“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 expectations and taste 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 thankfully 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 E-Type was totally disassembled literally to the last nut and bolt. The body shell was dispatched to marque 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 eagle eyed amongst our readers will have noted that the bolts used will need to be replaced with those of the correct tensile strength; these are included with the car.
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 original engine’s cylinder head was found to have suffered some 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 triple 2” S.U. carburettors were sourced and rebuilt along with a suitable manifold.
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 are about as likely as the May and Barnier families holidaying together this summer. On Mars.
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 while many happy hours can be spent with friends and family playing ‘identify the part’.
It may in fact be easier to list what we know the E-Type still requires. The original basket-weave seat trim has suffered more from heat than moisture and unless you are really into the ‘shabby chic’ look it will need to be replaced. While the hood frame is present, the fabric is not though we were pleasantly surprised to find a new example in mohair can be acquired for under £400. The original dials including the 160 MPH speedometer are present but may need mechanical and cosmetic attention, especially the clock which has started to lose the paint from its face. The major items of chrome-work have been trial fitted and shaped to match the body perfectly (a luxury not afforded to the Jaguar workforce back in the day) and are now ready for re-plating though some smaller items such as badges have been purchased new. The owner took the decision not to purchase new wire wheels as whether these are chrome finished or painted is very much a matter of personal choice; that is to say it is up to you if you want to be wrong! A new radiator and front shock absorbers will also be required.
Tempting though it is to claim ‘it is all there’ there are clearly a few more parts still to be acquired but sensibly these have been left so that a new owner may select finishes and colours to suit their own preferences.
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. A Customs and Excise form 386 proving duty has been paid is also present and the Jaguar is hence free to move anywhere within Europe (at least for another six weeks or so!).
Given the extent and quality of the work carried out to date on the E-Type, we can well believe the owner’s estimate that it would cost in the region of £90,000 to replicate what we are offering today. Compared to the value of a machine completed to the same high standard, we also feel this Jaguar could offer the chance to do so at a significant price advantage while also allowing the new owner some choice in areas such as trim. Though a little late for Christmas, could this be the best Meccano kit in the world?
Please note the rotisserie the body is currently mounted on is not included in the sale but a dolly suitable for transportation will be provided. The bonnet dolly shown in some photographs is also not included in the sale and the bonnet is now mounted on the car.
Registration number: N/A
Chassis Number: IR 9934
Engine Number: 7R 5243-9