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Car Corner
Clones vs. Clones

January 1, 2005
By Scott Lewis

For those of you that have been reading my stuff for a long time you know that I hate clones.

Wait a minute. For those of you that are new to my stuff, a clone is the term for a classic car that has been made to resemble a high performance model of a car. For example, someone takes a plain 69 Camaro and turns it into a Z/28 clone. The car is not a true Z/28. Since a real Z/28 is worth a lot of money, building a clone can be a way of owning a Z/28 without the expense.

That was the "in a nutshell" definition. There are actually quite a few good reasons to build a clone. Let's use an example that makes a lot of sense. A Hemi Cuda. I don't know how many Hemi Cudas were made, but I know the number is very low. A real Hemi Cuda restored to showroom condition is worth more than $200,000. Who can afford that? But you can find a nice condition Barracuda for $10-15,000. Buy a crate Hemi engine for another $10-15,000 and have them put together to have yourself a Hemi Cuda clone for easily under $50,000, maybe under $30,000 if you spend your money wisely and do some or all of the work yourself. Now you have a Hemi Cuda you can drive. You would be foolish to drive a real Hemi Cuda around for fear that something will happen to it and its value is lost. Also, if damaged, a clone can be rebuilt for a fraction of what it costs to rebuilt/restore a true Hemi Cuda.

What's the downside? Quite simply the downside comes from the abuse of the word clone. Let's take an example. I read in Hot Rod magazine that Chuck Hanson, one of the hosts of the show Horsepower TV, was building a clone. He was starting with a 1968 Chevelle SS 396. His car is equipped with the "middle" 396 engine rated at 350 horsepower. What is he cloning? He is restoring his Chevelle to an exact match to the top of the line L-78 SS 396. This version of the 396 put out 375 horsepower. However, Chuck is not content to just add 25 horsepower, that's easy. Chuck is actually making his car exactly like the factory did for a real L-78. That means he will put in an actual L-78 engine (which has a number of stronger internal parts, not just 25 extra ponies), and he will make sure his car has every single item that a true L-78 would have left the showroom with. Now, this level of detail might be used to fool someone into thinking the car is real. Chuck is not doing that. In fact, the HRM article mentioned that someone offered Chuck $55,000 for this car knowing full well it was a clone. In this example the clone word is used properly.

You may be thinking that a clone can be worth a lot of money. Not so fast... and this is where this article takes a turn against cloning. Yes, the clone that Chuck Hanson is building is a great clone. I love the idea. In fact, I may someday build a Z/28 clone myself. However, I almost never see a clone for sale that is anywhere close to the level of detail Chuck is putting into his car. In fact, every yahoo with a Year One catalog thinks he can just throw a few SS badges on a Chevelle and he has an SS clone.

First of all, the early Chevelles only came with a 396 big block with the SS package (67-71). If you are going to build an SS 396 clone you should at least put a 396 in it. I can't tell you how many times I see Chevelle SS clones advertised for sale with small block engines. An SS clone with a 350 is not a clone. At best, and I am being generous here, these cars are what I would call Chevelles with the "SS look." Look-a-like cars. I think we need to get that term out there. Just because you have a car with "the look" does not make it a clone.

Let's go back to the Z/28 clone idea. All first generation (67-69) Z/28s came with the same engine, a 302. That does not mean all except the ones with 350s. It means every single one. I think I have only seen one Z/28 "clone" for sale that mentioned a 302 engine. Give me a break. Also, all 1st gen. Z/28s came with a 4 speed manual transmission. Not all the cars except those with automatics. Every 67-69 Z/28 was equipped with a 4 speed manual transmission. I see very few first generation Camaro Z/28 "clones" with manual transmissions. It is also quite common to find Z/28 clones that even have big blocks. Jeez!

Let's take a look at the difference in the value of a Camaro vs. a Z/28. We will, of course, use my favorite year... 1969. CPI rates a 69 Camaro Coupe at a maximum value of $13,450. A Z/28 in the same condition (excellent, restored condition) is worth $37,050. Think about the clown that slaps a couple of stripes on a car and adds a $100 worth of emblems from Year One. Does he have a clone? You can bet he thinks he has a clone, and that he thinks his clone is worth much more than a regular Camaro. I see many... and I mean MANY... Z/28 clones with 350 engines and automatic transmissions. The only thing these cars have are stripes and a few emblems. Give me a break.

Now, I would bet a real clone... wait a minute did I just say that... a real clone. Talk about an oxymoron. Let me rephrase that. I would bet a proper clone; complete with a 302 engine, rebuilt to factor specs; a Muncie M22 "Rock Crusher" transmission; heavy duty suspension; functional Cowl Induction hood; and all the correct emblems, badges, gauges, under hood decals, etc. would be worth a pretty penny. But there are a million clones out there with none of this stuff. They do the simplest, cheapest thing to mimic the look of the car they want to be. Look-a-like cars. We really need to get that term out there so that the term clone can be used for cars that are matching there high performance brethren in proper detail.

Don't even get me started with all the Yenko Camaro clones I see. At least when you see a Yenko Clone they usually have more of the correct visual queues, such and the unique headrest with the Yenko logo. I remember seeing a Yenko Clone with a 454 engine (not a 427). What? So now we can just throw in any big block, slap some stripes and badges on a car and it is suddenly worth sixty grand (CPI puts a real 1969 Camaro Yenko 427 at $65,000). Sorry, I don't think so.

Let's get down to some "real" examples.

Note: All the cars I will mention in this article were found in two one hour sessions searching the Internet. That's it... just two hours worth of searching. This should give you an idea how easy it is to find a crappy clone, or the real deal at a fair price.

Another Note: Although I put the links to the original ads in here, I would not expect them to be valid. But just in case, they are included.

I found this Chevelle my first time out looking for clones:

70_chevelle_ss_clone_350_red_1.jpg (40178 bytes)1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $18,000. Link. New 350 crate motor, new 350 Turbo trans, new interior, new paint, factory A/C, PS. Engine: new #50 crate motor, headers, chrome air cleaner, valve covers, alternator bracket, new Edelbrock intake, Edelbrock carb, chrome radiator cover, new belts and hoses, neat and clean under the hood. Interior: new carpet, seats F&R, headliner, door panels, dash pad, auto in console, bench seat, Exterior: new red paint job with black stripes, base coat clear coat, new Flow Masters stainless steel exhaust, new inner fenders, new Uniroyal Tiger Paw GTS tires, Rallye rims with flat caps, new front bumper in good condition, rear bumper in good condition. Good looking car overall. Car drives and handles great, looks good.

Lets take a look at this "clone." What is it a clone of? In 1970 and 1971 the Chevelle in SS trim came with a 396 engine as standard (actually it was a 402 even though they still called it a 396, but that is for another article). You could not get an SS 350. So this guy went through the trouble of putting in a new engine and couldn't even use a big block to try and build a clone of an SS 396. So, what did he do to clone an SS 396 or even an SS 454? Well, there is the SS badge in the grill and he added black stripes. Wow! That deserves the extra $7,000 over the $11,175 CPI claims this car is worth in excellent condition... which it is not. Where are the fender badges, the SS dash and steering wheel, the rear bumper trim, heavy duty suspension, etc., not to mention the big block engine?

Why would anyone want to buy this "clone" when they could spend an extra $900 and get the real thing. Let's look at a real SS 396 Chevelle:

70_chevelle_ss_396_real_red_1.jpg (87577 bytes)1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 - $18,900. Link. Rebuilt drive train with receipts. 396/350HP, M21 4 speed, 12 bolt rear with 3.55 limited slip. Power steering, new power disc brakes, new springs and dual exhaust, bucket seats, console, in-dash tach and gauges, correct 14x7 SS wheels. Beautiful Hugger Orange exterior with black top and interior. Runs and drives perfect.

Now that's an SS 396 Chevelle. I am assuming one big thing for both of these cars, that they are each rust free (as I assume for any car mentioned in this article). CPI puts a real SS 396 with the 350 horsepower motor at $25,350. So with a little searching I was able to come up with a good deal on a real Muscle Car with a real big block and a 4 speed. Who needs a clone?

Now I would like to take a quick look at what a real clone (did I say that again) should be. Here is the ad for a 69 Camaro COPO Clone:

69_camaro_copo_clone_yellow_1.jpg (442446 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO 427 Clone - $69,900. Link. Perfect Rotisserie restoration. All correct COPO equipment, 427ci - 425HP - 4bbl - V8, correct 512 block, solid lifters, correct markings, correct stickers, 12 bolt rear, tilt wheel, 400 Turbo trans., black vinyl bucket seat interior, console with clock and gauges, all gauges work, even clock & tach, stock AM radio, wheel lips, drip moldings, power brakes, steel wheels, Firestone Wide Oval white letter tires, Gen. Cond. Excellent. Awesome car. Looks like the real thing at a fraction of the cost!

If you look at all the pictures of this car (assuming the link is still good) you will see that this is what an over-restored COPO would look like. It is better than new, hence the term over-restored. Some people like that. This car would fall flat on its face at a Concours Judged Car Show. But this is the way you are supposed to build a clone. You take a regular car and add all the right equipment so it is "a clone" of another car. A car like this will never be worth what the original is worth. Which begs the question for this example, what fraction is this guy talking about when he says, "Looks like the real thing at a fraction of the cost!" Is that 9/10ths the cost of the real thing. CPI doesn't list the COPO, but it does list the Yenko 427 Camaro... which was a COPO 427 that Yenko did a little more to. CPI says the Yenko is worth $65,000. I even checked NADA on this one and they put the COPO at $78,828. So this guy is between the too biggest value guides out there. Is this a fraction of what a real COPO should sell for? No, it is priced exactly what a real COPO Camaro should sell for.

If you look hard enough you should be able to find a nice rust free Camaro, not an SS, not a RS, not a Z/28... just a plain Camaro for easily under $20,000. Drop about $10,000 for a period correct 427 and restore the car. If this guy spent more than $50,000 building this COPO clone he got ripped off. Selling it for this price is even more of a rip off.

Let's have some real fun bashing clones. Here are some ads from my two ours of searching. I did not go hunting too far for the real thing, but I did manage to come across enough real cars at proper prices that I thought I would put them in below to compare them directly with their clone counterparts. This will be fun. I do not have a match for every clone, but I do provide my comments. Let's go:

Clones

Real

67_chevelle_ss_clone_blue_1.jpg (20652 bytes)1967 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $36,000. Link.

New sheet metal interior, beautiful paint, 496 stroker 650hp, alum heads, roller cam, alum radiator, runs cool, 400 transmission, Aerospace disc brakes, new fuel system, new suspension.

Comments: This was the worst offender I could find in a quick search. The fact that I could find it at all is an indication of the problem. I really doubt this car will sell for anywhere near the asking price. You would have to be nuts to pay six grand more than a top notch true SS 396 is worth for a car that is all motor. CPI says a true SS 396 (with 375 hp, the best version) is worth $30,075 in excellent restored condition. This is a hot rod. His motor would have to be worth $20,000 alone to justify the price of this car. You can do better. We all can do better. Take your clone and go home.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Malibu: $12450
SS 396/375: $30075

69_chevelle_ss_396_l78_real_silver_1.jpg (30936 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 - $32,900. Link.

Here's a real SS 396 L-78 375HP car with its original protect-o-plate and window sticker. Along "Life's Highway" the original block was ruined, but during restoration a true L-78 375HP, solid lifter, 4-bolt main motor that has the proper date coding and Tonawanda Suffix Code for a 396 375HP 4-speed was reinstalled. So what we have here is a real L-78 car, with a real L-78 engine resulting in a vehicle having value somewhere between a numbers matching L-78 and an L-78 clone. Features on this car include a Muncie 4-speed, Power Steering, Power Disc Brakes, Black Bucket Seat Interior, Deluxe in Dash Gauges, 8-Track Player, and a Hidden Audio Tuner and CD Player. This is a high quality "driver car" that is great to cruise in and would also do very well in local car shows.

Comments: It is a shame that this car is not a numbers matching car. It also seems he is priced a little more than CPI says it's worth. That is typical. You would have to be the judge on whether this car is worth it. From the pictures I thought this car looked excellent. So, it comes down to how important a numbers matching car is... even if it is completely correct without the original engine. I leave this one for you to decide.

CPI's excellent rating:
SS 396/375: $28,450

66_chevelle_ss_396_clone_red_1.jpg (183218 bytes)1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $22,750. Link.

Beautiful, quality, 1966 Chevy Chevelle SS Clone from a Chevy Malibu Hardtop. Rare factory tinted windows. Fresh restoration. Fresh, powerful 402, big block motor (bored 30 over, but not radical, very drivable). Automatic transmission, built strong. New 2 1/2" aluminized exhaust. New tires and rallies. Power steering. Wood steering wheel. New slick, quality red paint. Beautiful interior and dash. The floors and trunk are completely rust free and beautiful.

Comments: CPI's highest price for a 66 Chevelle Malibu is $12,450. It's price for an SS 396 (rated at 325 hp... the lowest power) is $24,450. This car is priced less than $2,000 from the real thing. I have another problem with this car. I really like the site it is on, but this time they have the car priced way too high. If you buy a car like this you really are paying for the quality of its "restoration" (if you can call it that).

CPI's excellent ratings:
Malibu: $12,450
SS 396 (325): $24,450
SS 396 (350): $26,700
SS 396 (375): $30,075

68_chevelle_ss_396_real_blue_1.jpg (63405 bytes)1968 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 - $24,500 Negotiable. Link.

1968 Chevelle SS, 52K original miles, unmolested Southern car. A true 138 (no clone) Chevelle SS with factory A/C and all numbers matching. This has a 396/325HP motor with a TH400 transmission. The ball joints, door hinge pins and break drums are all original equipment. The interior has bucket seats with a horse shoe shifter, original and in great shape. It has a 396 SS steering wheel. I have added a factory dash clock and a trunk light. It has the original AM radio. I have the original owner's manual, Protect-o-plate, window sticker and service manual. The car has been repainted the original Grotto blue. No scratches, dents, chips, rust, bubbles, ripples, waves or filler. The black vinyl top is perfect. Both bumpers have been rechromed. All the trim pieces are on the car and are in good shape. The front and rear SS emblems have been replaced. The trim on the rear deck has been replaced. New door handles. All windows and locks operate correctly. The vent window chrome has been rechromed. It has the factory Rallye wheels with new set of BF Goodrich Radial TAs. The breaks are drum all around and have been rebuilt. A new dual exhaust was installed. All gauges and lights work perfectly. A/C blows cold.

Comments: Now this is what you should get if you want to spend in the mid $20K range for a true Muscle Car. Granted, I have not checked the numbers to authenticate this car, but clearly if it is real then this is a very nice SS 396 that will appreciate in value as more and more regular Malibus are turned into clones.

CPI 's excellent ratings:
Malibu: $10,400
SS 396 (325): $22,825

72_chevelle_ss_350_clone_1.jpg (62117 bytes)1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $19,900. Link.

72' white Chevelle Malibu SS Clone w/ 350, auto, white vinyl, A/C, PB, PS, AM, and seat belts. Plus, Rallye wheels and new radial tires. This classic has been body on restored with updated suspension. Most everything new. Looks & runs super!

Comments: I believe the 350 was the base engine for the SS package in 1972, so at least his car is a clone of a real car. But he is asking almost four thousand more than a real SS 350 Chevelle is worth. Come on guys. Why isn't this car priced between the Malibu and the SS 350 at about $13,000. It's the greed that comes with the word clone.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Malibu: $11,500
SS (350): $16,175

71_el_camino_ss_454_real_copper_1.jpg (99456 bytes)1971 Chevrolet El Camino SS - $19,900. Link.

Real Super Sport El Camino with matching # 454 V8, matching # M22 4 speed and 3.31 12 Bolt Posi-Traction rear end. Lifelong Northwest car has had just 4 owners since new. Gorgeous burnt orange metallic base/clear finish with black stripes and new black vinyl top. Restored stock black interior. Cope Brothers recently rebuilt the original 454. Receipts included. Power steering, power front disc brakes, Flowmaster exhaust. Runs and drives perfect.

Comments: I know this is not a Chevelle, but it is close. I put this in here for comparison to a Chevelle SS clone for one simple reason. Price. These two vehicles are price identical. So, if you can live without a back seat this El Camino SS 454 is a much better compromise to a Chevelle SS than the clone to the left. If people would do a better job of looking for more affordable cars to the most popular (and expensive) stuff than we wouldn't be dealing with all these clones.

CPI's excellent rating:
SS 454: $22,500

69_chevelle_yenko_clone_black_1.jpg (40422 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Chevelle Yenko Clone - $44,900. Link.

Engine Casting # 512, which was also used on 427/454. Muncie four speed transmission, Rallye wheels, B.F. Goodrich white letter tires, factory radio, 12 bolt rear with 3:73. Power steering, power disc brakes. Yenko badges.

Comments: You have got to be kidding? They want over $40,000 for a Chevelle with some stripes and a big block motor. I am surprised they didn't say something like "you can't build one for this price." In this case you most definitely can build this car for far less than forty large.

CPI' excellent rating:
Yenko 427: $52,150

 
69_camaro_ss_clone_orange_1.jpg (467497 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Clone - $18,000. Link.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS, numbers matching 350, 4 speed transmission, detailed motor compartment, chrome air filter, chrome valve covers, power steering, power brakes, 4 barrel carburetor, automatic electronic choke, cowl tag info: st 6912437 nor 102463 bdy tr 715 69 b paint 09a, ground up frame on restoration 6 months old, orange paint, black hockey stripes, cowl hood, rear spoiler & front spoiler, car is a SS clone with SS 327 emblems, however car is an authentic 350 numbers matching car!,

Comments: What is wrong with this guy. He says it a a clone of a SS 327. Gee, they never made an SS 327 Camaro. The SS came with the 350 as its base engine. Oops! So this bone-head should have added the SS stuff without removing the 350 emblems. Regardless, the ad was a lot longer and mentioned some things wrong with the car. Why bother. At this price you should be able to find a real Camaro SS... and I did... to the right.

CPI's excellent rating:
SS 350: $22450

69_camaro_ss_real_white_1.jpg (47302 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS - $18,500. Link.

This is a true SS X-11 car, not a clone. It has less than 1000 miles on rebuild. motor is a 300hp+, 350 with aluminum heads, Edelbrock carb & manifold, ceramic hooker headers, 2 1/2" exhaust, mild cam, turbo 350 tranny, 3.73 rear end, new multi leaf springs, bushings, sway & traction bars, new rallies & tires, pearl white paint with dark blue z-28 stripes. Sway, traction and engine block are all painted to match stripes. Interior is all black with a center console. This is one sweet Camaro. It is ready to take to the car show or just drive around town. The body is perfectly straight.

Comments: See what a little digging will bring up. Here is a perfectly good, and real, Camaro SS almost the same asking price. This car is not completely original with all the speed parts, so we need to check if it is a numbers matching car. That begs the question, which is worth more, 1) A numbers matching Camaro Coupe, or 2) a non-numbers matching Camaro SS? An interesting question. I don't have the answer to that one.

CPI's excellent rating:
SS 350: $22450

69_camaro_ss_454_clone_green_1.jpg (148035 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Clone - $31,900. Link.

454, 4 speed, power steering, Edelbrock intake, M21 transmission, disc brakes, MSD 6AL ignition, Autometer Tach, aux gauges, Cowl Induction hood, 12 bolt posi w/ 3:55.1 gears, CD player. One Bad Bowtie Chevy!

Comments: What is this a clone of? An SS 350? An SS 396? Why should I spend over thirty grand for a plain Camaro coupe? Just because he stuffed a 454 engine in it. I don't think so. A real SS 396 is worth less ($30,700) than what this guy is asking... for the real thing... in excellent restored condition. Even an SS 350 is worth only $22,450. Why would anyone pay this much for this car? And another thing... if you are going to ask over $30K for a car, take a decent picture of it.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
SS 350: $22,450
SS 396: $30,700

69_camaro_rr_ss_396_real_gold_1.jpg (109260 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS - $34,900. Link.

This car was meticulously frame off restored recently. This is one of the cleanest true RS/SS Camaros you will ever find. Options include: factory tach and gauges, standard black interior, power steering, power front disc brakes, 4:11 Posi rear, Firestone Super Sport Wide Oval red line tires on the correct Rallye wheels, and a M21 4 speed Muncie transmission with Hurst shifter. This is your chance to have a real RS/SS big block 4 speed Camaro like no other.

Comments: Now, if you want to spend over thirty thousand on a classic big block Camaro you should do so with something like this. This car will appreciate in value far more than some hot rodded Camaro with a big engine.

CPI's Excellent rating:
RS/SS 396: $35425

69_camaro_motion_baldwin_clone_1.jpg (196202 bytes)1969 Camaro Motion Baldwin Clone - $28,957. Link.

South Carolina car, 124379N vin#, X11 trim tag, wicked big block dressed to kill! NON-NUMBERS MATCHING CAR! 396 block #3916323 is possible 375 hp block, sounds very healthy and has plenty of power! Edelbrock Victor Jr intake, Holley 4 bbl, automatic, MSD ignition, power steering, non-working factory A/C car, killer JVC CD player w/6X9 Jensen speakers! New black houndstooth seat covers, many new parts throughout, new roof rail weather-strips, new rocker moldings, monster tach and aftermarket gauge package, Ford rear (previous owner stated 9"), front and rear spoilers, flat cap rallys, traction bars and 5 leaf springs, Baldwin Motion paint scheme, older restoration but still very nice, cowl hood, detailed trunk mat and spare, clean floors, this car runs and drives great and sounds awesome! Turn heads and drive this Motion look-alike for 1/3 or so the money of a real one!

Comments: Where do I start? "non-numbers matching car." Duh! "Possible 375 hp block." They are asking 29 grand yet they can't find out if it really is a 375 hp block. Who cares anyway, its not numbers matching, and the engine has been hot rodded with a lot of speed parts. It was an A/C car, but the A/C is incomplete now. Whoopdy-doo! It has a Ford rear end and you can't check to see if it really is a 9" inch. Give me a break. There is nothing special about this car. I don't know what a real Baldwin-Motion Camaro would sell for, but what difference does that make. Baldwin-Motion Camaros came with 427 engines, not 396 engines. This is just a Camaro Coupe with a big block swap. The interior is clean, but should be for a Coupe at CPI's excellent value of $13,450. But the dash has been cut for a CD player, and there are aftermarket gauges all over. This car has been painted like a Baldwin-Motion car and they think they can ask more than twice what it is worth. If someone, anyone, buys this car they are validating building cheap ass clones. You want to build a Baldwin-Motion clone build it like the COPO Camaro mentioned above. This car is worth about $15,000 in my book.

CPI's excellent rating:
Coupe: $13,450

 
69_camaro_z28_clone_350_auto_red_1.jpg (93570 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Clone - $23,900. Link.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 clone with 350 4 bolt V-8 engine, TH350 automatic transmission with new Hughes 2500 torque converter and B&M shifter, 3.08-1 posi rear end, rebuilt Vortec style heads with 194 valves, new air gap intake, Crane cam 224 @ .050 and 465 lift, power steering with Grant wheel, front disc brakes, tachometer, factory a/c, Z-28 badging, and Sony cd player!

Comments: Oh brother. This guy wants us to believe his car is worth ten thousand more than a plain coupe because he painted some stripes on it and added $100 worth of emblems. Does this car have a 302 engine, proper for a Z/28. Nope. Does it have a 4 speed transmission, also proper for a Z/28. Nope. Does it have a 3.73 or 4.11 rear end, again proper for a Z/28. Nope! I can assure you this is not a numbers matching car. With all the hot rod stuff on this car it should be worth less than a mint condition coupe, not more.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
Z/28: $37,050

69_camaro_z28_real_silver_1.jpg (66419 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 - $39,995. Link.

Professional frame on restoration. Original trunk & floor pans, DZ302, 4-speed, X77 Norwood built car, correct Cortex silver (code 69), standard black interior (code 711), X33 trim, 3:73 posi rear, Cowl Induction hood, power steering, Rosewood steering wheel, console with gauge package.

Comments: I know, this car is expensive. But that is the point. The real car is expensive. But this car is a lower production car, and worth a lot of money. If you buy it you can expect it will increase in value for some time. I can't say how high it will go, but as fewer and fewer real Z/28s are on the market the higher it will go. Certainly it is worth buying something like this than spending twice what a car is worth because some clown spent $100 at Year One.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
Z/28: $37,050

69_camaro_z28_clone_350_blue_1.jpg (140145 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Clone - $21,500. Link.

1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. This is a quality restored 1969 Z28 clone. This is an older rotisserie restoration. It has a 350 high performance motor with a 4 speed transmission. In storage for 6 years. Only driven 150 miles since being removed from storage. It has no rust. Paint has a scratch and a chip, but no dents. Interior in very good condition.

Comments: I am really getting ticked off with the term "quality restored." People use the word restoration far too easy. Let's see, if I take a car and change it around from stock is it restored? I don't think so. At least he has a manual transmission this time. Now, a true rotisserie restoration is a lot of work, and costs a lot. So, if this were a rotisserie restored Coupe it would qualify for higher than CPI's excellent rating. But it is not stock. Can they document the "restoration"? Do they have pictures of the restoration process? Do they have receipts? Can they put us in touch with the company that did the restoration? Does it at least have the original engine? Transmission? Sorry, I don't see where I should be spending over twenty thousand for a plain Camaro.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
Z/28: $37,050

 
69_camaro_z28_clone_350_dark_green_1.jpg (176028 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Clone - $19,500. Link.

Fresh 355, 4 spd., 4:11 Posi, Steel Cowl Induction Hood, Clean Body, Good Driver, Runs Strong.

Comments: "Good driver." Yea, that's why this car is priced $6,000 more than a mint condition coupe is worth. It has nothing to do with the stripes and badges. I don't have a current copy of CPI's guide, but back in July 04 I "guestimated" that CPI's good condition rating should be about $8,150. Good condition is a bit of a stretch for a driver. My guess is that this car really is worth around the good rating. We could throw in a little more for the 4 speed, but I can't see this car being worth more than about ten grand. That's my opinion... and I'm sticking to it.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
Z/28: $37,050

 
69_camaro_z28_clone_383_auto_yellow_1.jpg (61220 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 Clone - $23,995. Link.

This is a 1969 Camaro Z-28 Clone. It is equipped with a 383 Stroker motor and automatic trans. This car was originally a white car with a vinyl top and standard black interior. Now this car has been transformed into a beautiful Yellow w/ black stripes hardtop street machine! The car has undergone a complete restoration to bring this clone to another level. The shifter is on the center console and has the factory seatbelt holders as well. Factory A/C has been reinstalled on this car and is currently getting the bugs worked out. The compressor may need to be replaced to fix. Exterior and body are straight and rust free, no dents here and to my knowledge it has original sheet metal. You will find new chrome bumpers and trim through out the car. Even the tires are new and mounted on a beautiful set of full chrome Rally wheels. The car starts up due to a new battery and cables. Headlamps and turn signals work properly and the horn is quite loud. You can drive this car in a parade or tear up the highway.

Comments: I don't see anything here that justifies asking so much. Oh yea, the horn is quite loud. That's worth and extra ten thousand dollars. I should just start running around buying Camaros and paint stripes on them and selling them for a $10K profit. Oh, I can't do that. Everyone else has already done it and there aren't any non-clone Camaros left

CPI's excellent ratings:
Coupe: $13,450
Z/28: $37,050

 
69_coronet_rt_440_clone_blue_1.jpg (179828 bytes)1969 Dodge Coronet R/T Convertible clone - $44,500. Link.

Beautiful, slick, deep "B-5 Blue" metallic base/clear paint on an arrow straight, solid body. The undercarriage looks like the top! The engine compartment is detailed in the same manner. The interior looks like new. 440 "6 Pack" motor with 4 speed transmission, Dana 60 "Hemi" rear end (9 3/4"), power steering, power brakes, buckets, console, Hurst shifter, 150 MPH speedometer, factory tachometer, new tires and more. Very powerful, gorgeous, quality car. HALF THE PRICE OF A MATCHING #'S ONE!

Comments: "Half the price of a matching #'s one!" Let's see, CPI puts a R/T convertible with a 440 at about $29K. NADA actually lists this exact car (R/T Convertible with a 440 6-pack and 4 speed) and prices it at about $49K. So where does half the price come from? Half the CPI price? Half the NADA price? Or half some fictional price they have in there head? I think half the fictional price. I could not find a real Coronet R/T 440 convertible to compare against. I did find a few more clones at far lower prices, and a couple of real R/T hardtops for less than this car. They are crazy.

CPI's excellent rating:
R/T 440 Convertible: $29,450

NADA's high retail:
R/T, 440-6, 4-speed: $49,610

 
70_charger_rt_clone_383_black_1.jpg (297309 bytes)1970 Dodge Charger R/T Clone - $36,995. Link.

Beautiful Charger RT Clone with 383ci Magnum, Hemi 4 speed transmission & 3:23 Sure Trac. Power steering, disc brakes & cruise control. Two owner Mopar that's perfect inside & out. Great to look at & a blast to drive!

Comments: Now we really get to have some fun. NADA, whose prices are almost always higher than CPI's, puts a real Charger R/T with a 440 (the 440 was standard on the R/T in 1969) and 4 speed at $26,840. NADA says that there rating is for #2 cars. A #1 car would be in a museum. This guy has his car priced above the highest possible price I could come up with from the guides. He is definitely off his rocker. A Charger 383 with a 4 speed is worth almost exactly half what this guy is asking. Gees, get a grip clone makers, this greed is getting out of hand.

NADA's high retail:
Charger 383: $13,500
383/330 HP : +25%
4 Speed : +10%
Total : $18,225

Charger R/T 440: $24,400
4 Speed : +10%
Total : $26,840

CPI's excellent rating:
Charger 383 R/T: $17,675

 
71_challenger_440-6_clone_green_1.jpg (54762 bytes)1971 Dodge Challenger Clone - $89,500. Link.

We all know the high prices that Cuda and Challenger Hemi-Clone convertibles are bringing. The next best thing to that is a 440-6 Pack, Shaker Hood, Pistol-Grip 4-Speed, Dana 60 rear convertible car with a high impact color paint. Guess what, that's just what this Challenger ragtop with Sassygrass paint is! She has black buckets, 150 mph speedo, AM/FM radio, tach, rallye dash, power top, power steering, manual disc brakes, front spolier, side air scoops, black R/T stripes, 15" rallye wheels, wood wheel, etc, etc. This is THE BEST QUALITY Mopar clone we have seen yet! Just look at the undercarriage pictures, that tells the "Rest of the Story"!

Comments: The "rest of the story" is that this car is a joke. I ran up the numbers on NADA's web site and found that if we maxed out a high retail Challenger R/T 440 Convertible with the 6-Pack engine and 4-speed transmission we come up with a price of $65,850... about $24,000 less than this clone. I don't get it. After writing this page up I did one last search for a Challenger convertible to compare. This would not have fallen into my original two hour search, so I did not list any cars from it. But I can tell you that I quickly found 6 convertible Challengers and 4 of those were clones asking over $50K. However, two were real cars, with 440 engines (one with a 6 pack) priced under $35K. Why pay three times as much for this car? I just don't get it. Either of the two cars for under $35K could be "restored" to a condition as high as this car and be the real deal for less money. Get a life people.

NADA's high retail:
440 Convertible: $43,900
4 Speed: +10%
440-6 Pack: +40%
Total: $65,850

CPI's excellent values:
383 Conv: $30,000
383 R/T : $23,250
340 : $19775
340 Conv: $28325
R/T 440-6: $36750

 
72_challenger_rt_clone_orange_1.jpg (66071 bytes)1972 Dodge Challenger R/T Clone - $25,950. Link.

72 Challenger Clone. 71 R/T Spoiler and graphics. Originally a 318, now a 440 ci. Magnum 450HP. 727 Torque Flight automatic transmission. 3" dual exhaust, 3.91 Posi rear end. Engine dress up kit, headers (ceramic), 4 chrome exhaust tips, new front and rear spoiler (rear is a T/A spoiler), underside nicely detailed/painted, new TA BF Goodrich tires and new Rallye Sport wheels. Aluminum heads and intake, less than 1000 miles on engine, new bumpers, drivers side rear view mirror, power steering, power brakes, heater, defrost. New Hemi orange paint, new white vinyl interior, new carpet, new door panels, new headliner, aftermarket AM/FM radio dual rear speakers not hooked up, all gauges including tach and clock work, Deluxe sport steering wheel, safety belts, floor mats, console with shifter. Owned by a Catholic priest (see '95 calendar and article of previous owner attached, '95 calendar goes with car. Lots of restorations pictures in album, $5,200 spent on engine rebuild. Tons of power and lots of eye popping looks.

Comments: I love this one. This isn't even a clone of a car that exists. They didn't make a R/T in 72. That's why it has 71 spoiler and graphics. Is this a clone or not? Who cares? This is a 318 car with a 440 engine. They even tell us the engine was $5,200. Let's add that to the value of a 318 Challenger (CPI's excellent figure assumes restored to the highest standard) and we get a total of $15,275. Where did he get the idea that he deserves an extra ten thousand dollars for this car? Because a priest owned it? Does the priest know he is gouging the price this much? Does the seller need to see the priest in the confessional after the sale? This guy even wants more than CPI puts a 71 R/T with a 383. NADA puts a 71 R/T with the 440 at a high retail of $27,430. So this guy thinks his car is worth as much as the real thing... if it was at least the right year. I give up.

CPI's excellent ratings:
Challenger 340/360: $18150
Challenger 318 : $10075
71 R/T 383: $23250

NADA's high retail:
71 R/T: $21,100
Magnum 440/375: +30%
Total: $27,430

 

Now, I don't want you to go away thinking all clones are bad. There is a time and place for a clone. Here are some examples of some clones that makes sense:

69_camaro_ss_clone_burgundy_1.jpg (68108 bytes)1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Clone - $15,900. Link. Burgundy metallic, 350 engine, 4spd, power disc brakes, cowl hood, spoilers, dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers, 15" rally's, Goodyear Eagle's, fresh ivory interior, Alpine am/fm stereo cassette.

Comments: This car is priced about two grand more than a plain Camaro in excellent condition should sell for. That seems like a decent price to pay for the amount of effort it takes to paint the stripes and add the badges to a car. This car also has a four speed transmission which is more desirable in a classic Muscle Car than an automatic. I like that this car is priced $6500 below the price of the real thing. Nice job.

69_charger_daytona_clone_red_1.jpg (403137 bytes)1969 Dodge Daytona Clone - $26,000. Link. In 1969 in order for Dodge to qualify for NASCAR racing, Dodge had to build a certain number of Charger Daytonas for the street. What we have here is a 1969 Dodge Daytona cloned from a 1970 Dodge Charger. Vehicle is equipped with a 440 motor, 4 barrell carburator intake. I have the additional original numbers matching motor and transmission which is in great running condition that I will include with this vehicle. This is a factory original air conditioning vehicle which I have, but it is not on the car at this time. Fender tag is as follows: l31 m21 m31 r11 26 emd v1x a01 b51 c16 m51 dy3 c6xa jx9 514 t52312 e44 d31 xp29 g0g 224665, power steering, power brakes, red exterior paint has some newer and older paint with a scratch touched up on the passenger rear quarter panel, however overall shines well and looks good, under carriage is solid and clean with an older undercoating, cherry bomb mufflers, trunk is solid, 150 mph speedo, clock, fuel, temp, oil, alternator gauges, pioneer digital stereo, new headliner, high back bucket seats, new drivers seat upholstery, passenger seat has two small seem tears that can be easily mended.

Comments: Real Dodge Daytonas will fetch close to a hundred thousand dollars in really good condition. Then they become museum pieces. People only drive them a few miles a year... on and off trailers. This is a car you could drive like any other old Charger. Drive it on weekends, and cruise the local scenes. Let me tell you this... if you pull up to any late model "tuner" car all eyes will switch to you. Even up against a brand new Viper, this car will stand. If you want attention this is a cheap way to get an aweful lot of it.

70_chevelle_ss_396_clone_orange_1.jpg (76443 bytes)1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS Clone - $15,500. Link. New 396 engine, 350 transmission, automatic, console, new interior, restored, nice driver.

Comments: "Nice driver." Now that says it all. This car is priced a little high for a plain Malibu, but the price is not so out of line that you aren't paying for the work to make it a clone. This is a far better clone than some of the cars above. It has the rear bumper trim, the proper dash, fender badges and especially the appropriate 396 big block motor. It would be even better if the hood was a cowl induction hood and didn't just say it was. Yep, nice driver, that's what you want from a clone... a car you can drive because the real thing is worth too much to risk it out on the public highways. And you should be able to buy a clone for a significant discount from the real thing.

68_chevelle_yenko_clone_orange_1.JPG (210098 bytes)1968 Chevelle Yenko Clone - $18,957. Link. Alabama car, 136378B Malibu car w/Yenko stripes. Big block is awesome! Previous owner stated it was a built 427, block # 361959, Weiand intake, Holley 4 bbl, Hurst Pro-Matic 2 shifter, console w/tach, power brakes, power steering, factory A/C car (missing compressor and lines), recent paint, Cooper tires on old style Torque Thrust wheels, AM/FM cassette, detailed trunk w/mat, 3" exhaust sounds awesome! I've been driving this car and it's a great cruiser! Look great and be seen in this awesome 68 Yenko Clone!

Comments: Again, this is a car that would be way too valuable if it were real. Too valuable to drive around in. However, this car is "expendable." You could rebuild it for a fraction of the cost to restore a true Yenko in case of a mishap. You might want to check out the engine to see if it really is a 427, but so what... it is a big block and you are buying this car for looks as much as power. I can see driving this to the cruising spots and showing off. Just be evasive when questioned and let them keep guessing.

Building a Clone

I believe that most clones are way overpriced, more so than my usual ranting about prices. The vast majority of clones really aren't clones in my book. They fall into the look-a-like category, a term I wish we could make a standard.

Granted, I will concede a few points. First, and most important, it does take real money to build a look-a-like car. Take this car for example:

1973 Pontiac Trans Am Clone - $14,495. Link. Great "Trans Am" Clone just completed. A California rust free car. Rebuilt 350ci with automatic transmission. New paint, interior, decals, spoilers, wheels & tires. Power steering & brakes. CD sound system. Drive a new Trans Am today!

Comments: I listed this car in my August 2004 Classic Car Watch article. We can notice a few items here. First, he installed all the correct exterior visual cues that make up a Trans Am, including the fender vents. Most Trans Am clones I come across don't do the fender vents. Why? Well, quite simply, because it costs money to cut the fender for the vents. Then you have to paint the car for it to look good. This was all done here. When I saw this car in August it was listed for $11,995. CPI lists a regular Firebird at less than $6,000. So is this guy nuts for asking twice what a Firebird is worth. Not really. Assuming excellent condition all around, a real Trans Am is worth $16,000. So he originally priced himself between the two. The car is now listed at $14,495 (at press time). I don't know why he raised the price after the car not selling for 7 months, but I would be willing to offer the original twelve thousand for this car.

Like I said, it costs money to make this car look like a Trans Am. In fact look is the key word here with the 350 engine still in place. Trans Ams has 400 or 455 engines. If you wanted a "Trans Am" you could actually drive on a regular basis... this car looks very attractive for a driver that you don't have to worry as much about something happening to it. The 350 engine will be much more tolerable of daily driving, yet to casual onlookers it is a cool looking Trans Am. If the price was not raised to near real Trans Am prices, the deep discount would make this a worthwhile car.

Paying For Craftsmanship

If you are going to buy a clone... err... look-a-like car, you do need to assume some time and effort went into the process to create the look. What you will have to do is decide if the quality of the work, and the quality of the end result are worth a higher price to the base model of car. Regardless, the level of craftsmanship to justify paying the same as the real thing just does not cut it in my book. You have to have a lot of money to burn to pay so much for a clone. Since you can find the real thing with a little digging you must be really lazy or stupid to pay as much as the real thing for an imitation.

Examples worth thinking about

This month I am going to list clones in my Classic Car Watch article. These will all be cars that are called clones by there sellers. However, if I have them in the article I consider them to be worth checking out to see if the craftsmanship is good enough to justify their cost. Read the column and make up your own mind. Then be sure to let me know what you think about clones. I personally hate the word, but I think we are stuck with it.

Some day maybe CPI and NADA will recognize clones, but this will be a tough call. The 70 Chevelle above is an excellent example why the professional guides won't recognize clones. Anyone can put a $20 SS emblem in a grill and call his car a clone. Clearly a car like that does not justify its own pricing. But a car like the COPO and Trans Am clones mentioned above do justify their craftsmanship. The question is... by how much? Are they really worth more, and how do you decide what level of completeness a clone must be to get the word. Clearly the Trans Am clone above stopped short of the drive train, where as the COPO Camaro went that extra mile to make sure it was an exact match. Just trying to decided between all three of my examples this month would be impossible for a pricing guide to make a blanket statement and put a value on a clone.

Conclusion

In the end, if you are looking at a clone only you can decide if the amount of work done is of a high enough quality to justify the cost. And only you can decide if it is worth it to have an imitation. Hopefully more people will realize that owning an imitation is not as worthy as the real thing and prices for clones will be more in line with the lower end model they are based on, plus a little extra for the craftsmanship. Until then I will continue to hate clones.

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