► First Jag from Reborn restoration programme
► As-new E-Types available from Jaguar Classic
► Priced at £295k – still want that 812 Superfast?
2018 might go down as the year the restomod went thermonuclear, as evidenced by Singer’s multi-million dollar DLS 911 project, but Jaguar’s rightly handling its illustrious past with a more sympathetic touch, offering authentic continuation D-Types and now this car, the Reborn E-Type.
There’s an important difference. A restomod is a classic car blessed with modern engineering; better to drive than the original ever was but ideologically and mechanically a hybrid. A continuation is a brand new car built to the original specification. And a Reborn Jaguar (or Land Rover; Series 1s and Range Rovers are also available) is an old E-Type so perfectly and accurately restored that, for a few subtle and invisible tweaks, it might have just landed from 1965.
That’s really quite pretty...
You’re not kidding. If previously you’ve never been quite convinced of the E-Type’s beauty, perhaps that’s because you were judging the necessarily longer, slightly awkward V12, perhaps even in Roadster form.
But the first Reborn E-Type is The One You Want; a Series 1 fixed-head coupe with the peerless 4.2-litre straight-six under the bonnet (an engine that saw frontline service for a full half century), mated to a four-speed manual gearbox.
In the metal, late summer sunshine dancing on its chrome detailing as a cloudless sky’s reflected in that preposterously long and shapely bonnet, this E-Type is breathtakingly pretty, a dreamy confection of curves so shapely it seems implausible that its surfaces were ever flat sheet.
Bizarrely, the car’s sheer beauty goes on being a factor as you drive, even when your only view of its exterior is the bonnet tumbling away before your eyes. Pedestrians smile spontaneously. DPD delivery drivers throw their vans into the ditch to let you by. Other traffic doesn’t know what to do with itself, since continuing on its way so totally distracted by your car seems unsafe.
Is the Jaguar Reborn E-Type roomy inside?
Ah, no. Not so much. The downside of the E-Type’s otherwise alluring tininess is the cramped cockpit which, for all its fabulous detailing – the leather-lined boot (below) and rear hatch are particularly delicious, as is Jaguar Classic’s nifty modern head unit, which looks period but boasts DAB radio, a USB interface and diminutive sat-nav screen – feels less like sitting in a car and more like wearing a suit, one that’s either nicely tailored or simply too small, depending on your build.
You’ll want the window open for your right elbow, ballerina pumps are ideal for the closely-set pedals and your head will, if you’re close to 6ft tall, wear the headlining like a swimming cap.
But who cares? Turn on the ignition, push the start button, help the six along with a little throttle and bask in an engine that immediately feels potent.
It can’t be as a good to drive as it is to look at, surely! Just buy it and look at it in your front room, like a Rothko?
You could, but you’d be missing out. I’ll be honest – I didn’t go in expecting much. I’ve a little flying time in classic cars and plenty on classic motorcycles, and the dynamic experience is rarely enjoyable by any objective measure. Fun, sure, and life-affirming if you get a good one, but old brakes don’t stop as well as new ones, just as old structures don’t resist wobble as effectively as well as stiffer, CAD-designed new bodyshells.
But the E-Type is a blast, and a reminder that in its day the thing was a revelation; an engineering marvel like the iPod or Concorde.
I drive with Jaguar Classic’s Continuations Manager, Kevin Riches, and he urges me to put aside all thoughts of going easy on the old (new?) girl.
The straight-six is an engine quite unlike today’s boosted, digitally-managed, short-stroke performance units. Long of stroke and generous of capacity, it’s effortlessly powerful, able to smartly send the car up the road on a prod of the throttle or a crescendo of revs; however you want.
In a village Riches encourages me to take the car down to well south of 800rpm in fourth before getting back on the power. There isn’t so much as a murmur of complaint. The E-Type pulls without hesitation, even against a slope, its (retro-fitted) electronic ignition and carbs doing their jobs perfectly.
Is the Jaguar Reborn E-Type quick?
When you do open it up? Oh my. The gearbox, once learned, is a pleasure, even if its long forward throws see your knuckles grazing the dash. The engine’s mellow until 3000rpm, whereupon a haunting wail joins the orchestra of noise that blossoms right up to 6000rpm or so. It's highly addictive.
And the E-Type’s fast, as you’d expect given its weight and power figures aren’t dissimilar to those of Alpine’s rightly lauded A110. In a straight line it’ll pass dawdlers without hesitation, and point-to-point its fine handling, surprisingly taut steering and strong brakes (discs all round) will soon see you enjoying yourself.
In a break in the traffic, a fine set of dry, smooth corners looms ahead. Sensing my hesitation, Riches urges me not to brake but to gently accelerate. I grasp the gorgeous wooden rim a little tighter, feel it take up the slack and, as the car rolls just a little in an entirely measured and reassuring way, power through the sweeping set of bends with a mile-wide grin plastered across my besotted face.
You feel pulses of feedback through the pencil-slim wheel rim, just as your inputs through it are faithfully fed to the front wheels – a mechanical and wholly absorbing feedback loop. I’ve been allocated half an hour but insist on endlessly missing turnings to surreptitiously extend it.
The Reborn project is an interesting endeavour, one that offers a classic driving experience without much of the associated stress, worry and drip-dripping expense. Commission an E-Type and Jaguar will source the donor car, set the price and, should the build strike expensive bumps in the road, it will take the fiscal pain. Modifications are minor and focused primarily on solving the issue of the E-Type’s marginal cooling (an uprated fan, a bigger alternator to power it and a triple-core radiator) and, for all the work that goes in, the end result remains a classic E-Type, not a facsimile.
Comparing contemporary cars of a similar value feels futile. This or a Ferrari 812 Superfast? In all honestly, much as I love the V12 Ferrari, probably this. But you won’t win trackdays in it, and neither will it scramble your senses with its mechanical fury. Ultimately though, that’s the point. Half a century old it may be but its Reborn E-Type feels like a performance car more in tune with 2018’s driving environment.
More Jaguar reviews by CAR magazine