Rare Jaguar Beauties

Get behind the wheel of a meticulously refurbished E-Type

BY MICHAEL FRANK — Spring 2018

intage Jaguar E-types, in production from 1961 to 1975, are rolling works of art, every bit as collectible as vintage Ferraris or Fabergé eggs. You can find them for roughly $300,000 in great shape — and now they’re going up in value even more because collectors who might have had to baby other vintage cars have embraced these tougher E-Types. You can drive them hard, like a modern sports car, and they’ll reward you with lively, sharp handling and a top speed of 150 mph. This past summer, Jaguar-Land Rover invested roughly $10 million in a new, 150,000-square-foot restoration facility it calls the Classic Works Division in Coventry, England, for the express purpose of buying up old Land Rovers, Range Rovers, and Jaguars, refurbishing them 100 percent, and reselling them. What’s that got to do with the E-Type?

Well, this year, this new operation starts issuing small-batch runs of ultraexclusive cars, dubbed Legends Reborn. The 2018 Legends Reborn car? A $380,000 E-Type called the E-Type Project Zero, so named because Classic Works will convert it from gasoline to electric drive, and thus it will produce zero emissions. The group will restore fewer than 50 of these cars.

Naturally, before you lay your money down, you want to know all the devilish details of how Classic Works’ 120 staff members go about their curative process. Us, too. So we paid them a visit to highlight how these classic autos benefit from the exhaustive program.

WHY CONSIDER A RESTORED CLASSIC?

They’re faster: An electrically powered E-Type sounds like heresy — similar to painting a Mark Rothko over a da Vinci. But never fear: Classic Works’ ingenious conversion to electric power can be reversed; buyers can return their car to gasoline power, nesting the car’s original 3.8- or 4.2-liter in-line six right back into place beneath the hood. Meanwhile, the car will handle just like the original, since the electric conversion retains the original car’s exact weight balance. Also note: The Project Zero weighs 101 pounds less than the original, so its 5.3-second zero-to-60-mph time means the newborn E-Type accelerates more quickly than the 1968 original.

They’re painstakingly assembled: Tim Hannig, Classic Works’ director, explains that as part of the 10,000-man-hour restoration process, technicians completely take apart each vehicle. Every part, from the chrome door handles to the carpeting, will be either overhauled or replaced. Then, truly taking matters to the nth degree, Hannig’s team will reassemble the car “dry,” meaning without paint, and let the body settle for weeks. At this point, all panels will be readjusted so every shut line of the door and hood fits perfectly. Once engineers are satisfied that everything works to precision, they disassemble the car again, send its respective parts to Jaguar’s paint shop, and only then are the parts returned for final assembly.

They’re reconditioned responsibly: Hannig says that whether it’s acid bathing body parts or sanding metal until it’s bare, “all of the stripping is done as the car is apart.” The reason? If you leave the car assembled, residual dust and harmful chemicals would remain in the chassis, so even though it looks clean it would be constantly leaching these toxins, exposing the car’s owner.

They’re true to their heritage: Two of Classic Works’ master leather crafters have been with the company for more than 40 years, and they’re now overseeing the restoration of leather seats in cars they originally built. “We have hundreds of years of expertise here,” Hannig says, and when it comes to leather, “we want the original leather patina, the vintage look, but we have to entirely rebuild what’s underneath.” Do that, he says, “and the result is this gorgeous product, because you have vintage hides that look like the best club chair you could imagine, yet beneath that is this light, ultrasupportive, modern structure.”

Up Next

The Project Zero not for you? Stay tuned. Classic Works plans to release an exceedingly limited run of Jaguar D-Types late this year. Jaguar produced fewer than 100 of the Le Mans-winning race cars between 1954 and 1957. The expected price: more than $1 million.

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