Could continuation classics herald the end of the booming market?

| 13 Dec 2016

News broke this week that Aston Martin is set to build a limited production run of continuation Lightweight DB4GTs and, rather than get me excited, the announcement left me worried that history may be repeating. 

Of course, building replicas of once great cars is nothing new – kit car manufacturers and shed-bound amateur engineers have been doing it for decades – but when mainstream marques get in on the act, it all starts to make me a bit nervous. 

Aston Martin was one of the first firms to get in on the act back in the late 1980s. The booming market and sky-high values of the rarest classics, such as the DB4GT Zagato, resulted in a dilemma for those wanting to cash in on the unprecedented demand for a finite resource. The solution, it seemed, was simple: build more cars and differentiate them from other replicas by giving them the rubber stamp of approval from the factory. Enter the Sanction II Zagato, and later, Sanction III. 

Around the same time, Alfa Romeo also lent its backing to recreations of its more desirable post-war model, the 33 Stradale, which were expertly built by Giovanni Gioranengo. 

Both models immediately preceded the collapse of the market in the early 1990s, when rampant investment overinflated prices to a point that could no longer be supported. 

It all kicked off again in 2014, when Jaguar decided to build six new Lightweight E-types to finish its original 18-car intended production run. Each car cost £1m and quickly sold out, recently prompting the firm to turn its attention to the XKSS, which had its original production run curtailed by the fire at Browns Lane. Lister got in on the act, too, with its more affordable Knobbly recreations, and has recently announced its intention to revive the 1950s Costin

The latest firm to enter the fray (once again) is Aston Martin, which this week unveiled plans to build 25 new DB4GTs with a staggering asking price of £1.5m each. And it feels like a bridge too far. 

Jaguar’s Lightweight E-type and XKSS continuations number just 15 cars, each costing £1m. With both models impossibly rare and opportunities to buy an original so few and far between, getting the next best thing for one tenth of the price can just about be rationalised. 

But to pay £1.5m for an imitation DB4GT – one of a bloated 25-car production run – when the genuine article can be bought for around £3m just doesn’t make sense.

You won’t see any of these cars race at Goodwood thanks to a firm stance from Lord March, and they won’t be drivable on the road either – at least not in this country. That leaves the potential market limited to those who take part in the odd track day excursion or – more likely –  those who squirrel the cars away in the hope of turning a quick buck. Just like they did 25 years ago. 

Against a backdrop of faltering auction sales rates and a general cooling of the market, it’s left me wondering if we could be approaching another significant moment in the life cycle of the classic car economy.