Top 10 Replicas
We look at ten faux classics and decides if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery
Ruger Sports Tourer
This pre-war Bentley lookalike was conceived by firearms manufacturer and car collector William Ruger. The basis for the machine was a twin-rail box-section chassis with beam axles on semi elliptic leaf-springs at either end. The body comprised a centre-hinged steel bonnet, the wings and fabric-covered body being made of glassfibre. The fun bit was the choice of engine: a 6989cc, 427cu in Ford V8. Ruger tentatively priced the car at £13,000 (roughly £5500 in 1970), but it soon became clear that each Sports Tourer would be sold at a loss so the scheme was shelved.
AutoFact: Only two cars were made, both being retained by Ruger until his death in 2002.
This loose clone of a Ferrari 125 was commissioned by Willi Felber, owner of Haut Performance in Lausanne, Switzerland. The Ferrari and Panther distributor had form when it came to unique and small-series exotica, and the Panther FF was intended from the outset as a one-off project. Jankel was given just nine weeks in which to build the car in time for its big reveal at the 1974 Geneva Motor Show. The donor car was a secondhand Ferrari 330GTC. Felber then decided to put the FF into limited production, priced at £13,500. Only seven cars were made.
AutoFact: Panther also built a Ferrari Daytona ‘shooting brake’.
Quattroroute 4R Zagato
Despite the Alfa Romeo badge and Zagato coachwork, this intriguing device was actually dreamed up by a third party. Gianni Mazzocchi, the founding publisher of Quattroroute magazine, conjured a car styled along similar lines to his beloved pre-war Alfa 6C 1750 but one that utilised modern running gear. He tapped Elio and Gianni Zagato – whose father Ugo had created landmark outlines for the 6C – for their input, and a prototype was built using Alfa Giulia Ti running gear. What’s more, Mazzocchi lent his 1930 6C 1750 roadster to act as a template. Ironically, his wasn’t a Zagato-clothed variant.
AutoFact: 92 cars were made from 1965-68.
A degree of mystery surrounds this Panther creation, not least who commissioned it. The intention was to build a limited run of 100 sports cars built along similar lines of the Lancia D24 sports-racer. This new model would use unmodified Fulvia running gear – complete with a V4 engine slung way out front. The aluminium-bodied, Lancia-badged prototype was loaded onto a transporter for the trip from Surrey to Switzerland in time for its unveiling at the March ’75 Geneva Motor Show. Unfortunately, the prototype had been insecurely fastened down in the transporter and arrived with extensive body damage.
AutoFact: Michelotti later built a variant of this replica which was marketed by Felber.
Studebaker SS/Excalibur Roadster
Few designers have had a greater impact on industrial design in the US than Brooks Stevens. He had worked closely with Studebaker during its twilight years. The car pictured here was created to distract punters at the 1964 New York International Automobile Show from the fact that there were no new mainstream Studebakers on display. The plan called for a cycle-winged machine that aped the lines of a pre-war Mercedes-Benz (Studebaker was the US concessionaire for the German marque at that time). Studebaker got cold feet so the car was displayed on Stevens’ own stand before coming to market as the Excalibur.
AutoFact: Pop minstrel Tommy Steele was among the first Excalibur customers.
Car designer, race car engineer, studio chief and crackpot inventor Franco Sbarro wears many hats and they all fit. While famous for his many wild supercars and other left-field creations, he was once well known for building a series of clones, ranging from a Bugatti Royale to a Lola T70. The car seen here was, however, the closest he has ever come to producing a car in volume. A close physical copy of the BMW 328, it was launched in 1974 and based on BMW 2002 running gear. Some 138 were purportedly made over the next decade or so.
AutoFact: Sbarro built 15 not so accurate ‘wide-body’ variants with turbo power.
The AC/Shelby Cobra has to be the most replicated car on the planet. Among the first clones – possibly even the first – was the Stallion, which was created by US kit car pioneer Jim Kellison. Strictly speaking, the Stallion wasn’t an exacting replica as it was longer and wider than the original, in part to accommodate the 429cu in V8, but also to free up some extra cabin room. Offered in kit or fully-built form, 117 were made from 1976 to ’80 before Kellison sold the manufacturing rights to his business partner.
AutoFact: Formula 1 legend Keke Rosberg (pictured) owned a Stallion in period.
Len Terry’s resume as a designer included racing cars that won in F1 and the Indy 500. What tends to be forgotten is that from the late 1970s to the late ’80s, he engineered assorted replicas, vintage-style vans and more besides. The first and most impressive was the oddly-named Gozzy, the first of which was built in 1977 for a Japanese businessman. Obviously inspired by a pre-war Mercedes-Benz SSK, and packing Mercedes 280 power, it was built by Paul Weldon’s Church Green Engineering. Just four were made. The firm also began work on a Mercedes 540K replica but it remained unfinished.
AutoFact: Terry rounded out his design career with Fleur de Lys, a firm best known for its ’30s-style vans.
One of the earliest British-made replicas, the bizarrely named Dri-Sleeve Moonraker was a physical copy of the Type 37 Bugatti which led a brief existence during the early 1970s. Devised by Ryder Stone and fellow American Boris Williamson, the prototype was completed in late 1971 with Ford Cortina 1600GT power and an aluminium and glassfibre body. The name ‘Dri-Sleeve’ referred to a cover that could be attached to the car’s external handbrake to protect the driver’s arm in bad weather. The original plan had been to build the car in Canada, but the partners ultimately settled on Wiltshire.
AutoFact: Production began and ended in 1972. Six cars were made.
There have been umpteen kit-form replicas, but few have ever been so warmly received as this Porsche 718RSK clone. Devised by racer turned designer Neville Trickett, and marketed by Buckinghamshire’s GP Developments, it was physically accurate and beautifully made. What’s more, the use of air-cooled VW power was in keeping, although water-cooled Golf units were fitted to a small number of the 1200 or so cars made from 1982 until relatively recently. An RS60 stye replica was also offered with a period-correct mid-engine placement, some with Porsche units. At least one car was built with an aluminium body rather than the usual glassfibre.
AutoFact: GP also made around 30 VW Kübelwagen replicas.
Pictures courtesy of Rota Archive