Sunday, September 3, 2017

Automotive Classics That Concluded Production Well After Their Model Year

Photo Credit: Porsche AG

Typically when production for an automobile concludes, we can practically etch the number of vehicles assembled in stone. Especially with limited production vehicles, the final total is entrusted to be a key ingredient towards establishing the linage of a specific car. While it is possible to copy or imitate a popular vehicle (with varying levels of success), circumstances have also seen honest additions to the existing real-world count of the authentic automobile model comes years after a production wrap.

Think if you have assembled a puzzle your grandparents bought in the 1960s (assuming you'll have all the pieces available by some miracle). Would you classify the finished puzzle as an all-new product? Expressing the age of its pieces as the age of the final product, individuals reconstructing a unique unbuilt vehicle as well as even automakers themselves have expanded their original production canon. Often using original production parts or other elements left over from the original factory run, these special continuation models can be described as a type of new, old stock automobiles. Built using these older components, a recently-assembled vehicle could legitimately be recognized as a classic.

The following vehicles proved alluring enough to require production history to be rewritten years and sometimes decades after assembly lines were originally halted:


Shelby Cobra

Silver with Black Stripe AC Cobra
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Perhaps one of the most celebrated versions of British-American fusion ever to exist, the Shelby Cobra was concocted in 1962 as a combination of a light British frame and body with American V-8 horsepower. Carroll Shelby dropped a number of Ford V-8 engines into the Ace roadster constructed by England’s AC Cars creating a performance icon. Becoming a sensation on the track and the streets, the original production for the Shelby Cobra ran from 1962 to 1967.

Referred to as the MK I, MK II and MK III designations with improvements made over the course of its initial production run, the Shelby Cobra would quickly become one of the most copied vehicles. After Shelby and AC Cars produced just around 1,000 original examples of the sports car in the 1960s, a number of companies began building replicas without . Starting in 1982, British company Autokraft began assembling faithful replicas to the original 1960s Shelby Cobra. Working to protect his ownership of the Shelby Cobra trademarks, Carroll Shelby’s company began producing ‘continuation’ machines allowing vintage sport car audiences to buy a new original classic. While the majority of Shelby Cobras are essentially all-new, history from the official builder also contains nine cars that were 26 years in the making.Called the Completion Cobras, the nine vehicles were controversially constructed in 1991 but wore unused chassis numbers belonging to 427 S/C models intended for 1965.

Today, Shelby American produces several versions of the classic Cobra as modern continuations of the popular 289 Roadster and 427 S/C. One Shelby-authorized version of the 427 Cobra sports car was also equipped to run on hydrogen.


Jaguar XKSS




A street-legal version of the D-type race car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans on three consecutive attempts from 1955 to 1957, the XKSS were converted from unfinished race cars. Adding all the creature comforts necessary for road travel including side windows and a passenger seat, only 25 were slated to be produced. However, the number was reduced following a fire at Jaguar’s Browns Lane assembly plant that destroyed 9 chassis as well as most of the manufacturing tools. 59 years after failing to met the full order of XKSS sports cars, Jaguar pledged to complete the 9 unbuilt  vehicles in a special continuation.

Jaguar apparently has developed a knack for rediscovering lost vehicles in recent years. In 2014, the remaining examples for a 18-car Lightweight E-type were uncovered. A shortfall referred to as the “Missing Six”, the final six completed Jaguar Lightweight E-types were rebuilt to the specifications of its original time period.

Back in 2003, a Jaguar XKSS a deal was secured at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction allowing the car to change hands for 1.1 million dollars. The continuation models of the XKSS will be sold for 1.4 to 1.5 million dollars to special customers and collectors. Originally intended for sale in the United States, the continuation Jaguar XKSS publicly appeared at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show. Being delivered through 2017, all nine modern examples of the XKSS will include a five-year warranty.


Tucker Torpedo

1948 Tucker Torpedo at 2015 CIAS
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


In the wake of the Second World War, the race to build new, modern automobiles briefly opened the door to companies with either limited or no previous exposure to the auto industry. Preston Tucker was one individual who attempted to parlay his innovative engineering that resulted in the bubble canopy incorporated on allied bombers into an all-new car. Tucker built a sensational amount of hype around what was promoted to be the first completely new postwar vehicle called the Torpedo for 1948. Between the complexity for developing the radical automobile in a short time frame and Preston Tucker’s difficulty meeting demands of investors as well as the many planned dealers set to sell the 1948 Torpedo, the car was a magnificently beautiful failure as a consumer product.

The story of Tucker and the innovative car live in a handful of production examples of the 1948 Torpedo. In total 51 Tucker Torpedos were built with only 37 assembled in the company’s manufacturing facility. An additional 14 Tucker automobile were built after the auto company was shuttered. Chassis #1052 served as the basis for what would probably be known as the last Tucker Torpedo constructed using original factory components. The chassis was sold in a 1950 bankruptcy auction for the automaker along with other components but was adopted into an automobile until recently. Completing the final vehicle, John Schuler scoured the United States for original pieces to finish his 1948 Torpedo. It would be 2015 when the efforts presented an new old stock Tucker Torpedo.


Porsche 959

Photo Credit: Porsche AG


Porsche sought to climb up to a new performance plateau in the 1980s extending beyond their 911 line. Developed initially for rally car competition, the Porsche 959 was a technological milestone for its time, pursuing radical styling and technological elements for the German sports car builder. Created using lightweight components such as aluminum and other composite materials, the Porsche 959 propulsion came from a 444-horsepower, twin-turbocharged 2.85-liter engine. Porsche’s first all-wheel drive sports car and first production equipped model with a six-speed manual transmission, the car’s top speed was 197 miles per hour in Sport trim.  

In order to comply with homologation regulations for racing, a minimum 200 Porsche 959 needed to be produced for the street. Originally produced from 1986 to 1988, more than 300 street-legal Porsche 959s were assembled, snapped up by some wealthy and powerful individuals appreciating the advanced supercar. Perhaps it was inevitable that attracting such an elite clientele would compel an auto company to restart production for a fantastic sports car for its time years after initial sales ended. In 1992, six addition Porsche 959 supercars were constructed to 1988 specifications in order to fulfill a request made by one person and a friend.


DeLorean DMC-12

DeLorean DMC-12 with Doors Open
Photo Credit: Chris Nagy


Underpowered, plagued with a lengthy development time and built for only a brief original production span, the DeLorean DMC-12 is still one of the most recognized sports cars to come into existence.

An auto company founded by a former General Motors executive John DeLorean, his vision for a sports car was originally seen as a potential disruptor in automobile production identified as the DMC-12. A stainless steel-bodied car with gullwing doors, the design was created by Giorgetto Giugiaro (who had sculpted vehicles with BMW, Volkswagen and Ferrari). Engineering expertise of Lotus Cars’ innovative founder Colin Chapman was also part of making the DeLorean DMC-12. Despite promise through the 1970s, this sports car lost some of its stainless steel shine. Budget overruns in the vehicle’s development and all-new plant construction in Northern Ireland were also joined by a somewhat compromised finished product. An original plan to use an Elastic Reservoir Moulding process for the chassis was dropped as was the plan to run a rotary engine. Instead, the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 was powered by a mid-mounted, fuel-injected V-6 engine lacking the performance punch many expected. The car endured three uneasy years of production with conflicting totals of vehicles built ranging from just less than 8,600 to 9,200 according to sources.

The history for how John DeLorean’s auto company collapsed is worthy of a Hollywood movie. It would be a major movie franchise that allowed the short-lived automaker’s only product an immortalized status. Thanks to its starring role in the 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future, the DeLorean DMC-12 receives even greater notoriety than when the car was brand-new. As the car has since appeared on many wish lists over the decades, demand for new DeLorean sports cars appears to be strong enough to welcome a timely continuation to the vehicle that served as the basis for the ultimate time machine. With no corporate relations to the previous John DeLorean company, a new DeLorean Motor Company headquartered in Texas opened holding the trademarks as well as surplus parts relating to the original assembly of the sports car.

While the company boasted assembling up to 24 cars a year starting in 2008, production of  DeLorean DMC-12 thanks to the new Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act permitting up to 325 vehicles to be assembled by a company like DeLorean Motor Company. The first all-new old DeLorean DMC-12 models started production this year.


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