Continuation cars are becoming increasingly popular in the motoring community.
More and more manufacturers are producing continuation cars. Aston Martin, Jaguar, Lola have all entered the market in recent years with continuation models of previous classics.
But what is the appeal of buying a continuation car?
What are continuation cars?
A continuation car is a remake or replica of a car that is no longer in production, made by the original manufacturer. Let’s be clear – they are not restorations of old, classic vehicles.
It is a new production using original blueprints, methods and (mostly) parts to replicate an original model to the finest degree. Manufacturers will often use the same run of VIN/chassis numbers on its continuation cars that it did on the originals.
There is usually a special significance to the car. Sometimes they are popular models, sometimes they are cult or racing classics. But continuation cars are more often than not produced in very limited numbers, such as runs of 25 or 50 examples. Or even fewer.
Why are continuation cars made?
For a variety of reasons. Continuation cars celebrate the successes of classic models. They allow a marque to celebrate its history and heritage in a unique way. It allows them to revive original manufacturing techniques, for both educational and brand awareness purposes.
Continuation cars celebrate significant anniversaries of both marque and previous models. Not just classic cars, either – several marques, such as Lola, made continuation versions of historically important race cars like the T70 MKIIIB.
Similarly, continuation cars generate a lot of PR for manufacturers. In the age of the internet and social media, the commemoration of classic models generates a great deal of brand interest. Aston Martin experienced this when announcing continuation versions of the DB4, DB4 Zagato and DB5 featured in Goldfinger. Hundreds of news articles were written in coverage. Hours of debate and discussion ensued.
When Jaguar announced its Lightweight continuation versions of the E-Type and D-Type, it caused a stir. In the case of the E-Type, Jaguar was reproducing one of the greatest and most attractive sports cars ever. For newer generations of motoring enthusiasts, it brings classic models and manufacturing history into the light.
They also generate a lot of revenue: continuation cars are not exactly cheap. Aston Martin’s recent DB5 continuations cost around $3.4 million each. But they usually sell out before release - people pay for the exclusivity they bring.
How are they made?
Painstakingly slowly! Continuation cars take thousands of hours to build. For example, Aston Martin’s DB4 Zagato and DB5 Goldfinger models took around 4500 hours of construction each.
Authenticity is key when it comes to building continuation cars. The use of original blueprints and replicating older techniques and methods ensure manufacturing is to exact standards. On rare occasions, modern components are used where it is either unsafe or impractical to use original parts. But for the best part, everything is original and authentic to the time.
The use of hand-finished techniques to build engines and bodywork in the exact same ways used several decades ago ensures maximum accuracy. It takes time to get these cars absolutely right.
This is why production runs come in limited numbers. Construction of continuation cars is intricate, without the use of modern machinery that produces components both quickly and in bulk.
Why are they popular?
It’s no secret that continuation cars sell well. Pretty much every major continuation model over time has sold out. They remain deeply popular with motoring enthusiasts. Classic cars evoke immense feelings of emotion: they resemble pieces of art.
Continuation versions play on nostalgia for a bygone era of motoring. A time when sports cars were at the centre of pop culture and fashion. Consider the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger – a continuation of a car associated with Britain’s most popular spy, James Bond. It features a tonne of gadgets and gizmos seen in the film. It is incredibly unique and plays on past emotions from previous generations.
They play on a desire to own something retro and cool – new but old.
For manufacturers, continuation cars are great PR machines. It is a great way to bring a brand back into the mainstream, by generating huge amounts of interest. Auctioning off limited edition continuation cars raises big money for charity.
Using continuation cars as promotional vehicles ensures preservation of original models by reducing the risk of damage.
What are the downsides to continuation cars?
Naturally, continuation cars are somewhat of a divisive topic when it comes to motoring enthusiasts.
One could argue re-producing classic models challenges the rarity of the originals. Does it dampen the historical importance of originals? Does it cheapen the integrity of their perseverance, or the marque’s brand? When Bentley announced it was remaking its 1929 ‘Blower’ racing classic, it caused uproar among its fans.
There is an argument that continuation cars negatively affect the values of the original vehicles. But, in truth, the effect has been opposite. Releasing a continuation model generates interest in owning the original. Jaguar’s Lightweight E-Types and XKSS models, as well as the D-Type, reignited interest in their respective ‘originals’ – increasing demand and therefore having a positive influence on prices.
Despite this, continuation models are still generally expensive. Aston Martin’s DB4 Zagato and DB5 Goldfinger editions cost millions – for essentially a carbon copy of an original model. The question is will they retain this value in 50 years’ time? Will continuation models be as desirable as classic cars as time progresses?
One thing that is often overlooked with continuation models is that the majority of them are not road legal. So you spend millions on a beautiful car that you cannot actually drive on public roads. Older engines simply do not comply with modern road, safety and emission regulations.
Are continuation cars worth it?
Continuation cars are no doubt special in the way they are made and what they represent. But the price paid for something that can only be driven a few times a year is a sore point.
This is why the growth of restomod cars – cars that are classic in looks but modern in technology – has been rapid. People can spend money on, say, a classic Porsche or Jaguar or Shelby and not have to worry about the hassle of restoration and maintenance. Using a combination of original chassis and bodywork with a modern engine means a buyer is satisfied both aesthetically and in the driving seat. And they are road legal. With air con!
Mixed with restomods, it can be disputed that continuation models are saturating the market. But truth is, both are aimed at entirely different generations and demographics.
Continuation cars will always evoke strong emotions from motoring enthusiasts, both positive and negative. And the fact they generate such discussion and reactions are what keeps them special.