Tribute Cars - the icon you can afford

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Coventry Studios

Presented by

tribute cars tribute cars

Inability to afford some of the most recognisable cars ever produced doesn't always mean you can't have one

Vehicles that look the same, sound the same and in all but the most critical details are the same as genuine versions are becoming more available, affordable and also acceptable in a once-judgemental world.

Yes we are talking replicas, aka tributes, knock-offs and clones. These are the classic, super or muscle car you can afford to own and use when an authentic example is out of reach or impractical.

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If you think that driving a replica is against the spirit of the game then consider for a moment people who own some of the world's most envied precious stones. Is that a genuine $20 million sparkler around the neck of some Hollywood star? We doubt it. The real item will be locked away and guarded while the fake goes out to play and 95 percent of the population would have no idea or couldn't care anyway. Why should the same freedoms not apply to cars? Significant cars in a small market such as Australia's are well-known and prolifically documented. The risk that someone will clone a rarity and dupe a buyer into paying big money for a four-wheeled fraud are now minimal and the market for tribute vehicles is flourishing.

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Scratch-built cars may come as build-it-at-home kits (like most Shelby Cobras), while more complex vehicles are crafted in 'glass, metals or composites by specialist suppliers throughout the world.

Under this banner sit copies that have been executed so well they can be challenging to differentiate from the genuine article. C and D Type Jaguars, Cobras with alloy bodies, Porsche 917s, various Ferraris and replicas of open-wheel racing cars might cost $300,000 to more than a million but that still saves the buyer huge amounts while barely infringing on authenticity.

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Below this cohort of exotics sit copies of domestic high-performance models (GT-HO Falcons, hatchback Toranas, Brock and HDT Commodores) that were based on basic production cars and require only a 'donor' body shell.

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For a while in Australia there did exist a well-resourced automotive underworld where destroyed cars were 'rebirthed' and others recreated using nothing but a donor shell and re-created ID plates.


While evidence of this activity in Australia is limited, the USA with its massive market for 'lookalike' cars and availability of virtually every part needed to generate a plausible fake still has a significant problem.

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Buying a tribute as an alternative to a genuine Aussie muscle car seems to many buyers a sensible move. Tossing $100k onto the fire should the classic vehicle market go into freefall will hurt, but not to the same extent of trashing five times that amount on a genuine article.

How much to pay for a tribute depends on a range of factors. How rare is the vehicle being replicated and how likely are you to be parked alongside something identical at any motoring event you attend? Does it have any prospects at all for appreciation? Has the 'donor' car become so intrinsically valuable it would be worth more than the replica if returned to stock condition?

project torana.jpg

Tributes don't have to be expensive and they do provide lots of enjoyment for minimal money. That's providing you don't expect your Sunbird hatch with its flares and V8 transplant to truly be mistaken for a genuine A9X.


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