In Detail: The Factory Classic-Car Programs of Ferrari, BMW, Porsche, and More
Automakers are increasingly handling support for their vintage cars themselves.
As today's enthusiasts well know, classic cars are more than a hobby—they're a multi-billion-dollar industry. Some devotees might complain that years of a strong collector market have raised prices for many desirable marques and models, but the rise in value has also sustained more interest than ever in keeping classic cars in top nick and as original as possible. It's fair to grumble that a top-flight Porsche 356 now costs more than many of Porsche's brand-new, cutting-edge sports cars, but there are also fewer 356s headed to the scrapyard these days than ever before. That's a good thing.
The boom years for the classic industry have also created new factory support and strengthened previously existing support, with many legacy automakers now taking keen interest in helping to keep the cars they built in the past on the roads of tomorrow. Herein, we take a look at some of the highest-profile factory classic programs to find out what they have to offer. No one knows how vintage cars will be used 30 years from now, but as these automakers will tell you, there's no time like the present to enjoy them.
Aston Martin Works Heritage
Aston Martin's Works department is located on Tickford Street in Newport Pagnell, a location you may recognize as Aston Martin's global headquarters from the early 1960s until 2007, when the last Aston Martin V12 Vanquish S was produced there. More than 13,000 cars were built at the facility, starting with the DB2/4 MkII. Aston's Works department uses many of the same tools it used in-period. That also means, as in the 1960s, body panels are hand-beaten from aluminum sheets, often sculpted over the original forms that were used on Astons all those years ago. At the heart of the operation is Aston's commitment to fixed-price servicing, meaning that every job on every model—from a top-end rebuild to an entire restoration—has a set price, so there are no surprises.
What's more, Aston Martin has been at the forefront of offering complete, turnkey continuation series cars that are track ready though not street legal. This started with the DB4 GT, a lightweight, uprated racing version of the original DB4 coupe and the first car to enter production at Newport Pagnell since 2007. The most recent of these series is a run of 25 replica James Bond-spec DB5 coupes, complete with such legendary features as a rotating license plate and original Silver Birch paintwork—just bring $3.5 million, please.
BMW Group Classic
Literally down the road from BMW Welt is BMW Group Classic's headquarters. The location wasn't chosen just for convenience or for its architecture; it's also the site of BMW's first Munich factory, where it produced cars more than 100 years ago.
Since 2016, this has been home for all things BMW Group Classic, with restoration and service facilities, along with a showroom and parts counter all on-site. This is also where heritage cars owned by BMW Group are kept, serviced, and even rebuilt when they aren't displayed in the nearby BMW museum. Like other factory classic programs, BMW often has restored cars available for purchase.
Curious if the 1960s BMW 2002 you're restoring is in its original specification? An official Classic technician will inspect your car for factory correctness and report the findings on a special BMW Group Classic Vehicle Certificate. Don't live in Germany? For an extra fee, they'll fly someone from Munich to your nearest U.S.-based BMW Certified Classic Center, a specially designated dealership trained in basic service on classic models. BMW presently does not offer factory restoration services for privately owned cars in the U.S.
Ferrari Classiche and FCA Heritage
Ferrari Launched its Classiche (say "class-see-kay") department back in 2004, promising not only parts and service for the prancing horses of yore but also one of the most detailed and painstaking authentication processes out there. Beyond checking its records to ensure cars have their proper components, the company employs historians and metallurgists to dissect, sometimes physically, every inch of even multimillion-dollar historic racing Ferraris to determine the extent of originality. This includes everything from bodywork to brakes, gauges to gear sets, emblems to exhaust systems.
This famous Red Book certification process, so named for the red binder of documentation given to successful cars, was started in part due to Ferrari's concern that too many incorrect or outright fake vintage Ferraris were populating events and the marketplace. As a company that has always recognized the strength of its brand image, Ferrari founded its Classiche program in part to address this issue in the vintage Ferrari scene.
Today, Classiche certification is a big deal to buyers spending multiples of millions on significant Ferraris, and it can have a major impact on a car's worth, perhaps more so than for any other automaker. The process isn't cheap. It starts at a few thousand dollars (plus shipping your car to Italy) and can escalate into the five-figure range with complications, but it's the go-to method if you need to be sure your 250 GT SWB is the car it's claimed to be. The good news for well-heeled owners: Cars with incorrect parts can be restored to factory-correct by Ferrari, including building a proper engine from scratch, right down to a brand-new and correctly serialized engine block casting. The final sign-off on Classiche certification is done by Enzo Ferrari's only surviving son, Piero.
In 2017, FCA announced the formation of its expanding FCA Heritage division, which provides many Classiche-type services for its other brands, including Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Abarth, Maserati, and Lancia, in varying degrees.
Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works
Jaguar and Land Rover are two of Britain's most distinguished and storied marques, and the recently consolidated Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works division helps to ensure older vehicles from each are maintained well into the future. Housed inside a 150,000-square-foot facility in Coventry with 54 workshop spaces and storage for up to 480 vintage Jags and Landies, JLR Classic Works provides everything from routine servicing to complete frame-up restorations, all under one roof.
Fancy a brand-new classic Jaguar? JLR Classic Works can accommodate that, too. It has launched three Jaguar continuation series programs, building six Lightweight-spec E-types, nine XKSS roadsters, and 25 D-type race cars from scratch. Each of these multimillion-dollar cars is built using ye olde factory techniques, and D-type buyers (sorry, all cars are spoken for) even get to choose between 1955 Shortnose or 1956 Longnose bodywork. The goal is to make every car absolutely correct and virtually indistinguishable from a period-built Jag; you'd have to be familiar with serial numbers to know these cars weren't built more than half a century ago. Although Land Rover doesn't yet offer scratch-built classics, it does offer turnkey, ready-to-go restorations of early two-door Range Rovers and Land Rover Series I, each with a 12-month factory warranty.
Only Jaguar offers a real bridge between past and future technology. The Jaguar E-type Zero is a genuine classic E-type with its straight-six internal combustion engine swapped for a zero-emissions powertrain. Using electric motors and lithium-ion battery tech lifted from Jaguar's I-Pace electric crossover, the E-type Zero is said to sprint from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds while offering weight distribution virtually identical to the original car. At first glance, the E-type Zero appears to be stock right down to its wire-spoke wheels, but a closer look reveals LED headlights, a digital instrument panel, and a digital center display, the latter providing metrics on power use and battery life.
Want one? JLR Classic Works will build you one from scratch or convert your existing car. The process takes some 100 hours of work. But be warned: The future isn't cheap. Turnkey E-type Zeros cost in the neighborhood of $400,000, or about double what a concours-worthy, fully restored original would cost.
Lamborghini Polo Storico
A relative latecomer in 2016, Lamborghini Polo Storico is the brand's in-house restoration shop. Focusing on cars that have been out of production for a decade or more, the newly built facilities are located inside the entrance to Lamborghini's Sant'Agata Bolognese headquarters. At the Centro Restauro, cars are disassembled. Body and chassis are stripped of paint with pressurized water then chemically dipped before going on to cosmetic and mechanical refurbishment. It's best not to be in a hurry; restorations typically take anywhere from six months to two years.
Within Polo Storico, two separate teams guide the restoration process. Comitato dei Saggi consists of old Lamborghini hands, including Lamborghini's director of research and development Maurizio Reggiani, along with legendary one-time Lamborghini engineers Giampaolo Dallara and Mauro Forghieri. Comitati Tecnici includes both Lamborghini employees and third-party experts who assemble and maintain the vast amounts of technical documents, design blueprints, historic images, press materials, and supplier information that helps ensure historical accuracy in any work that's carried out.
"The appointment of this two-tier committee is an important facet of the Lamborghini Polo Storico operation," Lamborghini CEO Stefano Domenicali said. "The Polo Storico committee system safeguards the accurate documentation and archiving of Lamborghini's important manufacturing history and ensures our heritage is of the highest integrity and credibility."
Mercedes-Benz has been ahead of the curve when it comes to its heritage products. Its Classic Center in Fellbach, Germany, just outside of Stuttgart, opened back in 1993 to offer parts, service, and restoration options for out-of-production vehicles. Most of Fellbach's 14 mechanics came from within Mercedes, having expressed interest in working with classic cars. It takes them two years, on average, to turn around a fully restored vehicle.
In 2006, Mercedes became one of the few European marques to offer a fully equipped North American division of its classic program, as well. Just off Interstate 5 in Irvine, California, down the road from several new car dealerships, sits the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz Classic Center. Consisting of a showroom, workshop, parts warehouse, and car-storage area, the Classic Center is fully equipped to provide Mercedes owners everything from oil change supplies to a professional restoration of their older Mercedes vehicles.
Mercedes takes stocking classic parts seriously, with more than 50,000 that are unique to its classic models. If something isn't available, it's made from scratch, with both old-world techniques and modern tech, depending on the part. For example, Mercedes now 3D-prints plastic spark-plug holders for the factory toolkits of its legendary 300SL Gullwing and Roadster models, as well as the sliding sunroof rollers for sedan and coupe models from the 1960s and '70s.
Porsche claims that some 72 percent of all the vehicles it has built are still driving today's roads and that it has 52,000 different historic car parts stocked to keep them there. To that end, it has two classic facilities—one in Stuttgart, Germany, and one in Atlanta—that will restore any historic Porsche, from an air-cooled 356 to a 996-generation 911, the first to cool its flat-six with water. Beyond that, there are 10 dealerships across the U.S. designated as Porsche Classic Partners, each providing routine classic parts and service as well as hosting events and keeping a historic vehicle display in its showroom.
Porsche also keeps its classic presence strong in the U.S. with Rennsport Reunion, a three-day Porsche love-fest that's been held six times since 2001 at three different racetracks, most recently at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Rennsport Reunion brings Porsche lovers together with the cars and the personalities that brought the German brand to prominence, with many factory drivers returning to their old race steeds to do battle on the track once again.
By the way, Porsche defines a historic vehicle as one that has been out of production for a decade or more, which means the first-generation Cayenne will officially be a historic Porsche next year, and the Carrera GT became one three years ago. Feel old yet?