Jaguar may have built its reputation on finely-crafted luxury saloons and stylish sports cars that capture the imagination as well as deliver performance in that quintessentially British way—always refined but still capable of mixing it with the best.
But Jaguar also has a rich motorsport heritage coursing through its veins; its history is filled with stories of cars built for both road and track. And no other car encapsulates that essence more than the E-Type, arguably the most famous and iconic Jaguar of all time.
While most will remember the E-Type as a gorgeous automotive art piece from the 1960s, it is often forgotten that the E-Type is also very much a competitive sports car in its own right. And to remind us all once again, Jaguar has revived a special version of its legendary car, rebuilt to original specifications to be enjoyed by a new generation of enthusiasts today.
The story of the Lightweight E-Type begins in February 1963, with the creation of the ‘Special GT E-Type’ project. The intention was to build a limited run of race cars based upon the standard E-Type road car, and it was decided that 18 units would be the magical number, ensuring that only an exclusive group of Jaguar customers would get to take this unique creation out onto the race tracks.
Eventually, however, only 12 cars were completed by the time Jaguar decided to call time on the project in 1964, and the remaining six Lightweight E-Type chassis numbers had laid dormant for over half a century. Until now, that is.
Jaguar Classic, part of Jaguar’s Special Operations division, announced in 2014 that it would rebuild the ‘missing’ six Lightweight E-Types as per the car’s original specifications detailed back in 1963. Employing a combination of modern and classic techniques, the ‘new’ Jaguar Lightweight E-Type is a unique creation that will stand alongside its original counterparts as among the rarest cars of its kind in the world.
Aluminium features heavily in the creation of the Lightweight E-Type, hence its name. The body shell is crafted entirely in the material, allowing it to shed some 114kg over the standard E-Type. It also means the Lightweight E-Type was a precursor of sorts, with aluminium now forming a big part in the construction of Jaguar cars today. As a result, there was no shortage of expertise when it came to rebuilding the Lightweight E-Type of today.
Jaguar however took the decision not to incorporate modern materials and methods when it came to the recreation of the Lightweight E-Type, as it wanted to ensure that its status as an authentic classic was maintained. Instead, technology was used to determine how to best recreate the car as faithfully as the originals, while at the same time making sure that the car was built to the highest quality where possible.
The Lightweight E-Type was completely hand-built at Jaguar’s Browns Lane facility in Coventry, England, and runs on a highly-developed version of the straight-six that powered the regular E-Types. In this iteration, which was also used in the Jaguar C and D-Type racers in the 1950s, the engine features chain-driven twin overhead camshafts and an aluminium head with hemispherical combustion chambers, features which were highly advanced in its time.
The engine block too was built from aluminium for further weight savings, and customers were given a choice of having the engine with either three 45DCO3 Weber carburettors, or a Lucas mechanical fuel injection system. Either way, the result is an output of over 345bhp and 380Nm of torque, offering plenty of performance in a car weighing just a ton.
While the ‘new’ Lightweight E-Type has been rebuilt for the new century, Jaguar has strived to ensure that the car remains as true to its original heritage as possible. From the wooden steering wheel and period-correct Dunlop racing tyres, to the unpainted aluminium interior sections such as the floorpan and sills, the ‘new’ Lightweight E-Type is as authentic as it can get, bearing nearly no difference to the originals that left Jaguar’s factory back in 1963. And for the lucky six owners, which includes Mr S K Quek from Singapore, they will receive a truly legendary piece of automotive history.
Jaguar Lightweight E-Type
Engine: 3,868cc, straight-six, naturally-aspirated
Torque: 380Nm @ 4,500rpm
Gearbox: 4-speed manual
Top Speed: NA
Fuel Efficiency: NA