Jaguar has always been an obsession of mine. My uncle Derek worked for Henly's in their glamorous glass and marble showroom at 88 Piccadilly. We used to visit him there, and he would let my brother and I climb in and out of the cars, stand on the car lift that took you down to the workshop, and collect the car brochures. I remember sitting in the first XJS, it blew my mind, as we had a Morris Marina Coupé at the time.
Uncle Derek would always take us, with our cousins, to the Earls Court Motor Show. He'd drive his "Dolly Sprint" (Dolomite Sprint) too fast, and we'd all roll around in the back, or stand on the seats and hang out of the full length Webasto sunroof, waving at people. Because his cars were all new they smelt nice, and he always had a flip-top box of tic tac mints in the car. We loved going out with Uncle Derek–he was fun, he still is; my kids think he's great too.
Uncle Derek loves Jags. If you lived in London and bought a Jag in the 60s through to the early 80s, there's a good chance you bought it from my Uncle Derek. He's now 83 years old, and he can still remember number plates of the cars he sold, and to whom.
So, when I was invited to be at the unveiling of the Stratstone Lightweight E-Type, I felt like that little boy again, going to see a new Jaguar.
I picked up Andy Hunt-Cooke, who runs the Jaguar business at the Ad Agency Spark 44, and we headed off to Stratstone of Mayfair.
The story of how this Lightweight E-type exists demonstrates the obsessive mentality of the new Land Rover Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations division. The lightweight story begins in February 1963, when Jaguar intended to build 18 ‘Special GT E-type’ race cars. However, they only built 12 of the 18, delivering them to the Browns Lane competitions department between 1963 and 1964. This gave rise to the infamous ‘Missing Six’. These missing chassis numbers: 13 to 18, were found in a hand written ledger in 2014.
The modern incarnation of the Lightweight saw Jaguar Classic draw both on the company’s original 1960s tooling and production methods, and its unique, highly experienced engineering and design resources. Replete with world-leading aluminium body technology and skilled hand craftsmanship, the six-cylinder XK engine with its aluminium block, wide angle aluminium cylinder head and dry sump lubrication (derived from the Le-Mans winning D-type of the 1950s), the 2015 Lightweight E-type is original and very special, as Jaguar Classic won't be making anymore. This is it; they've used all the original eighteen chassis numbers.
The cars are delivered as period competition vehicles, fully compliant with FIA homologation for historic motorsport purposes. All of the ‘Missing Six’ are built to period-exact dimensions and specifications, ensuring absolute authenticity and a modern-day build to the highest quality standards. The obsessive attention to detail is truly amazing.
After a short but pleasantly informative presentation, the car was revealed; and what a beautiful machine it is. It quite literally stuns you when you see it; I felt a little giddy. Once you've recovered from the sheer awe of its presence, you start to see the meticulous detailed work that's created such a wonderful car. You start to point and say, "Oh, look at that bit."
It's such a shame that these cars aren't street legal so that more people could have the opportunity to experience them. Unfortunately, it's believed that the majority of the "Missing Six" are likely to remain missing as they've been snapped up by collectors, possibly never to be seen again.
However, the great thing about this car is that it's going to be seen and driven at events to represent Stratstone and their passion for Jaguar. There's also a possibility that it could be campaigned in historic races, which is what these cars are really all about. We all need to see and hear these cars being driven hard and fast: it's why they were built in the first place. They were built for Gentleman Racers.
Here's a short film of the unveiling: you can spot Andy and I being a little too excited in the background.
Here's a Jaguar Heritage film of one of the "Missing Six" in action.
The Obsessive would like to thank the team at Stratstone of Mayfair for inviting us, and a special thank you to the Head of Marketing at Pendragon, Victoria Finn, for answering our endless questions about number 15.
It's a shame that Uncle Derek wasn't able to be at the event, as he would've loved it. I called him to tell him about the evening, and he said, "It's great to have Jag back on top of the world." He also loves Ferraris: once a petrolhead, always a petrolhead.