► Review of E-type documentary
► Jag builds six new Lightweights
► Full backstage access in C4 doc
Channel 4 has broadcast a special documentary charting the build process of six new Lightweight E-types on Thursday 28 May 2015.
Inside Jaguar: Making a Million Pound Car follows the painstaking ground-up construction of the new coupes in Browns Lane, using six unallocated chassis numbers for the original racing E-types back in the 1960s.
Weighing 114kg less than the regular coupes, the Lightweights were ruthlessly stripped-out, focused racers and Jaguar's nascent Special Operations skunkworks has spent the past year building six new 'old' cars using period craftsmanship - half a century after the original dozen Lightweights took to the track. It's a project of beauty but also of controversy, for not all in the classic car world are welcoming Lightweights #13-18.
Backstage in project Lightweight E-type
Channel 4 was granted special access to the Lightweight programme and the cameras follow product development boss Martyn Hollingsworth and his team as they track down the original blueprints and tools to make the Lightweight dream a reality. It's a fascinating journey, seeing a company that's become more reliant on robots than human skill reconnect with its roots, bashing out aluminium panels by hand, promoting their sole surviving leather stitcher and trekking to Newcastle in the north-east of England to find the only tooling capable of rolling the voluptuous E-type bonnet in period detail.
The labour of love is evident: even tiny blemishes in panels and paintwork are sent back for rework - vital when Jaguar is charging around £1.2 million for each of these new Lightweights - and we're given insight into why the matching Bremont watch and exclusive luggage set are so important at this hyper-premium end of the marketplace. Fans of old cars and fastidious attention to detail will love watching Jag's artisans crafting period piping for the hand-stitched leather and we're granted an audience with one of the six lucky customers chosen by Jaguar: a successful American businessman, he's openly excited about his new purchase and promises to use it, race it and drive it every day rather than lock it away as an investment.
Presenting the action is Mark Evans, the vet turned petrolhead TV presenter who is clearly passionate about the subject matter. While the show's production values may be a peg or two lower than the currently defunct Wilman-era Top Gear, Evans has a good rapport with the men (and they are all men) behind the project and it's impressive to see him tackle head-on the thorny subject of the new Lightweight E-types' provenance.
Should Jaguar meddle with history?
One of the best clips in the show is when he visits the Goodwood Members' Meeting and the owner of original #01 explains why the newcomers shouldn't be allowed to race as they are essentially brand new cars. And in a fascinating interview with Lord March, the earl and historic motorsport bigwig dismisses the 2015 Lightweights as 'replicas' and says they wouldn't be welcome to race at Goodwood.
But this isn't to denigrate the worth of the new E-types. They're beautifully crafted machines, a stunning reminder of where Jaguar's come from - and a sign that the current leadership know the value of its heritage. What Special Ops does next, and how it deploys the evident skill it possesses, will be a fascinating tale. We hope the next documentary in years to come will show Jaguar diverging from the Germanic M, AMG, RS norm and plotting an original trajectory for future enthusiast specials.
Inside Jaguar: Making a Million Pound Car aired in the UK on Channel 4 on Thursday 28 May 2015 at 9.00pm.