Usually, when someone starts talking about classic car replicas to me, my eyes start to roll back and I start to daydream about anything else, like my last holiday or when can I enjoy my next cold beer. You see, I can only listen to so many people talk about their mates Cobra that is “100% original but even faster because he built it himself, in his shed”. I do understand the replica appeal, especially with discontinued classics where the originals would claim 7-figure returns under the hammer, but as for MR2 based F355s, I’m out. There is, however, a special place tucked away in the West Sussex that caters for the former, and boy do they do it well!
Superformance is a fabricator and distributor of complete “rolling chassis” replica and continuation vehicles produced in South Africa and then sold through over 20 independent dealers around the world and I was invited down to the only retailer in the UK to sample 2 of their very special cars – a “warts and all” continuation model of the iconic Le Mans-winning Ford GT40 and an LS-powered Shelby Daytona Coupe replica pushing out over 500bhp. It was going to be a *VERY* good day.
First up was the Daytona Coupe, a car I’ve lusted over since I was a young boy. A narrow front end, big V8, wide hips and an angry exhaust – a proper muscle car. Just looking at it makes me weak at the knees. The 1960s really were the best years for automotive styling, and the huge rounded arches and that ducktail spoiler still look amazing today. Unlike the GT40, this is a replica of the original Peter Brock design that has been improved to cater for today’s demands, but even if you get right up close to it, you wouldn’t know.
Like I said before, this is an LS3 powered car with over 500bhp but there are a variety of engine options for the cars as each and every one is made to order and that includes your engine, your gearbox, your suspension setup and your interior and exterior colour choices, but this one is built pretty much exactly how I’d want one. In the classic Alan Mann racing colours with period correct centre-locking wheels.
Inside the car, there is an odd blend of classic 1960s styling a few mod-cons that hint that this is a classic car for today’s driver. It still has the humongous transition tunnel, big squishy bucket seats and a classic 3-spoke steering wheel along with more dials and toggle switches than your average fighter jet, but then there’s a modern radio head unit, speakers in the doors and in the rear, remote central locking and air conditioning. There’s also air conditioning, power steering and upgraded and power-assisted vented disc brakes. All this, accompanied by a 6-speed manual gearbox and 90litre fuel tank makes this a classic car for the modern driver.
Firing up the Daytona is a bit like waking a bear mid-sleep, it roars and snarls into life and straight away your senses take you back to that golden era of non-restricted V8 anger. The side pipes also add to the occasion as the noise is coming from right beside you. There’s also a trick remote exhaust switch that opens and closes the valves meaning you can either have a fierce and shakey exhaust tone that will wake every village in a 10-mile radius, or you can have it on loud… The noise sends shivers of excitement right through your body and your hairs stand on end. It’s such an awesome noise.
Pulling away takes a bit of getting used to and I must admit even I stalled the first time. The clutch is heavy and so is the throttle making it hard to determine the biting point at the start, but once you’re off it only takes a few seconds to get the nack. It’s actually quite similar to the Caterham 310S I drove a few weeks back in that respect, but obviously a lot bigger with more room for my clumsy size 12 feet. Like the other modern touches to the car, the power steering and power brakes make it a very civilised drive but there’s still some good weight to both meaning you still have to drive it properly. The steering is great as you feel completely connected to the car and given its weight (not much over 1300 kgs) it’s not a complete handful. It does like to give you a bit of wheelspin between the gears though, but that’s all fine with me! It also has a limited slip differential fitted so handling and hoonability are both very good. On the twisty country roads around the workshop, it’s an absolute riot. It accelerates like a fighter jet and makes about as much noise and as Im threading it through the corners I can’t but have the massive childish grin on my face.
After a short trip I have already made up my mind, I want one. I REALLY want one. Unfortunately, like the majority of people out there, this is probably as close as I’ll ever get to having one because there are some things that separate these Superformance cars from the other replicas. These cars are not only designed by the same 2 chaps who designed the original Le Mans-winning cars of 1964 Le Mans 24 Hour race, they are also fully licensed by the late, great Carroll Shelby himself and eligible for the Shelby American Automobile Club owners registry and that’s why every car carries Shelby’s signature on the door handles. There’s also another issue for me, availability – the workshop only has a small crew and demand for these types of cars is growing so the wait for one is similar to that of a brand new Ferrari, between 1 – 2 years depending on your spec and at around £120k (again, depending on engine, colour, gearbox etc…) it’s one of these or an AMG GT. Personally, I’d take the Daytona – you’re never going to pull up next to another one at the pumps and the 60’s styling is just stunning and timeless.
A huge thank you to Nigel and Ollie for letting me behind the wheel of their wonderful stock! Part 2 – the Continuation GT40 is coming soon….