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“The most beautiful car ever made”. Enzo Ferrari on the Jaguar E-Type.
A much used quote without a doubt, though it is not recorded whether ‘Il Commendatore’ also admitted it was a third of the price of his own often slower and less powerful products. Their relative price differential nearly sixty years down the road only emphasises what fantastic value these Cats represent over their equine rivals.
For the E-Type, Malcolm Sayer designed (N.B. not ‘styled’ – Sayer did not consider himself ‘a hairdresser’ as he put it) an aircraft influenced shape that was not only aerodynamically efficient but also stunningly beautiful, having a more than a passing resemblance to his pure-bred D-Type racer that dominated Le Mans in the latter half of the 1950s. The influence of the competition-purposed machine was more than just skin deep as, courtesy of William Heynes and his engineering team, the E-Type’s construction shared much with its alphabetical predecessor; a monocoque tub with tubular front sub-frame carrying the immortal straight six XK engine and locating the front suspension can be found in both machines, though the E sported a more sophisticated independent rear axle arrangement. Economies of scale and efficient production techniques enabled Jaguar to offer the E-Type at a smidge over £2,000, a truly remarkable figure for a classically beautiful, well specified, 150 MPH motor car.
Perceived wisdom is that one should go for either the first or last examples of a model run as the early cars are the purest and the later versions the best developed. However, the 1960s were a time of dramatic change in terms of customers’ expectations and tastes and the E-Type reflects this eloquently. The early Series 1 cars, while undoubtedly delightful in their own right, can prove somewhat challenging to actually use while by the time the Series 3 arrived, the market was demanding a softer, more touring oriented machine. With the torquier and probably more powerful (though the figures published at the time don’t admit as much - it is just possible the early cars and their numbers were slightly ‘massaged’ by Jaguar) 4.2 engine mated to an all synchromesh gearbox, improved brakes courtesy of Lockheed, seats suitable for sitting on rather than just admiring and headlights brilliant for looking with rather than at, the Series 2 launched in September 1968 has much to recommend it. Stylistically, minimal bodywork changes did provide a slightly larger air intake for the radiator to combat overheating issues without compromising the delicacy of the early machines. This all means a strong case can be made for the Series 2 being the ‘sweet spot’ for the E-Type, particularly when one factors in a considerable price advantage over the earlier and, increasingly, the later cars; the pick of the bunch with runt of the litter pricing perhaps?
Purchased from California in 2012 as a rolling restoration project (please see the photo gallery) by the current owner, a ‘quick fix’ was never really going to satisfy him and on its return to the UK, the Jaguar was totally disassembled literally to the last nut and bolt. The body shell was dispatched to E-Type experts Millennium 2 Paint Ltd. in Leicester where their craftsmen totally rebuilt it to the highest standards. Though for an E-Type (especially compared to a European domiciled one) it was essentially not a bad shell, the extensive photographic record of this work (samples of which can be seen in the photo gallery) shows that corroded metal had to be cut out and replaced with new, top quality panels in a number of areas. At this stage the opportunity was taken to remove the somewhat unsightly North American specification indicator light units and new metal was let in accordingly. The use of a bespoke rotisserie-mounted jig ensured the shell’s dimensions were kept exactly to factory specification and the time taken to ensure perfect panel fit and alignment was certainly far in excess of what was allowed by the Factory fifty years ago. The original engine ‘picture frame’ carrying the car’s all important chassis number was mated to new sub-frame components and trial fitted to allow the bonnet alignment to be perfected.
The completed shell was then transferred to another rotisserie for final painting, again to the highest of standards, in rare, ‘one year only’ but totally appropriate Signal Red. The use of the rotisserie enabled this top quality finish to be achieved throughout the car rather than just on the more visible areas. It should be noted that particular attention was paid to ensuring the longevity of this body restoration with additional invisible strengthening being introduced within the cars sills and the use of the latest paints and protective finishes.
Meanwhile, the other major components were also totally restored by a perfectionist professional used to working on Historic Formula 1 machinery. From front to back, the engine, gearbox and differential (including its associated suspension, brakes and sub-frame) were all stripped and rebuilt with new components as required. The engine’s cylinder head was found to have suffered some minor corrosion damage and this was replaced though the repaired original, ready for final machining, is included with the car. At the same time the opportunity was taken to bring the engine up to UK and European specification and (at not insignificant expense) triple 2” S.U. carburettors were sourced with a suitable manifold and rebuilt.
The original left hand drive steering rack was rebuilt as was the propeller shaft which was then accurately balanced. The many smaller items such as wishbones, drive shafts, brake callipers, brackets and so on (and on and on) were also restored to the highest standard. This work was undertaken and managed by an engineer who used to run his own engineering and high quality metal finishing business so the chances of anything sub-standard getting past him were minimal to non-existent.
Myriad new parts were purchased from bags of nuts and bolts to brake discs and servo, wiring looms, fuel tank, rubber seals, suspension bushes and pins, bearings, alternator, high torque starter, ‘Powerspark’ electronic ignition and water hoses; the list is seemingly endless. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words so hopefully the photo gallery will be easier to digest than 100,000 words.
Faced with the frankly enormous quantity of new and refurbished parts, the owner decided to entrust their assembly to hugely respected marque specialists Gibsons Classics. They sourced the last few remaining items required and then painstakingly put the car back together to their usual exemplary standards with not a burr, scuff or evidence of a slipped spanner to be seen anywhere. Accepting that no two E-Types are identical, to ensure a pluperfect finish rather than use an off the shelf kit their experts of choice custom made the interior trim in ‘biscuit’ with carpets to match. Though to exactly correct Factory specification, its bespoke nature ensures the fit is far better than Jaguar were ever able to achieve. They also fitted the perfect new black mohair hood along with its cover and hood bag.
The majority of the chrome-work was refinished while an aluminium radiator for improved cooling (not to mention aesthetics – we’d gladly hang it on the office wall) and Moto-Lita wood-rim steering wheel were installed. A new chassis plate was also fitted that sits more comfortably with the rest of the ‘Factory fresh’ engine bay though the original has been retained and comes with the car. New uprated chrome wire wheels shod with Uniroyal’s excellent Rain Expert tyres where also fitted and these subtly fill the E-Type’s arches slightly more than the originals without compromising its 1960’s delicacy and poise.
Though they looked more than acceptable ‘on the bench’, once the Jaguar was reassembled, the owner did regret not having the door handles and hood catches re-chromed but replacement items are on order and will be fitted as soon as possible.
The ongoing monsoon conditions of last winter and early spring prevented Gibsons from conducting their usual shakedown of the completed car but they will be very happy to carry this out for the new owner. They would also be delighted to make any modifications a lucky buyer might desire such as, for instance, converting it to right hand drive which can be undertaken for a very reasonable £1,500.
The paperwork with the Jaguar is dominated by the frankly massive stack of bills covering the parts purchased and work carried out; please see the photo gallery. These are really too detailed to list here and can be viewed with the car. As well as the previously mentioned photographic record of body and paintwork carried out, there is a Jaguar Heritage ‘Production Record Trace Certificate’ (AKA Heritage Certificate) which confirms the E-Type was completed on 8th July 1969 as a left hand drive, manual gearbox equipped roadster which was dispatched to B.L., New York on 4th September of that year.
Now UK registered with a current V5C, the Jaguar is hence free to move anywhere within Europe and Berlinetta can help with its safe and responsible delivery. Alternatively, the owner is happy to store the car for a reasonable period of time if required.
Given the extent and quality of the work carried out on the E-Type, we can well believe the owner’s estimate that it would cost in excess of £130,000 to replicate what we are offering today, though stress that it could be bought for considerably less via our auction.