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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Classic revival of car shapes

As auto enthusiasts inch closer to the electric vehicle reality, there is a growing yen for classic forms

Abhijit Mitra Published 19.02.23, 02:59 PM
(clockwise) MercedesBenz 300 SL Gullwing restored by Brabus, Eagle E-Type Lightweight Roadster, Lancia Aurelia B20GT Outlaw, Emory Porsche 356 Outlaw, Singer Porsche 911 (964)

(clockwise) MercedesBenz 300 SL Gullwing restored by Brabus, Eagle E-Type Lightweight Roadster, Lancia Aurelia B20GT Outlaw, Emory Porsche 356 Outlaw, Singer Porsche 911 (964) The Telegraph

Newton’s third law famously states that to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. While it is nowhere near an equal reaction, as far as the car industry goes, the closer we are getting to having electric vehicles as the industry standard, the more the interest seems to be in going in the opposite direction and preserving and/or modifying and running petrol or diesel cars.

What this is primarily is an interest in vehicles with an older look, sometimes with the same feel, sometimes not. And if there is demand, suppliers will appear. Some of them have been around, but are tweaking their business to cater to this growing segment. Others are setting up shop.

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As for the vehicles that they are building, some are new from the ground up. Others are modifications of an existing classic with some modern components, commonly referred to as restomods. And still others are restored to original factory specs down to the last nut and bolt.

Purists in the world of vintage and classic vehicles are vehemently opposed to modifying anything in their vehicles. They prefer preserving the vehicles just as they left the factory or with the patina and scars that they have picked up during their lives and with all their warts and niggles.

There is another bunch that creates what the purists call ‘outlaws’, basically vehicles that have been modified. The restomodders, prominent among whom is car collector and former American TV show host Jay Leno, argue that they want to drive and enjoy their vehicles rather than have them as showpieces and, therefore, give them new components like brakes and electricals that make them more drivable. But that often takes away from these cars at concours d’elegance events, where the stress is on originality.

The arcane world of vintage and classic cars is filled with specialists, real or claimed. It is well nigh impossible for anyone to know all cars. So, top restorers or modifiers, be it individual or company, usually specialise in particular marques. So, where does one head if one wants a slice of automotive history that is totally usable as a regular driver?

There are a bunch of specialists that will cater to this need. They are based either in Europe or America and have made quite a name for themselves for the quality of their cars. They include names like Brabus, Singer, Rod Emory, Eagle and Thornley Kelham. Make no mistake though, these cars don’t come cheap and often carry price tags that overshadow those of the latest luxury rides. Here’s what you’d head to them for.

ROD EMORY PORSCHE 356 OUTLAW

Rod Emory is a Porsche guy. For the most part he has been making ‘Emory Outlaw’s based on the Porsche 356, the first model of the brand. But Emory Motorsports, which he started with his wife Amy, now also makes performance-enhanced models like the RS and the 911 Outlaw. The 356 Outlaws get a Emory-Rothsport Outlaw-4 engine, which are four-cylinder boxers and have much better power than the stock engines. Emory’s aim was “to build the most iconic, yet personalised Porsche 356s on the planet and to deliver a customer experience unlike any other in the Porsche marketplace”. He seems to be doing that quite well in building up cars to what he calls “factory plus” standards. While there is no sticker price, he has rebuilt cars, including the donor car, for $400,000-500,000 for some.

MERCEDES-BENZ 300SL GULLWING BY BRABUS

The Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing does not need to have its credentials as a classic checked at any point. But with the passage of nearly three-quarters of a century since it was launched, many of the cars need more than an on-the-surface maintenance. Enter Brabus Classic. Bring your car over to them or source a car from them and they will take the whole thing down to the last nut and bolt, index every part, check which ones can be refurbished and which ones need to bereplaced and do so. Everything will be fixed up to the standard of the original car as it left the factory.

Brabus is so thorough that when they hand the car over, they reset the odometer to zero! It helps that Brabus is owned by Mercedes-Benz. Ballpark price of these cars is now around $1.5 million

LANCIA AURELIA B20GT OUTLAW

This car, built by Thornley Kelham, a British restoration outfit, is based on the 2-litre Lancia Aurelia raced by Giovanni Bracco at the Mille Miglia in 1951. It is wider than the stock model and has a lower roofline as well. The stock engine, which, incidentally, was the world’s first V6 production engine, is replaced with a more powerful one from the later Flaminia to give it more shove and coupled with the 50:50 weight distribution, makes for a lively package. Want to pick up one? It will set you back by about £400,000. What you will get is a 175- odd hp car that weighs only 1,200kg and you can chuck it around corners to your heart’s content.

EAGLE LIGHTWEIGHT SPEEDSTER

At first glance you would probably think that you are looking at a Jaguar E-Type roadster from the 1960s with its long bonnet, short deck and flowing lines. But on a thorough look you realise that this car isn’t what you thought it was.

This is Eagle’s (a small British car maker) take on the Jaguar. Faithful to the Jaguar E-Type of the 1960s with classic detail and finishing, it was fitted with Eagle E-Type engineering, including the Eagle 4.7-litre engine, the Eagle 5-speed gearbox and the optimised suspension. Eagle says: “Although initially built as a ‘one-off’, the Speedster was universally wellreceived and interest was such that it was too much of a shame to leave it unique. Numbers will always remain few however....” At £600,000 a pop, that’s a certainty.

PORSCHE 911 BY SINGER

Singer is a small California outfit that rethinks and rebuilds 1989 to 1994 Porsche 911s, based on the 964 chassis. That’s just the starting point. Once a car is selected, it’s massively redone. How about body panels made of carbon fibre? And a flat-six engine that spews out around 360hp? It is light and tactile. If a Porsche 911 could ever be a sleeper car, this is the one. Singer does put its name on the back of the car, but says that it purely reimagines it with a lot of deference to the original. At about £300,000, the price for holding onto the past is pretty steep.

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