New firms should create their own legacies, not appropriate others'

vanwall vandervell front dynamic

We’re pleased ByKolles has lost its case over the Vanwall name – the latest in a long line of questionable ‘revivals’

I’m pleased to learn that the European Union’s Intellectual Property Office has ended a long-running dispute over the Vanwall trademark in favour of Sanderson International Marketing and against ByKolles.

Sanderson builds and sells continuation examples of the Vanwall VW5, the British Formula 1 car that won the inaugural constructors’ title in 1958, here in the UK. ByKolles builds a hypercar to race in the World Endurance Championship at its base in Germany.

The thing that has annoyed me so much about this situation, which has undoubtedly been very stressful for Sanderson, is that there is absolutely no logic to ByKolles appropriating the Vanwall name. 

Firstly, only those old enough to even know what Vanwall was are those who are old enough to have watched Sir Stirling Moss race and dedicated F1 anaroks. If you’re having to explain the heritage of a revived brand, what’s even the point of reviving it? 

Secondly, ByKolles is a German company that operates in a totally different field to the original Vanwall. There is no Vanwall heritage at Le Mans, nor is there any in road cars (ByKolles had planned to sell its road-going electric hot hatch as the Vanwall Vandervell), nor indeed any outside of the UK. 

Quite what is the point? Colin Kolles has been a known figure in international motorsport for 23 years and had been running his teams under his own name for that whole period. Just stick with that. Continue building your own legacy, an unquestionably commendable act, rather than attempting to hijack and appropriate somebody else’s. Most people don’t even know about that legacy, and those who do won’t be fooled, so you’re convincing nobody.

It isn’t just ByKolles that’s guilty of this bizarre practice, though. Far from it.

Look down the list of proposed WEC hypercar entries and you will see alongside Vanwall the names De Tomaso and Isotta Fraschini.

This is the second attempt at a revival of De Tomaso – an American-backed Italian firm, founded by an Argentinian – in the space of a decade. This time, it’s orchestrated by a Hong Kong business and based in Germany. Righto.

Isotta Fraschini is an even more ridiculous undertaking. Have you heard of this brand? Of course you have, because it won the Targa Florio in 1908 – just the 115 years ago – and only stopped making cars in 1949… The WEC effort isn’t coming from the extant marine engineering division of the original Italian company but a new one with Colombian backing. Why not just create a new brand, a new philosophy? Who on earth knows what Isotta Fraschini was or, more importantly, will believe the new car is a genuine item?

I recently received an email to this effect from an Autocar reader, and he mentioned by name Borgward, Delage and Hispano-Suiza.

Now, I actually don’t have a problem with Borgward, because the brand was revived by Christian Borgward, a grandson of the original founder, and similar goes for Hispano-Suiza, because the revival has been led by members of the Suqué Mateu family, who are descended from original co-founder Damián Mateu. But on Delage it’s a good point, even if the company has been revived by a brand enthusiast and been blessed by the grandson of the original founder. “The Delage D12 is a track-day special closer in concept to a Formula 1 car than the elegant grand routiers of the past,” my correspondent said. Well, quite.

Anybody who sets out to create a new manufacturer in the automotive industry deserves credit if only for the sheer bravery and effort of the endeavour, in which 99% of them will fail miserably and/or spectacularly. However, it’s infinitely more laudable to strive to create a new legacy, rather than unconvincingly seek to continue the unrelated efforts of somebody from the past, usually without blessing. 

Congratulations to the likes of Glickenhaus and Wells, Aehra and Tesla, countless other EV start-ups and most of the Chinese firms. This work is all your own doing, and you should be shouting that loud and proud.

Source: Autocar

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