“Do I need it? No. Do I want it? More than my left leg,” said Jeremy Clarkson in a column he signed for the Sunday Times after driving the Eagle Speedster some years ago. While the Grand Tour presenter is known to inflate things in many of his reviews for dramatic or comedic effect, the Eagle really did deserve all the praise. Upon first glance, one could mistake it for a cheaply made replica but the Eagle is anything but.
With each example starting life as a real Series 1 E-Type, it’s no wonder the company claims the building process is incredibly painstaking as a small team of automotive craftsmen pours at least 8,000 man-hours into the completion of one single car.
By comparison, it takes Rolls Royce’s employees 10 times less to build one Phantom.
The latest E-Type for the 21st Century is, refreshingly, looking even less modern than the Speedster. Devoided of the rather large multi-spoke rims, replaced by steelie-lookalikes (the rims are actually bespoke magnesium units made to order), the Lightweight GT is a sight to behold. Less slippery than the “Low-drag GT”, another ode to racing E-Types done by Eagle, the Lightweight GT looks almost identical to Jaguar’s own ’continuation’ series of six Lightweight GTs, the difference being that Jag’s own new-old cars are built to match the original spec sheet while the Eagle is better in every area.
When Eagle began building improved versions of the E-Type, the company focused initially on making the Speedster. Then, after that, the “Low-drag GT” followed, a car based on the only two original Low-drag E-Types out of those 12 Lightweight chassis built in ’62-’63, the cars of Peter Linder and Peter Lumsden. With the tribute to the low-drag out of the way, Eagle now found the time to bow in front of the standard Lightweight model with the Lightweight GT which is the fourth model on offer, the third being the Spyder GT which is effectively a Speedster with a convertible top for added practicality.
Eagle’s Managing Director Paul Brace tells Carfection that the company started out as just another Jaguar E-Type specialist shop and that’s still part of the daily affairs, as it has been for the past two and a half decades – always catering to steel-bodied E-Types.
The Lightweight cars, on the other hand, were all-aluminum beasts with aluminum heads, fuel injection, five-speed boxes, and many other bits and bobs added to make them go fast on the tracks. The spirit of Sir William Lyons’ undertaking very much lives on the outside of Eagle’s interpretation of the Lightweight but, like in the case of the Low-drag GT, the car features a whole host of modern creature comforts on the inside including sound-deadening materials.
The body, too, is changed with the arches being slightly bigger in order to host larger profile tires and the inlet is also bigger. To add to all that, Eagle added a bit more rake to the windshield which, the company reckoned, was a bit too upright on the original design. This, of course, meant having a specialized company make bespoke windshields for Eagle, something that’s not new for a company whose each and every car is filled with unique components.
Going back to a Top Gear segment on the Speedster, Clarkson said the bespoke windows on it were worth about $19,000, and that was almost a decade ago so we can’t imagine how it could cost any less today.
It wouldn’t be surprising if it’d cost substantially more.
Underneath the gorgeous body is an inline-six engine with an aluminum block, a wide-angle head, and Weber carburetors instead of the original’s SU carburetors.
The engine’s capacity is enlarged to 4.7-liters, enough for an output of 380 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 375 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm.
It may not seem like much but this car weighs little over a ton (2,242 pounds to be precise) which is insanely low for a car with all the amenities you could think of on the inside. The weight saving is done by using all sorts of lightweight materials that, obviously, weren’t available in the ’60s such as magnesium (used for he diff casing, the box casing, exhaust, and many other things, if the customer wants it) or carbon fiber. Even the wheel spinners are lightweight, being made out of aluminum instead of steel like on the original. Brace says they’ve saved one kilo (2.2 pounds) of unsprung/rotating mass per wheel without sacrificing the rigidity of the spinner itself.
|Jaguar E-Type Series 1||Eagle E-Type|
|Engine:||3.8-liter XK inline six-cylinder, 4.2-liter XK inline six-cylinder||4.7-liter XK inline six-cylinder|
|Transmission:||four-speed manual, three-speed automatic||five-speed manual|
|Layout:||front-engine, RWD||front-engine, RWD|
|Horsepower:||265 hp at 5,500 rpm (3.8-liter), 265 hp at 5,400 rpm (4.2-liter)||380 hp at 5,750 rpm|
|Torque:||240 pound-feet (3.8-liter), 283 pound-feet (4.2-liter)||375 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm|
|0-to-60 mph:||6.5 seconds||less than 5 seconds|
|Top speed:||150 mph||more than 170 mph|
Now, you may be wondering to what extent do those creature comforts go inside the Lightweight GT. It’s a legitimate question but we don’t want to give it all away so we’re telling you this much: it even has a heated windscreen. Having said that, Brace underlines that the company tries to salvage as many original parts as possible and points to the suspension as being true to the old cars. The configuration is the same although the geometry has been tweaked because, as Paul says, when Jaguar switched from cross-ply tires to radials, its engineers never bothered to actually change the geometry of the suspension to accommodate for the change and that’s something that had to be done in order to extract every ounce of performance out of the modern rubber.
Add to that the fact that the suspension features bespoke Ohlins dampers and you can understand that these guys don’t mess around. And they can’t when you consider this 170 mph blast from the past that’s made to suit the needs of our modern lives costs a cool $1 million before you go in and start tweaking stuff to suit your tastes. Mind you, it’ll take a while because Eagle only employs a small number of people and, as Paul says, there’s no intention to increase the volume of cars being built. They, as well as each one of their customers, cherish this sort of exclusivity and you can see why after spending hours taking in all the details of these rolling works of art.