A year ago, Jalopnik delved into the seedy world of Super Replicas, the bizarre Panama-based company that claims to make perfect exotic car copies for as low as $20,000. We still get several emails a month from interested buyers asking if the company is really a scam or not. That's because Super Replicas is still out there.
Super Replicas claims to offer flawless copies of exotics like Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Paganis for a fraction of the cost. They say that for a minimal cost, they can create a clone of your dream car built on a donor car or tube chassis to be street legal in the country of your choosing. They often claim they can do this by making their cars in Mexico through "NAFTA agreements" and parts "purchased at manufacturer cost."
But the only thing they appear to have really created is a trail of angry and disgruntled customers who gave them thousands of dollars, only to receive nothing in return.
The outfit is headed by Daniel Seppings, who also goes by Ken Scott, Tony Sinclair and other aliases. Seppings is an Australian-born leader of an extremist religious movement, as well as an accused scam artist and pedophile, and his backstory is so bizarre it feels like it comes from a bad movie.
Like a virus, Super Replicas has mutated into several different new websites, complete with the same tactics we debunked last year: advertising "replica" cars with existing photos from the Internet, listing fake addresses for their "factory," and offering too-good-t0-be-true copies of exotics for Toyota Corolla prices. To try and show credibility, they falsely use established names and trademarks that are not associated with them in any way, like Top Gear, Tanner Foust and Chip Foose.
Over the last year, we never found a single person who admitted to being a satisfied Super Replicas customer, but we met plenty who lost money to their operation.
Let's take a look at what they've been up to lately:
German tuner Mansory is known for building some of the most outrageous custom cars on earth. Their stuff certainly isn't for everyone, but if you want to make your Lamborghini, Bentley or McLaren stand out from the crowd, there is no denying that their customization program will do exactly that. Mansory takes existing cars and adds exterior, interior and performance enhancements to make them look way over-the-top.
Because of this, it's entirely possible Super Replicas chose the Mansory name for one of their websites in an effort to trick buyers into thinking the actual Mansory company makes custom replicas. Guess what? They don't. (In other parts of the site, they refer to themselves as "brabuscars.org".)
As has been the case in the past, nearly every image on MansoryCars.com seems to be lifted from another site. Take this picture of a Porsche Carrera GT, which appears to come from an article on Autoblog España:
So no, you can't get a Carrera GT replica with a Toyota V6 engine for just $20,000. Sorry.
In April, a prospective buyer interested in a MansoryCars.com replica — whose name has been withheld out of kindness — contacted me via email convinced the company was real because they claim on their website to have a location in San Antonio, Texas. I happen to be from San Antonio, so I planned to have someone I know there investigate this address further.
Then I checked the address and realized I didn't have to: 1 Lone Star Pass is the location of the Toyota truck plant in San Antonio.
I think we can safely assume Toyota is doing well enough that it doesn't need to branch out into the $20,000 Ferrari replica game.
Jalopnik reached out to the real Mansory in Germany to see if they were in any way associated with this operation. The answer, not surprisingly, is no. Here's what spokesman Uwe Krüger told us in an email:
Mansorycars.com has nothing to do with the original MANSORY , those guys are in California and the use our name.
Anyway they have no permission from us and we try since a couple of month to stop them, using our name.
People told us in the past, the order an car made an down payment and never receive anything.
To reiterate: MansoryCars.com is Super Replicas and not the real Mansory tuning group.
AudiUSAMotors-com.com is another place on the Internet that Super Replicas calls home. If that highly suspicious double "com" in the web address doesn't tip you off, the rest of the site should. (They also have a "blog" of sorts at AudiUSAmotorscom.blogspot.com, which is an utterly hilarious name when you really think about it.)
"AudiUSAMotors" has the same M.O. we've come to expect from Super Replicas, which is presenting images lifted from other websites or YouTube stills in a way that makes them look like the company's completed replicas. This one seems a lot more shoddy than the other sites, however, and that's really saying something.
Unsurprisingly, this website has nothing to do with the real Audi, according to a spokesman contacted by Jalopnik. It may seem ridiculous to even ask that question of Audi, but then again, why do people keep sending Super Replicas their money when the scam is so obvious?
And then there's the "main" site itself, SupeReplicas.com. (Only one "R," apparently.) Most of the links here redirect back to the Mansory site, and it's almost comical what you'll find over there.
Stolen images. Non-sensical writing. Repeated use of the Mansory name, which we know they have no rights to. Promises of BMW technologies like iDrive and EfficientDynamics, lucrative franchising offers, claims about factories and facilities all over the world, and truly unbelievable deals like a Hennessey Venom GT replica with a twin-turbo Chevrolet LS7 engine for $27,000.
Just like, you know, the actual Venom GT. The one that costs $1.25 million.
It's not clear whether "Las Vegas Replicas" has a home on the web or not, but they are on Facebook and they are very clearly Super Replicas. Once again we see the same classic SR methods, including passing off other people's photos and videos of actual cars as their own replicas.
That's when it can be bothered to make sense, anyway. Why does this "Lamborghini replica Bugatti Builder" post feature a clip from the Need for Speed movie? And why is this Ferrari 430 "replica" speaking Japanese, of all things?
A word of advice to buyers: if a company's email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org," proceed with caution.
If you do a Google search for Super Replicas, the first things that come up — besides their mainpage — are articles that question or complain that the site is a scam, including ones penned by Jalopnik. Remember, it's more than just a bunch of goofy websites, it's an organization that appears to have taken money from a lot of people. Mansory has received complaints from disgruntled buyers and so have we. So how is it that they're still out there, still taking people's money?
For one, it's because the company is located in Panama, where they are presumably protected from court actions. Were they headquartered in the U.S., a company like Audi or Ferrari could file a lawsuit over a copyright claim; they would likely have little luck in Panama, thanks to that country's notoriously corrupt and ineffectual legal system. From the U.S. State Department:
Weaknesses are poor rule of law, lack of judicial independence, a shortage of skilled workers, corruption, and poorly staffed government institutions that are susceptible to influence. The U.S. Government has received numerous reports of fraud and corruption in connection with titles to property purchased by U.S. persons. In addition, some of Panama's largest U.S. investors have complained about inconsistent treatment of their concessions and nontransparent government procurements.
The other reason Super Replicas keeps taking people's money is because people keep giving them money. To the uninitiated, it seems like such a great idea: Why buy a cheap new or used car when you can just get a replica exotic for $20,000? If you want to make that display of wealth and extravagance but don't really have the cash to back it up, Super Replicas appears to be the perfect solution.
But here's the thing: replica cars aren't like that. There's no such thing as a perfect copy of a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, especially with a V12 engine and especially not for the price of a Hyundai.
Take a look at some of the actual replicas you can buy on eBay right now. Most of them are replicas of older cars, the Shelby Cobra in particular. Others are straight custom jobs with fiberglass bodies or are modifications of existing cars. Many of the "exotics" are based on the Pontiac Fiero or Toyota MR2. And a lot of them, unfortunately, don't look very convincing or even very good.
Porsche doesn't mind when Singer restores and modifies 911s into looking like older ones because those cars are no longer for sale and don't represent a threat to sales of their current models, and because Singer has restrictions on what they can call their cars.
Does anyone really think Ferrari is okay with someone making a replica of a 458 Italia? Of course not, and that's why these shops get shut down by the police. Manufacturers like them and Mercedes have cracked down on such groups before and will probably continue to do so in countries where they can get their litigation to stick.
If you're really wondering whether you can get a perfect copy of a Lamborghini or a Bentley or whatever else on the cheap, know this: you probably can't, and giving Super Replicas thousands of dollars isn't going to fix that.