The case for a 250 GTO-based 240Z replica

Is replica-building an authentic form of automotive self-expression or merely a case of trying too hard? There’s only one way to find out: take a Ferrari 250 GTO and turn it into a Datsun 240Z.

I have never liked replicas. They are all vain transformations of cheap, little-respected cars into empty shapes approximating expensive, sought-after cars. In the process, an honest if cheap car is destroyed and an ersatz, soulless vehicle is born. Be it a Fiero turned into a Diablo or a Datsun into a Ferrari, replicas are inherently petty bourgeois.

On the other hand, the work that goes into creating a well-built replica is enormous both in size and scale and is not altogether different from the good work of building, say, a race car. The hundreds upon hundreds of man-hours it takes to turn one car into another car are the same whether you’re turning a rusty old Z into a mean track special or a rusty old Fiero into a Lamborghini Miura. Labor like that is to be honored, even if it’s fundamentally misguided.

Here, then, is my acid test of the replica as honest work and authentic automotive art: build one that is a very conscious and very steep tumble down the perceived grade of automotive respectability. The easiest way to go about this would be to take one of the 39 Ferrari 250 GTO’s ever built, which usually sell in the $10 million range, and convert it into a Datsun 240Z, which also sells for around $10 million, but in Sierra Leonean leones instead of U.S. dollars.

The engine could stay. If a Fiero four-banger is good enough for most replica Diablos, a dry-sumped racing V12 with twelve velocity trumpets punching through the hood should serve a replica 240Z just fine. The rosso corsa would have to go though. A speedometer would have to be installed. Some vinyl would be called for. Et cetera.

To undertake and execute such a project would prove once and for all that a replica can be more than petty striving for a car which you cannot afford. A 250 GTO-based 240Z would be, in its perfect disregard of automotive hagiography, the ultimate replica. You would of course have to fear for your life for the rest of your days. There would be angry posts on FerrariChat and perhaps on #oppositelock too.

But if executed well, you would be safe on the street. Who would, after all, notice an old Datsun? Just make sure you don’t rev the engine beyond 5000 rpm in the suburbs because if Steve Mitchell, ex-teenage ex-owner of GTO #3987 is to be believed, all aural hell breaks loose at 6000 rpm, where “the sound of the engine changes entirely from a low pitched growl to a high pitched banshee scream.”

Hack away, gentlemen, and enjoy the low-key ride.

Photo Credit: Steven Luftman