Motoring O NCE, replica cars were the motoring equivalent of the fake Rolex -- all sparkle, but of dubious quality where it counts. To d ay t hou g h , t he copycat car industry has moved on. Its big business, with about 100 UK manufacturers producing a big range of high-quality vehicles almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Theyve been spurred on by a reces- sion that has spawned a new breed of motorists still wanting to drive a flash motor but who have to fake it, buying copies of classics for just a fraction of the price. Ownership is growing fast and to celebrate, followers of (fake) fashion are converging on Londons Ace Caf on the North Circular on Saturday, 22 August, to swap stories, strut t h e i r s t u f f a n d c o m p a r e bodywork. Drivers who think they can get away with it by sticking Ferrari bodykits on an old Toyota MR2 can be spotted a mile off, says Adam Wilkins of Complete Kit Car. But for the most part, replicas of classics such as the Porsche Speedster, Jaguar SS100 or Ferraris are highly authentic, precision- engineered cars that are a joy to drive. If one roared past you in the street, you wouldnt be able to tell the difference. Outwardly, at least. For instead of a highly tuned Ferrari V8 engine under the bonnet, the replica may well be powered by a reliable but cheap Ford or Vauxhall engine. And instead of bodywork lovingly crafted from costly aluminium, its glass- reinforced plastic. According to Adam, however, some of the best replicas can drive just as nicely as the real thing. Pedigree and build quality, he says, are vital when it comes to creating the best lookalike. Buyers can purchase their replica ready-made or take the plunge and build it themselves. For most, the big attraction of a replica is cost: instead of paying 171,000 for a Ferrari 430 V8 you can enjoy a convincing copycat from Extreme Cars for just 17,500. Better still, buy the 430 in kit form and youll pay as little as 6,000. Worries that buying an imitation means inferior quality are ill-founded, say the experts. Modern kit cars are built to last and -- thanks to a new Department for Transport inspection test that all kit cars must pass before they put a wheel on the road -- theyre safe, too. The running costs are also lower. If youre talking about a copy of a supercar such as a Ferrari, Adam says, it will be far cheaper to run and insure a replica with a standard Rover engine than a highly tuned Ferrari V8. Proof that replica classics have come of age is the fact that even sniffy classic car owners clubs now accept owners who run copies. Heres our pick of some of the best copycats on the market. CATERHAM CLASSIC PEDIGREE The best-known replica of all, evoking the days when -- half a century ago -- Colin Chapmans famous Lotus 7 was the sportscar to own. COST Kits from 12,995, factory- built versions from 15,995. COST OF AN ORIGINAL LOTUS 7 Around 20,000. BEHIND THE WHEEL Fast and furious, handles like a racing car, steers like a go-kart. DOWNSIDE Tiny cockpit, very limited space for luggage, noisy on long journeys. COOL RATING 9/10 CONTACT caterham. co.uk ELEVEN SPORTSCAR PEDIGREE For once, a Lotus repro not based on the 7. This one, by Westfield, apes the Lotus Eleven racer of the Fifties. COST 9,950 in kit form, 24,995 factory-built. enjoying the V12 BMW engine on the open road, fuel consumption will go through the roof. COOL RATING 10/10 CONTACT paralleldesigns.co.uk FERRARI F355 PEDIGREE Copy of the famous Italian sports car by Extreme Cars of Kingston-upon-Hull. COST Kit from 6,000, factory-built for 17,000. COST OF AN ORIGINAL 35,000 or more. BEHIND THE WHEEL The nippy engine wont disappoint, but it certainly wont keep pace with the real thing. DOWNSIDE Youll always know its a Peugeot underneath. COOL RATING 5/10 CONTACT extreme-sportscars.com GARDNER DOUGLAS MK4 PEDIGREE Breathtakingly styled car inspired by the motor most middle-aged men want to own, the legendary US-built Cobra. COST 25,000 to complete in kit form or 45,000-50,000 factory-built. COST OF AN ORIGINAL COBRA 1m-plus for rare examples. BEHIND THE WHEEL Awesome power, acceleration and handling. But not quite as challenging as it appears. DOWNSIDE Mind your driving licence... it really is that fast. COOL RATING 10/10 CONTACT gdcars.com LAMBORGHINI DIABLO, BY PARALLEL DESIGNS PEDIGREE Painstaking reproduction of the famous Lambo at a much lower price. COST 40,000 for a self-build, 75,000-80,000 factory-built. COST OF AN ORIGINAL 100,000 or more. BEHIND THE WHEEL 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 186mph says it all. DOWNSIDE When youre 26 Friday, 14 August 2009 London Lite Fakeittillyoumakeit YoudontneedaCityboyssalarytoturnheadsinasleek,sexysportscar BY DAVID WILLIAMS Homage: this Chesil pays tribute to the Porsche, inset motorthebyinspiredcarstyled Cobra.US-builtlegendarytheown, price.lowermuchaatLambo self-build,afor40,000 in0-60mph COST OF AN ORIGINAL ELEVEN 120,000. BEHIND THE WHEEL Perfect the racing gear changes and youll feel like a champ. DOWNSIDE Not as fast as it looks. COOL RATING 6/10 CONTACT westfield-sportscars.co.uk WESTFIELD SE PEDIGREE Another famous 7 copy, offering seat-of-the-pants driving. COST 13,990 if you build it yourself, or 18,499 ready-made. COST OF AN ORIGINAL LOTUS 7 20,000. BEHIND THE WHEEL Will out- perform many cars costing five times as much. DOWNSIDE Handling can be challenging in the wet and theres little in the way of weather protection. COOL RATING 8/10 CONTACT westfield-sportscars.co.uk CHESIL SPEEDSTER PEDIGREE Inspired by one of the coolest cars ever -- the famous Porsche Speedster of the Fifties, as driven by James Dean. COST Kits from as little as 5,000, but expect to pay from 15,000 all-in. Factory-built from 25,000. COST OF AN ORIGINAL PORSCHE SPEEDSTER About 100,000. BEHIND THE WHEEL Aficionados say driving the Chesils like driving an original Porsche. DOWNSIDE On a bright day, on an open road and with a full tank, none. COOL RATING 9/10 chesil.biz 15,000 100,000 replicabest-knownThe thewas7LotusfamousChapmans CONTACT westfield-sportscars.co.uk examples.rarefor1m-plus WHEELTHEBEHIND handling.andaccelerationpower, appears. DOWNSIDE fast.thatisreallyitlicence... RATINGCOOL CONTACT reproLotusaonce,For byone,This7.theonbasednot 24,995form,kitin9,950 more.or100,000 WHEELTHEBEHIND ofspeedtopaandseconds3.9 all.itsays186mph DOWNSIDE newatothanks--andlasttobuilt inspectionTransportforDepartment passmustcarskitallthattest roadtheonwheelaputtheybefore lower.alsoarecostsrunningThe aofcopyaabouttalkingyoureIf AdamFerrari,aassuchsupercar CONTACT caterham. co.uk WHEELTHEBEHIND fivecostingcarsmanyperform much.astimes DOWNSIDE theresandwettheinchallenging weatherofwaytheinlittle protection. 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