OK, I admit it; this Blog is a cheat because the car featured is not mine.
But it is a Jaguar and it is a very patinated dark green example, similar in many ways to my old XK 140. The E-type you see here belongs to American-based Gary Bartlett’s and it is a totally original 1966 4.2-litre FHC. That’s not dealer speak for original, but properly original with original paint as applied at the factory in ’66, original black leather interior, original engine, gearbox and running gear.
Gary bought the car from its first owner, a GM engineer in his hometown, who did just 15,000 miles in the E without changing a thing.
Now Bartlett is a serious Jaguar collector. He knows a good car when he sees one. He recently bought the ex-Phil Hill C-type XC007 and has the ex-Leningrad GP winning D-type XKD530 in his collection as well as the ex-Bob Tullis Group 44 XJS. Bartlett has owned a number of ultra rare XKSSs but has recently sold those.
Gary generously invited me to share the drive with him on the E-type Jaguar 50th Anniversary Tour from Coventry to Geneva. The event began at the bar at the grand Coombe Abbey Hotel outside Coventry where the important navigational aid, the Michelin restaurant guide, was consulted in some detail.
The flag dropped at the Coventry Motor Museum at some ungodly hour on the morning of Monday 28th February with the first brief stop at the Jaguar Engineering Works at Whitley. The E-type was then pointed down the long and fast Fosse Way to Castle Come circuit where some of the more intrepid did a few fast laps. Bartlett and I enjoyed the slap-up lunch prepared by the Combe dinner ladies and chatted all things E type with the rest of the teams. We then headed over Salisbury Plain towards Goodwood, watching out for Challenger tanks along the way as we passed through their training grounds.
We managed to oversleep and miss a few laps of Goodwood circuit the next morning, but having been-there- and-done-that we had a lie-in and a delicious full-English instead. Got to the Euro tunnel before most of the rest so no worries.
The E really came into its own on the long run down to Reims, the home of Taittinger Champoo. Naturally we hit the caves and the Taittinger banqueting hall for another feast that night. Next day was a run south, down to Dijon-Prenois circuit where we enjoyed the fabulous N71, an absolutely sensational driving road. Bartlett and I agreed this was probably the best drive we will have all year but let’s hope we are proved wrong. And he admitted this E is his (whisper it) favourite Jaguar for these sorts of fast European drives. I am not surprised.
From Chateau Chailly that evening, we departed the next morning for Geneva and the gardens of Parc des Eaux-Vives in Geneva where the original E-type roadster and two FHCs were first unveiled to the gobsmacked motoring press. The cars must have looked like spacecraft in those days. And after having enjoyed a comfortable 850 miles in Bartlett’s superb E, I remain impressed. We enjoyed the grand routier-ing so much we did not bother to thrash the elegant E around the circuits as it proved to be the perfect grand tourer on the open roads, but also an entertaining sports car through fast French country roads and the Swiss Alps. With a powerful 4.2-litre engine, dependable disc brakes, finger-light steering, supple yet taught ride and near perfect gearing, the E is a totally capable GT for today’s conditions. It was a complete revelation on the road and it’s no wonder the E-type is now regarded as one of the finest classic cars ever.
As mentioned, Gary’s E, registration number ADY67D, is totally original. But he keeps the LHD car in Britain and uses it as his European tourer, so it is mechanically spot-on. Chris Keith Lucas of CKL Engineering has been right through the E, adding a few period-correct mods to make it run so well. The lusty engine produces an honest 280bhp, the cooling system has been improved as have the brakes, suspension and electrical system, and that’s it.
Bartlett uses his E to the full and has no intention of repainting or retrimming it. On this E-type tour, amid 50 other perfectly restored examples, his E-type stood out as something special. It received the Car of the Tour Award and has just been invited to appear at the elegant and swish Villa D’Este Concours. Which is no surprise at all.
Footnote. Other super-desirable cars were Terry O’Reilly’s MkVII saloon (he finds an E a bit tight on space). The car is ex-Australian and still wears its original dark green paintwork with a lovely period sunvisor. Also, Georg Donni’s mad Group 44 V12 which he drove from Zurich to the start, with Christian Jenny, then all the way back to Geneva on the tour. Without a windscreen or heater in the freezing weather! And Jonathan Turner’s ex-Peter Sutcliff Lightweight E-type which unfortunately expired on day three, leaving Turner and his co-pilot James Blackhall free to enjoy the wine tasting en route with the irrepressible Norman Dewis.