With the much anticipated arrival of the all new Jaguar F-type next month, a well warranted reflection on the car that it ‘unofficially’ replaces is due. And I make absolutely no apology for it.
The Jaguar E-Type will celebrate its 52nd birthday this year and hasn’t she aged well. A combination of high performance, superior luxury and timeless beauty made the E-Type the unparalleled choice for the discerning gentlemen in the 70’s and 80’s. If you’re lucky you might still see the sleek silhouette of the E-Type gracefully gliding along a British B-road. Although, in the 21st century its day of dominating traffic light grand Prix’s are at an end. Its performance levels can be matched by pumped up hot hatches and family saloons but its looks most certainly cannot. There is very little on the road today or to have ever been manufactured that can hold a candle to the svelte and voluptuous lines of the E-Type. You look at any ‘Top 100 cars’ or ‘most beautiful cars’ list and you can bet your mortgage the E-type will most certainly be there, if not at the top. Frank Sinatra, George Best and Steve McQueen all had E-types and it’s little wonder.
Throughout its 13 years in production three models rolled off the production line, the Series I, Series II and Series III. Choosing between them would be like asking a mother to choose between her children, impossible. Cosmetically, very little changed between them, each just as beautiful as the last. The Series I housed a triple carburetted 3.8-litre straight six capable of propelling the E-Type to 62mph in 7.1sec, this was in 1961 however, that figure may have taken a slight knock since. Four years into its production, engine size increased to 4.2-litres and a 2+2 version of the coupe was introduced in 1967.
Distinguishing features of the Series II introduced in 1969 were glassless headlamps, a wrap-around rear bumper and repositioned tail lights below the bumper. The Series II only had a life span of three years, production ending in 1971 with over 18,000 E-Types being sold.
It’s with the Series III where the biggest changes cosmetically and mechanically were made. Beneath the skin the old 4.2-litre straight six was traded in for an all-new 5.3-litre V12 producing 272BHP, the brakes had been uprated and power steering was fitted as standard. The flared wheel arches and cross-slatted front grille as well as the V12 badge on the back signified this E-Type as the Series III and the last model to roll of the production line.
More too it than meets the eye
It’s with the E-Type Series III where Jaguar ended and where I shall stay. It’s been 40 years since an E-type was last seen in a Jaguar showroom but occasionally a very brave sole, with deep pockets and a deep desire attempts to bring the E-Type back to its former glory. David Foggin was one of those courageous enough to take the plunge and I went along to see it in the flesh.
A sleepy little village in Newcastle Upon Tyne was the destination. I pulled up to the address and without any warning, there it was. Beauty personified, sitting low in gun-metal grey, sloping rear end, lashings of chrome and the arrow-like nose housing that glorious V12. Nothing I had ever seen in magazines or at motor shows came close to visual pleasure of this E-Type. Yet what I didn’t realise is that there was so much more to this car than its knockout looks. Behind the hypnotic exterior lay a story and an immense journey.
Manufactured on March 22, 1972 it first found a home in Dallas Texas through a British Leyland dealership in New York. The owner requested wire wheels, air conditioning and the gun-metal paintjob, something which were only offered to special order. After 14 years the E-Type made its way to east to Decatur, Arkansas and so began the fall out between it and its owner. Three years later in 1989 and with an engine that wasn’t running the Jag was shipped to Munchen, Germany by Raushen British Sports Cars at the cost of 39,000 DM – approximately £15,000 to £20,000.
The documentation shows it was stored in Germany for almost 12 years when it finally made its way to the North-east of England in 2002. It’s forth owner then restarted the postponed restoration project and with the aid of Jaguar specialists started to rebuild the V12 engine. Over the next five years work on the E-Type slowly began to gain momentum until the bad health of its owner in 2007 forced the restoration to stop once again. Up to this point invoices show almost £17,000 had been spent on reviving the E-Type with £6,000 being spent on the engine rebuild, £2,600 on the exhaust system, £3,500 on a respray and £3,000 on the interior.
In 2011 the Jag found a home with its current owner, David Foggin. With the help of close friends and experts the restoration and revival of the E-Type was completed within a year. A further £15,000 had been spent perfecting its appearance and changing almost every nut and bolt. David has folders full of recites and order slips for everything that has been done to the Jag. Washers, pipes, filters, rubber seals, rivets, there’s very little on the car that hasn’t been replaced or improved and from the pictures you have to agree there’s little argument to suggest he cut corners.
Behind the wheel… sort of
Due to factors beyond my control – age and insurance – and partly down to the fact you really wouldn’t want anybody driving your priceless E-Type Jag other than yourself, I was restricted only to a passenger ride but it was already more than I was expecting. Clambering over the wide passenger sills, you sit low, comically low. Renault Clio’s become giants. Originally being an American import its left hand drive, initially sitting on the right hand side without a steering wheel in front of me is slightly perturbing but after a few moments it isn’t an issue. The interior is garbed completely in sumptuous red leather and all the original switches and fittings are in place, all working. The original dash cocoons the passengers and the thin pillars make for an encompassment of glass, illuminating the chrome detailing. There’s enough room for two in the back, it may be slightly crammed but could you think of a better place to be uncomfortable?
After a few pre-flight checks, the big cat purrs into life with a spit and a snarl. A deep burble bellows from the chrome tipped quad-exhausts at the back, coaxing us into exploring what she’s still capable of. Having only recently finished the restoration, this will be the longest journey the Jag will have done in over 20 years so we can forgive it for minor hiccups here and there.
We pull out of the driveway, the V12 soundtrack resonating in the cabin. Being LHD it seemed a little awkward and nervy at junctions but once on the move it became no such problem. The E-Type soaked up the lumps and bumps of the British B-road and handled the motorway with ease. With the restoration still being relatively fresh and fragile, David was understandably reluctant to open the taps but it was never necessary. Cursing at 50mph in the E-Type is just as much of an experience as hurtling along at 150mph; you don’t need to drive history at 150. My verdict as to what it’s like to drive is limited since I wasn’t able to get behind the wheel but being in the E-Type was such a visceral experience I didn’t really need to. You could feel everything connecting, hear everything moving and smell everything working. But best of all, all of this automotive history and beauty can be yours. Remarkably David is willing to let this svelte and slender coupé go for the right price. What is that price? Nobody quite knows, but he’s open to offers.
One thing is for sure though, that Jaguar F-Type has got some pretty big shoes to fill.
Contact David Foggin
call: 07836 339115