DB4 GT Zagato and the dilemma of continuation cars

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Gorgeous, hallowed and expensive – but should they allowed? Are they not automotive blasphemy?

By Shahzad Sheikh

Or could the concept of continuation cars be expanded a lot further and made more accessible to the likes of you and me?

Aston Martin just put out a press release about the first of 19 hand-built DB4 GT Zagato Continuation models being delivered to their lucky new owners worldwide. Each one having taken 4500 hours to build.

A continuation car is a replica, rather than a restoration, of an original classic car, usually built by the same manufacturer.

The cars are meant to be as original as possible, but could be agreeably modernised and inevitably the greater care, diligence and potentially modern materials, components and construction techniques employed are all likely to result in a better-produced car than those originally rolling out of the factory.

On the other hand to most people they would look and feel like the original classic cars, and considering the concours level of presentation of some classics, it may not always be obvious that they are, in fact, brand new.

The DB4 GT Zagato was originally produced in the 1960s to take on the might of Ferrari on track, and is probably the second most admired and adored classic Aston after Bond’s DB5 (by the way a continuation series of those is also planned to go into production next year!). Aston Martin already sold 25 DB4 GT Continuation models in 2017 – though the Zagato is far prettier.

So what do we think of continuation models? Are they cheats? Are they a pastiche? Could they deemed fakes? Are they rip-offs? Would they be likely to fool some potential investors? Essentially should they even be allowed or entertained?

Actually I think they should. Classic cars, and particularly the shape, styling and stance of them is just so evocative and desirable to both sentimental hearts and discerning modern eyes that’s an opportunity missed not to revive and revitalise them.

Whereas an example of an original car might too rare and precious, and indeed valuable, to drive hard, or even race and rally regularly, a modern continuation version at less than half the price might be just the answer – so why not then?

I’ll just put that ‘less than half price’ into perspective though – an original DB4 GT Zagato might go for well over £12m – so with these continuation cars we are still talking £6m each. Although to be fair they are throwing in a brand new and thoroughly modern DBS Zagato too.

But no matter how rich you are, at £6m that would still give you some pause for thought before say, daily driving your DB4 GT Zagato right?

They’re not alone in stratospherically pricing their continuation cars either – even Jaguar sell theirs for at least a mil point five for the lightweight E-Type for example, and an unknown but likely similarly shocking price for the D-Type.

However I think a trick is being missed here. I would prefer it if rather than being a stickler for originality, the cars were modernised – restomodded as it were. Fitted with modern engines and transmissions, uprated brakes and suspension, and let’s say power steering, aircon and a modern infotainment system.

That way you get all the visual splendour of an original, but with the usability of something newer – which let’s face it, is what today’s motorists really want. Many think they crave originality only to find themselves on the wrong side of that old adage about meeting your heroes, as they finally spend their hard-saved earnings on one and struggle, curse and grind the gears of their pride but perhaps not-so-joy on the way home from the auction. An added benefit of the distinct mod-cons will be no mistaking the newer car for the more venerable original.

With more attainable pricing – and if you’re okay with the notion that you don’t need old dude harnessing ancient craftsmanship, wisdom and patience to take three weeks to beat one fender into shape – get some robots on it and surely the production costs would come down massively.

That being the case – I want to see continuations of less aristocratic autos and the return of beloved blue-collar hero cars. Would you not line up, chequebook in hand, for a continuation Ford Capri, Audi ur-Quattro, Lancia Delta Integrale, Toyota 2000GT, Datsun 240Z, Pontiac Trans Am and at the slightly higher end, original Honda NSX, Lotus Esprit and the Ferrari 308? And of course many others – you tell me in the comments below! DeLorean might already be happening – though they’ve been threatening that for two years now.

To be fair there are companies restomodding originals – particularly in the States, and at least a million Mustangs surely? – and producing replicas of AC Cobras, Ferrari Dinos, Lamborghini Countachs etc, but then we might be side-tracking into the arena of kit cars. Although if they are built to a sufficiently high quality standard, is that really an issues? Perhaps that’s a topic for another time.

2 Replies to “DB4 GT Zagato and the dilemma of continuation cars”

  1. Was there a point I missed, somewhere in there? Are you taking a position on this thorny subject, or just outlining the position options?

    The idea surely is that you pay the price for the craftsmanship of a crusty old panelbeater because it is that skill you want to encourage as well as the preservation of the appearance…

    1. Thanks for the comment Fraser!

      Actually I’m not entirely sure how to feel about Continuation cars… part of me can’t help but think they dilute and detract from the uniqueness, charisma and rarity of the originals.

      Those cars were of their time. The new ones are contrived copies. Are they even still actually ‘classics’. And what happens when in say 20-30 years time, when the newer versions do become ‘classics’? Are they of lesser or greater value than the originals?

      They are so extraordinarily expensive they make redundant the notion that as brand new builds you could actually use and abuse them rather than being precious and having to preserve low mileages and values.

      But on the other hand, there is something very cool about bringing back legendary cars anew. But I think I don’t just want them to be anew, but to stand out afresh, and cater to the desire of modern car enthusiasts to have their cake and eat it – a car that looks like a classic but isn’t a cantankerous pain in the oil pan, cumbersome to drive and difficult to live with.

      Making them ‘modern’ just enough to not corrupt the sensation of driving and enjoying a beloved icon, could be the way forward I posit.

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