferrari 812 Superfast supercar paying homage to the original Ferrari Barchetta, the 1947 166 MM, the 1955 750 and 1956 860 Monza models. The Icona series reminds us of the glorious racing successes of Ferrari. Each of them costs at least £1.6 million. Recently, Porsche introduced the brand new Porsche 935 track car, a modern version of the legendary 1978 Porsche 935 “Moby Dick” racing car, based on the current production 911 GT2 RS sports car. Limited to only 77 units with a price tag of £730,000, they were all sold out before the public unveiling.
Ferrari Monza Icona SP1 / Credit: Ferrari
The thing is though, a standard Ferrari 812 Superfast is priced around £250,000, only 15% of what a Ferrari Monza SP1 may cost. Well, the Porsche 935 is just a bit more affordable. The current Porsche 911 GT2 RS road car costs £207,500, but it’s still just nearly 1/3 of what you pay for the Porsche 935. And remember, the Porsche 935 is a track car, which means it’s not road-legal.
As Tim Rodie of DriveTribe puts it, Ferrari and Porsche use existing platforms that they’ve already spent most of the development money on to make them millions. It costs relatively little money to design a different body and sell it for 5 times the original price. However, if you have no problem about budget, that’s a choice.
In addition to culture preservation, it seems that going retro is really an ongoing trend. With £1 million, you can buy nearly 18 Jaguar F-Types, 6 Aston Martin DB11 V12s or 3 McLaren 720Ss, and these are luxury sports cars and supercars. But clearly, it’s all about taste and how would you like to empty your bank account.
Regardless of the huge profits, what the carmakers are doing is truly phenomenal. The continuation cars help us preserve the greatness of industrial design. Rather than mere transporting vehicles, they are art pieces based on nostalgia that we can actually use in our daily lives. They should not be stored in a garage collecting dust, but be driven, enjoyed and admired.
All the threats in the booming car industry, automation, electrification, the death of diesel etc, are immediate and dreadful to classic cars. Countries including Austria, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom will ban petrol and diesel engine cars in 10 to 20 years. And in the Netherlands, all vehicles will be banned thoroughly by 2030. The future doesn’t look quite friendly to vintage car culture. Or is it?
Jaguar E-Type Zero / Credit: Jaguar
In September 2017 Jaguar released the one-off E-Type Zero electric sports car, marking a new page of classic car preservation. In brief, the E-Type Zero is a standard 1968 Jaguar E-Type Series 1.5 Roadster with the XK engine replaced by an electric motor. It is the most beautiful car in the world reimagined, adapted to the future.
One day, we will be out of petrol. Going electric is the definite future. The continuation cars will show the next generation what humans have achieved before engines and gears fade into history. And cars like the Jaguar E-Type Zero further promise that the automotive greatness from our past will live on.