Over the past couple of years, various storied manufacturers have announced that they will be creating “continuation” cars. This is an interesting idea, but what are they?
There are a couple of schools of thought about what constitutes a continuation car. One school suggests that the car uses an allocated chassis number and is built using the same components albeit many years later. Another school suggests that it is any car that has gaps in its production run.
The current crop of continuation cars was probably started by Jaguar who built six lightweight E-Types using chassis numbers that were originally allocated in the early 1960s however the production run ended before these numbers were used. 50 years later they have used up those up allocated numbers. Then they muddied the waters in my opinion by announcing that they would be building a handful of XKSS cars using chassis numbers that had already been used, although the cars never made it to market because they were destroyed in a fire at the factory. In my view, those chassis numbers had been allocated and should have remained on those destroyed cars, with new numbers created for the new cars.
Jaguar also announced that they would be building 25 more D-Types for racing purposes and Aston Martin also announced that they would be building another 25 lightweight DB4 GTs, both 60 odd years after the production had ended. Are they really a continuation or simply a new batch? What is the difference between a factory D-Type and say a Suffolk D-Type that uses reconditioned mechanical components from the mid 1950s? One could argue that they are almost identical except for a chassis number – and does that truly add extra noughts to the price?
This is where I feel that “continuation” cars are no longer continuation, they are merely an extension of the production run – a series two if you like. Some people say that Lister produces a continuation “Knobby”, yet they build batches every decade that would suggest that they are also simply extending a model’s production run.
To make it more confusing, companies such as Shelby have licensed other bespoke builders to build their cars and I don’t consider these to be continuation at all because they are not even being built by the same company! You can also buy a new Alvis from a limited range that are built by hand to the same spec as the original and I would see these as being slightly closer to a true continuation car because they are being built in the same way as the originals – however again, it is not the original company that is manufacturing the cars and I believe that is an important factor to consider.
Some of the cars (especially the licensed Shelby’s) have had current engines and other components so they are not really a continuation because they are far from the original build specification. In all cases, these new “old” cars are not built to the same standards – modern machinery and techniques means that the cars are far more reliable and higher quality than the first batches that were built in the 1950s or 1960s and that alone would affect the performance and handling of the vehicles.
There has also been a discussion within the classic car market with regards to the values of these vehicles. I don‘t see an issue here because the chassis number will define when the car was built and the earlier numbers will still command a much higher price, simply because they were built and used in period. I have also heard that some of the cars have been deemed ineligible for historic racing, which was one reason why people wanted them – they wanted to be a part of the growing historic scene.
I have read reports that describe continuation cars as replicas, yet are they – if the vehicles were built by the original manufacturer? I see replicas as being built by companies like Suffolk or the myriad of kit car manufacturers from decades ago, not by the proper company.
One thing is for sure – manufacturers like Jaguar and Aston Martin are making good money with these new heritage cars.