By Chris Bright
I must be experiencing a case of early-onset curmudgeonliness (actual word). Normally I have an optimistic disposition, but something at Monterey Car Week isn’t sitting well with me. The biggest headline of the week was the revival of the Lamborghini Countach LPI 800-4, to which my reaction was this:
Don’t get me wrong, I actually think it is a gorgeous automobile -- a true homage to the original -- but it’s just a re-skinned Sian, which in turn is just an Aventador with a hybrid drive. It would have been impressive if it came out six years ago, but nowadays, not so much. They plan a production run of 112 Countaches at a price of $2.64M each. (Note: For that price tag, you could get five Aventador SVJs).
Similarly, at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, Ferrari gathered 32 Monza SPs. These have been around for a year or two, but this was reportedly the largest gathering of them. The Monza SP is the first in the “Icona” series that pays homage to historic Ferraris. They look cool and each copy has a unique paint/trim combo. Each one costs $1.8M and there is an expected production of 499. Again, a Monza SP is a re-skinned Ferrari 812 Superfast which retails for $335,000. (For those good at math, you’ll notice that you could also get five 812 Superfasts for one Monza SP. Coincidence?)
We’re starting to see a pattern here:
It’s good work if you can get it.
In the past, when there were limited edition performance cars, they were important because they represented a leap forward in performance and technology. Think of the greats, the original supercars like the McLaren F1, Ferrari F40, Bugatti Veyron, and even Koenigseggs. They were spendy, but also technological marvels that had limited production because they were really hard to produce at scale. They also genuinely reset the definition of “state of the art” when introduced.
As recently as 2015, we collectively reveled in the Golden Age of the Hypercar when the McLaren P1, Ferrari LaFerrari and Porsche 918 all launched at the same time. Those cars were exclusive and important. Each car was a halo product for its respective brand and represented a new generation of hybrid-powered hypercars with 900+ bhp, 210+ mph top speeds and sub-3 second 0-60 mph times.
Both the eras of supercars and hypercars were important and extremely collectible. This new generation of “special editions” like the Countach and Monza SP are collectible only due to artificial scarcity. It's precisely what drove the Beanie Babies® craze in the 1990s.
This “fauxclusivity” (not an actual word) is a real pet peeve of mine. In my heart, I’m a purist, and these cars don’t measure up. They lack authenticity and soul -- just mere contrivances of marketing teams, not advances developed by engineering teams.
A decade or so ago, I had an occasion to sit in on a university class in Milan and the topic was the business of fashion. The lecturer said this: “Fashion is when you take something that costs $10 to make and sell it for $1,000.” That feels like what’s happening here when you take a car, dress it up, and then add a million or two to the price tag.
I don’t want to over-reach: these cars are stunning, fun, and interesting -- but they aren’t important. And they sure as hell aren’t worth $2M. Hopefully this trend is short-lived and we can get back to making innovative, groundbreaking machines that have been the hallmark of exotic sports car manufacturers from the beginning.