By Joseph Moss – International Banker
Italians have always had a knack for crafting sports cars; however, when it comes to elegance, grace and aristocratic sophistication, none does it better than the Brits. This is why back in 1961, Enzo Ferrari uttered one of his most famous lines. He called, before introducing it, the Jaguar E-Type “the most beautiful car ever built”. He made this statement on the floor of the Geneva Motor Show. And we get why. Just look at it! Jaguar revealed three different versions in total: the two-seat coupe, 2+2 coupe and a roadster. The car survived 15 years, with Jaguar introducing three series in total.
From today’s point of view, the E-Type Roadster is one of the most sought-after classics. Jaguar produced more than 70,000 units, but some of them are obviously more important than the others. The most expensive one being the 1963 Jaguar E-Type Lightweight Competition model, which reached a price of 6 million pounds at a recent Bonhams auction.
When introduced, the Jaguar E-Type combined all the major advancements developed on the racing track and incorporated them into the lightweight body. Among other innovations, this Jaguar sports car employed monocoque construction, sleek looks, disc brakes, independent suspension and an engine developing 265 horsepower. Easily enough for sub-seven seconds acceleration to 62 miles per hour.
Awesome looks coupled with affordable pricing meant that the E-Type has become a favorite for international celebrities, including Steve McQueen, Brigitte Bardot and Tony Curtis. Cool car! Adjusted for inflation, the new Jaguar E-Type would cost about $42,000 in today’s money. More importantly, it packed such a punch and looked so good, it became the first European mass-produced sports car. Not even the Germans and the Italians had anything similar. The story about the original E-Type revolves around its roots in motorsports. See, apart from the fascinating tubular-frame chassis and an engine bolted to the frame, its engine also came from the D-Type Le Mans Racer.
At first, Jag sold it with a 3.8-liter, three-carburetor motor, but from October 1964, they introduced a slightly changed 4.2-liter engine. It produced the same power and provided the same speed, but had 283 pound-foot of torque, instead of 240. Better for cruising for sure. And that is what celebrities mostly did. Especially in roadsters that were (and still are) the sleekest sports cars to ever grace the face of the earth. After all, E-Type design came from Malcolm Sayer, an aeronautical engineer who previously worked on Le Mans’ winning C-Type and D-Type racers. No wonder this production beauty retained much of the aerodynamic sophistication.
“It is impossible to overstate the impact the E-Type had when it was unveiled in 1961,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar’s design director. “Here was a car that encapsulated the spirit of the revolutionary era it came to symbolize. The E-Type is a design that even today continues to inform the work we do in styling the Jaguars of the future.”
Series 1 cars, produced for seven years, reached a total output of 38,419 with 17,378 produced roadsters. Quite a remarkable feat at the time. With such a rich heritage, we aren’t even surprised some of the companies of today look to liven up the E-Type and offer a modern reincarnation of the famed sports car. A company called Eagle, based in East Sussex, Great Britain, recently unveiled the first produced Eagle Spyder GT. The company has been restoring and upgrading Jaguar E-Types to the highest standards for 30 years, and building compromise-free, “better than new” E-Types since 1995 known as Eagle E-Types. The Spyder is their fourth creation after the Eagle E-Type, Eagle Speedster and Eagle Low Drag GT, which were met with critical acclaim. The Spyder is based on the classic E-Type roadster but modernized and drizzled with modern technology. If we are to make a comparison, the Eagle Spyder GT is the closest thing Singer Porsche cars ever had to competition. As a restomod, costing roughly $875,000 at this point, the Eagle Spyder GT incorporates the sleek look of the roadster, modern suspension and quite throaty twin-cam, 4.7-liter Jaguar XK inline-six producing 330 horsepower and 340 pound-foot of torque.
Don’t think for a minute that Eagle is overpricing with this here. No, the whole car and every single piece on it are of a bespoke nature. The team in East Sussex crafted and mended it all together by hand to give us the most perfect reinterpretation of the E-Type roadster. Despite starting its life as an E-Type in desperate need of restoration, the finished product became a piece of beauty. And it does not even look exactly the same as the old car. Eagle gave it its own signature, really. The aluminum body has many more curvaceous lines with wider fenders, lower floor pan and special custom-built 16-inch wheels. The car did become lower, wider and beefier, but not ostentatious or pretentious. It’s just right! Like a gentleman.
The body only announces the changes underneath. Bespoke suspension setup includes double-wishbone hardware at the front and lower wishbones at the back. Supported by adjustable Öhlins shocks and anti-roll bars, as well as tires with modern compound, the Spyder GT can be a performer. It’s sharp, determined and nimble. After all, it stops thanks to modern AP Racing disc brakes. It wouldn’t feel out of place even on the racing track with its responsive five-speed manual transmission. Especially so because of its low weight. Tipping the scales at 2,269 pounds, the Eagle Spyder GT feels Lotus light. No wonder, as it does not have to satisfy the safety standards of today. It is a light machine despite that massive engine inside. Eagle kept the weight down by using aluminum and magnesium for many parts, such as the gearbox and differential casings, and installing an aluminum monocoque chassis. Obviously, it paid off.
When it comes to performance, the Eagle Spyder GT would easily outperform even the fastest E-Type. Officially, it’ll hit 60 miles per hour in under five seconds on its way to 170 miles per hour top speed. Obviously, it’s a tough choice! A classic, restored or well-preserved E-Type, or this astonishing restomod!? Yes, a classic E-Type Series 1 roadster is valuable, and models in pristine condition fetch a price of $250,000 or so. The Eagle is much more expensive but is rare, collectable and has proved to appreciate in value better than the original E-Type. And it won’t reach thousands of produced units. Not even a hundred. This is a highly limited production car. A part of a handmade bespoke community—artwork in its own right. Only six will see the sun. Ever.
Attribution: Eagle E-Type Spyder GT, Kent | Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.com