Don’t Call It A Ferrari: The Vanilla Sky GTO

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Are kit cars cool? When I was a kid, I thought they were the coolest, akin to the ultimate Lego set.

But as time went on and I got my license, started driving, and then eventually began enjoying different facets of car ownership and so-called car culture, kit cars were pushed far into the recesses of my mind.

However, after cruising around in this Alpha 1 GTO-bodied 280Z — for a Bring a Trailer shoot for my friends at Artdeshine — my childhood dreams of kit cars came swirling back.


Not only was it awesome to have those bodacious bulges of the bonnet framing the view of the road ahead, but I was also sitting in the same seat that a famous actor once sat.

This exact ‘GTO’ was used in the 2001 film Vanilla Sky, and was driven by – yep, you guessed it – Tom Cruise.


As such, the car is being sold with a bunch of memorabilia from the film, including cool film slides, a scale model, documents from production, and a signed print of Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz.


Much more importantly, the proportions of this car are just about as right as you could hope for. The length, width, height, wheelbase, and track width of an S30 are all within around a few inches of the Ferrari 250 GTO that this 280Z now imitates. So, crucially, the car looks ‘right’ to the eye at first glance.


The L28 and its primitive fuel injection system are long gone in favor of a Chevy 350ci V8, and the interior has been reworked to some extent as well. Recently, Artdeshine Studios brought the exterior back to its former glory with an extensive paint correction and ceramic coating application.

Mechanically, the car is a smooth cruiser, but if I picked it up I’d want to chuck a manual transmission into it along with some aftermarket suspension to help put the power down. But really, you could do whatever you want, and that’s the beauty of a kit car.


Given that GTOs have been multi-million-dollar collector models for decades, I’m surprised I haven’t come across one of these replica builds in person before. So what happened to the glory days of kit cars?


Full kits never seemed like actual, viable cars to me; their designs unsophisticated and the quality of their execution widely varied. Production car-based kits were generally even less appealing, with off-putting proportions and tragically unaligned performance specifications. I’m looking at you, Fiero-based Ferraris…


Exceptions always existed, of course. Cobras are a great example of a kit car that can be great when done right. Case in point: this Fiberfab-based build I spent some time with around a year ago. This car really drove home the point that not all kit cars are created equal — and this applies to the kit itself, as well as the choices the owner or builder makes along the way.


Another kit car that sticks out in my mind is the Ultima Evolution, which features supercar specs in a package where form meets function. After riding along in my friend Will’s Ultima for a feature a few years back, I became entirely convinced that one of these is worth every penny you’d spend building or buying one.


But value is always the kicker. Gone are the days when you could find a Z-car for cheap, or, relatively speaking, even a decent Fiero, and modern cars are generally too expensive and too complicated to use as a base.


If you want a decent end result, you’re likely to be unable to build the car entirely in your own garage, and labor costs — not to mention the price of a decent paint job — have risen exponentially over the past decades. This means your ‘cheap’ kit car would actually be an expensive endeavor that you couldn’t dream of getting a fraction of your money out of.


Thus, many – if not nearly all – kit car companies have fallen by the wayside over the years. You certainly couldn’t call up Alpha 1 today and ask them to ship over a GTO body shell to drop onto a Z-car next week. Good luck finding an S30 that makes sense to tear up, too. They aren’t a dime a dozen anymore.


This begs the question, where will this Z-based GTO end up when the hammer falls next week, and what will the new owner actually do with it? Or perhaps the better question is, what would you do with it?

Trevor Ryan
Instagram: analogtrevor

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