In May, Jaguar announced that it was making up for lost time by building the remaining six of the 18 Lightweight or Special GT E-Types that were originally planned in 1963. That turns out to be more than just talk, because the newly-completed prototype Car Zero of the new run is having its public début at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in California.
Built in 1963 as a limited edition by the Jaguar competition department, the Lightweight E-Type was a stripped-down version of the legendary E-Type aimed at the racing crowd. Though 18 were scheduled, only 12 were built before production stopped and only 11 are believed to still be in existence. In the spirit of better late than never, Jaguar will assign the six chassis numbers reserved in 1963 for a half dozen cars to be built with the same specifications, materials, and methods used half a century ago.
As a first step, prototype Car Zero will première on August 14 at the opening reception of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The vehicle was hand built by Jaguar Heritage, a part of Jaguar Special Operations, at its new facility at Browns Lane, England, where the original E-Types were made. The replica production vehicles that follow it will be sold as period competition vehicles and will conform to FIA homologation for historic motorsport purposes.
The recreation of the continuation Lightweight E-Type was completed with the help of the Jaguar Design team, which helped with the original plans. Jaguar chose to ignore the last half century of technical innovation in favor of remaining true to the original design, such as using the original 1963 grade of aluminum instead of its modern counterpart.
Jaguar says that even though many modern improvements would not have been noticeable, the decision was made to use 1960s materials and methods even for invisible places like internal frames. In part, this was because such improvements would have violated FIA homologation.
The team scanned the inner and outer surfaces of a surviving Lightweight E-Type body shell to create a visual map. This will provide a benchmark against which to judge how accurate the recreated continuation E-Types are, as well as making sure that the car is properly symmetrical and that all the individual parts will fit together properly. This is particularly important because each of the six hand-built production cars will have their own individual variations.
The team also tested the design, material, and construction techniques on the Car Zero prototype, which was also used for test runs. However, the prototype is not one of the six to be sold. Instead, it will become part of the permanent collection of the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust.
Like the original Lightweight E-Type, the reproductions will sport an aluminum unibody with a stiffened front sub-frame designed for race engines above 300 bhp, and weighs 250 lbs (114 kg) less than the production version E-type of 1963. In fact, aluminum is used wherever possible to save weight, including the doors, boot lid, bonnet, hardtop, chassis, and engine block.
Also like the original, the engine is a classic six-cylinder wide-angle cylinder head, 4-liter XK with dry sump lubrication, lightweight low-inertia flywheel, and chain-driven dual overhead camshafts introduced in 1948 in the Jaguar XK 120. It punches 340 bhp (253.5 kW) and 280 lb ft (380 Nm) of torque into the 4-speed fully synchronized close-ratio gearbox with a single dry-plate clutch. If it does as well as the original, the new E-Type could do 170 mph (274 km/h) on the track.
Up front, there’s the double wishbone suspension with LWE torsion bars and upgraded anti-roll bar, while in the back is the independent rear suspension with standard E-type rear springs and uprated shock absorber assemblies.
Since this is a repro Lightweight E-Type, the interior is simple with Car Zero’s left largely unpainted to show off the aluminum bodywork. To make up for it, there’s Connolly leather supplied by Jonathan Connolly that uses hides of 1963 specification and carefully selected and treated to match the original trim. And, of course, there's the traditional wood-rimmed steering wheel.
"Special Operations’ remit is to indulge our most discerning and enthusiastic customers’ passion for our cars – including those from our past," says John Edwards, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations. "This is why our Jaguar Heritage division exists, and why the new Lightweight E-Type is such an incredibly exciting project. The E-Type is an iconic car, and the Lightweight E-Type the most desirable of all. To be able to complete the intended production run of 18, some 50 years after the last Lightweight was completed, was an opportunity we couldn't miss."