Perhaps only a handful of cars can be classed as automotive icons but the Jaguar E-Type is most definitely one of them.
The E-Type remains one of the most sought-after classic cars ever made and still has legions of admirers almost 60 years after it was launched.
There are few who would dispute the claim it is the best car to ever come out of Coventry.
Built at Jaguar’s Browns Lane factory between 1961 and 1975, mint condition fully-restored models now fetch astronomical prices at auction and even barn finds in poor condition are swiftly snapped-up.
The E-Type was originally developed as a racing car but Jaguar decided to put it into production as a road car and Roadster and Fixed-head Coupe (FHC) versions were developed.
No one is really certain if Enzo Ferrari did ever describe the E-Type as “the most beautiful car in the world” but it’s a motoring tale that is often retold.
The E-Type lives on in many ways – and not just as a carefully restored classic.
Jaguar Land Rover is actually producing them again at one of its specialist facilities on the edge of Coventry.
Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works in Ryton is a place which both restores and recreates Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles from both marques’ illustrious histories.
It also houses a truly amazing collection of heritage vehicles, including Sir William Lyons’ own Jaguar and many prototypes.
There are two versions of the E-Type produced at Ryton – an electric E-Type and the E-Type Reborn.
Classic Works also offers restoration and electrification services for E-Type owners.
Jaguar Land Rover announced in August 2018 that it would build all-electric E-Types in Ryton.
The news followed the EV sports car’s successful debut in concept form at Jaguar Land Rover Tech Fest in September 2017.
Combining its restoration expertise with cutting-edge technology from the Jaguar I-Pace, Classic Works offers tailor-made E-Types restored and converted to electric power at the same facility as its E-Type Reborn restorations.
An EV conversion service for existing E-Type owners is also offered – and to preserve the authenticity of the base vehicle, the EV conversion will be fully reversible.
The first electric E-Type vehicles were due to be produced this summer and one was famously used by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they departed from their wedding in 2017.
The all-electric E-Type is wonderful but surely the real deal is the E-Type Reborn.
These really are something special, original E-Types restored to ‘concours-winning standard’.
Announced in 2017 the aim was to deliver E-Types that were as good as the originals.
These Reborn cars differ from what are often referred to as ‘restomods’ where classic cars are restored but given a modern makeover.
They aim to be just as the originals were – rather than using the very best modern engineering and technology to deliver an altogether different motoring experience.
At Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works there are 30 bays dedicated to the Reborn programme.
Skilled craftsmen and engineers combine the latest technology with traditional craftsmanship techniques to restore and recreate some of the most famous Jaguars ever made.
As one might expect E-Type Reborn cars don’t come cheap.
They start from £295,000 – but just to put that into perspective – an Eagle Spyder GT, a modernised E-Type created by Sussex specialists Eagle would set you back more than double that.
What is the E-Type Reborn like
Not surprisingly it was the star attraction at an event which had a selection of all the latest Jaguar and Land Rover models.
It eclipsed an impressive array of vehicles that included potent F-Type sports cars and even the XE Project 8 ‘supercar’ – the fastest production Jaguar that has ever been made.
It was for the most part a dull and rainy day but despite that the E-Type Reborn still sparkled.
It essentially looks and feels like it has been transported by a time machine from the 1960s to the present day.
This particular Reborn model was a Series 1 4.2-litre Fixed Head Coupe.
One could happily spend an age admiring it from the outside but allocated a coveted driving spot I was eager to get in and make the most of my limited time at the wheel.
Accompanied by a Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations engineer I sat in, somewhat excited at the prospect of fulfilling a long-held ambition.
I have driven restored classics before and have sometimes been disappointed.
Cars that I fantasised about owning as a boy and admired from afar turn out to be not what you quite expect.
The driving experience can be a challenge to say the least and make you realise how far automotive engineering has come in the ensuing decades.
As the 4.2-litre engine burst into life it was a joyous sound.
Before setting off I was encouraged not to be intimidated by the age or value of the car but to enjoy it.
I was given one warning though – that it had no wing mirrors.
The only real downside of this was that you were unable to admire that curvaceous rear end while on the move. Instead I looked out over the long bonnet that’s such a distinctive and essential component of the E-Type’s sleek profile.
The first thing I noticed was how heavy the steering was – no power assistance here – but at the same time it felt ‘real’ and offered a genuine connection to the car rather than a system that has been softened by technology.
The super thin wooden steering wheel felt wonderful it has to be said.
One was very much aware of the E-Type being an old car rather than a modern one.
It’s not insulated from the exterior environment in the way a modern car is but again I found this to be an inherent pleasure rather than an encumbrance.
It actually drove amazingly well and it was easy to get a sense of why it caused such a stir when it was first unveiled in the early sixties.
As well as looking sensational it also offered the similar performance to cars at the time that cost twice as much money.
The rain did dim the experience slightly, I was not overly keen on throwing it around corners but sampling the potency of the 4.2-litre engine in a straight line offered enough of a thrill on a damp December day. It’s surprisingly quick for a car that’s almost 60 years old and the straight six also makes a delicious burble when you put your foot down.
It seems odd to think that a car of such calibre has a four-speed gearbox but that’s the way it was back then.
Overall there was a purity about the driving experience where you felt connected to the car and close to both the road and the elements. What driving really should be all about.
The cabin felt cosy rather than cramped and the instrumentation was great to look at – even the flickering speedometer needle that seemed to suggest an approximate speed rather than a precise one.
Of course while the E-Type Reborn is essentially original there are a few modern touches, though you will have to look very closely to spot them.
What looks like an original radio is in fact a retro-styled modern creation with a DAB radio, a USB interface and even a sat-nav screen
It might have been a fairly grey and miserable day weather-wise but my short time driving in a truly authentic original E-Type left me with a smile on my face for the rest of it.
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