Every so often we are treated to the notion that “old is gold”. Maybe Fender will rerelease an obscure model, maybe the Rolling Stones will decide to do another final tour. Occasionally, automakers will bring back a vintage nameplate — and the end result always seems to be a half-hearted attempt at retro-inspired design, an attempt to sell cars with the help of a brand’s faded glory. But occasionally we’re treated to something incredibly special, something more reissue than rehash. Jaguar’s “new” E-Type Lightweight is a perfect example.
Jaguar-Land Rover aren’t releasing the new E-Types on a lark or for a shameless cash grab; their cars are among the first cars from the automaker’s new Special Operations division, a branch that will specialize in historic, bespoke and halo cars. Originally, Jaguar planned for a run of 18 Lightweights back in the ’60s, but only got around to producing 12, leaving six chassis codes unused. It seems then that Jaguar has used the new division to take care of some unfinished business. Better late than never.
Since the new E-Types are being built to continue the production of the original Lightweight, Jag is pulling no punches when it comes to authenticity. Rest assured, they aren’t updated versions of classics like Singer’s 911 or Eagle’s own interpretation of the E-Type. Every aspect of the new Lightweights will mimic the originals, from the 340 horsepower, 3.8-liter aluminum block straight-six with 280 lb-ft of torque, to the obligatory wood-trimmed steering wheel. But this dedication to originality is most apparent in the car’s aluminum bodywork.
See, in the several decades that followed the production of the original Lightweights, the production process for making aluminum alloy has advanced, making the metal both stronger and lighter. While this improvement in construction is good for the increasing number of new cars using the alloy, it’s bad for authenticity. For that reason, Jaguar decided to forego using modern aluminum in favor of a more inferior, but more accurate ’60s-era alloy. As it turns out, Jaguar needed to use the ’60s-era metal to conform to FIA standards for historic race cars; the alloy makes up everything from the outer panels to more minuscule and unseen components of the car’s construction.
What’s truly amazing is that the E-Type Lightweight is an entirely Jaguar effort. Smaller, niche companies like Icon Motorsports and the aforementioned Eagle have been breathing new life into classics for years, but this is the first time the actual manufacturer has concentrated on building new models of old cars. Jaguar has set aside the modern machines used in the production of their current sports cars and sedans, instead utilizing old-school techniques to craft the new Lightweights. Sure: original Lightweights were laser scanned to create computer renderings; but for the construction itself, Jag went to great lengths to find expert craftsmen who could hand pound aluminum into complex body panels.
Sure: original Lightweights were laser scanned to create computer renderings; but for the construction itself, Jag went to great lengths to find expert craftsmen who could hand pound aluminum into complex body panels.
But while Jaguar was fastidious in creating true recreations of the old cars, they did take the opportunity to make a couple improvements. Since the original Lightweights were made to customer specifications, Jag’s designers had an array of different details to consider for the new line. Some cars had extra headlamps for endurance races; some didn’t even have side mirrors; some had wider wheels. Because all six new E-Types will be entirely track focused (obviously they don’t meet modern street safety regulations), details like bigger wheels and hood and roof scoops for better cooling were included. Though Jaguar didn’t have to conform to modern safety and emission regulations, they did strengthen the chassis as a courtesy to the drivers for increased safety in case of a wreck.
Unfortunately for regular folk, all six E-Types have been sold at varying prices between $1.65 and $2.47 million. Though we will never get the chance to own or even drive one, Jaguar has only sold the Lightweights to notorious Jaguar collectors and avid vintage racers who have agreed to bring the cars to public events. But even if we only get to see these new cars at events like Goodwood and Pebble Beach, the fact that Jag’s Special Operations division decided to take on such an ambitious project bodes well for the company’s new skunk works. Expect to see the same level of detail, craftsmanship and passion that went into the Lightweight to grace future special editions and halo products from the storied British brand.
Engine: 3.8L XK six-cylinder
Horsepower: 300+ bhp
Torque: 280 lb-ft
Curb weight: 2,205 pounds
Total number being produced: 6