Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type, the Swiss firm Classic Factory unveiled its Growler concept car. Intended as a modern version of the classic sports car, the concept was so well received that a new car-making company, Lyonheart Cars Ltd. has been opened in Coventry, U.K., for the purpose of turning out a limited run of the production version of the Growler - the Lyonheart K.
Creating an E-type for the 21st century (especially without the participation of Jaguar) is setting the bar high ... as in, you'd need a ladder to get over it. The Jaguar E-type is such a classic, such a mind-numbingly beautiful car, some might argue that it was responsible for the decline of the British motor car industry. When it was unveiled in 1961, it's easy to imagine car-makers going back to their own car production lines, laying their heads on the workbench and saying "what's the point?".
The E-type was one of the all-time classic cars. Brought into the world at a time when European car makers were putting out futuristic designs and the Americans were making their cars look like spaceships, the E-type hit exactly the right mix of the old and the new with its monocoque body, engine bonnet that seemed to go on forever and passenger cabin that looked as if it was hanging on for dear life. There was such an air of pure art to it that even the engine was beautiful, and it was no slouch when you pressed the starter. It's independent suspension is legendary and it could do 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in 7.1 seconds with a top speed of 150 mph (242 km/h). Unlike many high-performance cars, you could drive it at 10 mph without feeling like it was trying to rattle your fillings out of your teeth. In 14 years of production 70,000 cars were produced, which is remarkable when you consider how notoriously unreliable it was.
Doing credit to that isn't easy, but the Lyonheart K can't be faulted for trying. It is a gorgeous car that echoes the E-type's lines without slavishly following them. It has the same landing-deck bonnet, though the K has slits in it, so you can catch a tantalizing glimpse of the manifold. It even has the same bulge down the middle that now continues across the roof. The K is a bit more angular than the E-type and the cab is longer and roomier, but the design heritage is definitely noticeable.
The Lyonheart K has wire wheels for that E-type touch, but they're bolted to an all-aluminum chassis with carbon-fiber body panels, bonnet and doors with aluminum side-impact beams. There's also double wishbone front-suspension with electronic dampers, multi-link rear suspension with electronic dampers, an active differential and speed-sensitive power steering along with Adaptive Dynamics, which analyses speed, steering and body movements up to 500 times a second. Then there's the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) that cuts in as soon as it detects wheel slippage and a deployable rear spoiler.
There's even dual petrol fillers, so you don't have to remember which side of the pump to park at.
It's not a perfect looking car, by any means. The headlamps, for example, have more of an "I'd rather be an Aston Martin" look to them and the passenger cab doesn't quite fit and has too soft an appearance as if the designers didn't want to startle anyone.
Softness is the watchword for the interior as well. Opening the door reveals lots of leather, wool carpets, electric seats with so many settings that you may never get away from the curb, a 7-inch high-resolution touch screen, the usual audio-video and sat nav goodies and you get a choice of wood veneers. It's no surprise, then that there's even matching leather trim in the boot.
So it's comfy, but what about performance? The K sports a 5-liter supercharged V8 engine with 32 valves and variable-inlet camshaft phasing that cranks out 550 bhp. It does 0 to 60 mph (100 km/h) in 3.7 seconds and it's maximum speed is electronically limited to 186 mph (300 km/h). Fuel efficiency is rated at 24 mpg (9.8 liters/100 km) and it weighs in at 3500 lb (1575 kg). As to how it handles, that has yet to be seen.
Lyonheart sees the K as the continuation of the tradition of British craftsmanship and top-end car making. It was designed, developed and hand-built in Coventry using only British-made parts. The company has made such an effort to make the K British that it probably runs on warm beer as well as petrol.
"We want to make the 'Made In England' label into a truthful concept, not just a statement': says Robert Palm, CEO of Classic Factory. "Every part of the Lyonheart K is developed, engineered and hand-built in England. The design clues of the Lyonheart K reflect Britishness at its best: cool, elegant, refined, understated yet powerful and dynamic."
All of this comes with a price that's usually associated with American budget deficits. In the case of the Lyonheart K, it's (sit down, please) EUR495,000 (US$655,529, GPB418,572). To say that's a long way from the Jaguar E-type's GPB1,600 in 1961, is like saying that it's a bit of a walk from Calais to Vladivostok.
Whether the K is worth it remains an open question. The delivery time for the first cars is 18 months.
Source: Lyonheart Cars.