I know, this is a lot to read, so read it if you are interested, or not and just look at the photos, I will not be offended either way.
A few months ago you may recall I posted the three Jaguars I completed, an XK120, and two XKE’s, a roadster and a coupe. In doing research for the XKE’s, I came across a very interesting subject.
Now first and foremost, Jaguar, back in the early days was always a race car manufacturer who also built road cars, to pay the bills caused by racing, much as Ferrari did. The racing division having won the grueling 24 hours Le Mans race a total of 7 times with the majority of these wins coming in the 1950s with race versions of the C and D type machines was the pride of the company.
Excited by the evolution of the D Type into the absolutely gorgeous E Type, Jaguar was chomping at the bit to get this car into international racing. They knew the car was slippery and reliable, as much of the running gear was carried over from previous successful machines, but they also knew it was on the heavy side because of its steel body construction. They theorized that a lightweight version would be necessary if the car was going to compete successfully in this highly competitive sport. Strong competition from Ferrari, who were now the kings of International racing dominating Le Mans completely in the early 1960s, until they ran afoul of Henry Ford II, would require a sterling effort by the Jaguar factory works team.
Therefore, in 1963 Jaguar set aside 18 chassis numbers to be built with lightweight aluminum bodies and the kind of modifications needed to convert this “street” car into a monster on the track. Work got underway building these cars with 12 completed and another 6 remaining to be built. But before the last 6 could be built, the reality of the smashing success of the E Type with buyers worldwide and the extreme demand it put on the factory, it was decided to hold off on the 6 remaining chassis numbers and concentrate on construction of the profitable XKE’s for street use. And so that was it for the factory lightweight race cars. Well, for at least 51years.
In 2014, Jaguar realized that there were the remaining 6 chassis numbers in the E Type registry. Considering the huge opportunity those 6 numbers represented, both financially and historically, Jaguar decided to build these 6 cars, but in an interesting twist, in an effort to impart true authentic reverence for the vehicles it was decided to build each vehicle with “period correct” parts and techniques. They used modern computer technology to insure that each vehicle would be identical in shape and fit, since the aluminum bodies would be hand shaped, but they used the technology of the 1960s for the rivets, bolts and materials in an extreme effort to make these 6 cars as close to the previous 12 as possible. And these newest examples of the cars would not come cheaply, selling out immediately for one and a half million British Pounds (roughly a million US dollars) when announced in 2014. Truly, these examples are a worthy tribute to the legend of the XKE, quite possibly, the most beautiful vehicle ever penned.
So, having said all of this, it was the story of these newly built lightweight E Types that inspired me to build a version of these unique cars.
My build began life as a new Revell XKE Roadster kit as all of the 6 new cars are based on the roadster model with a detachable hardtop added for aerodynamics. To create the hardtop, I sculpted a buck of the top by hand out of “sign foam” and then vacuum-formed it in styrene. After a “ton” of cutting, filling and adjustment, the top was attached to the body (I attached it permanently to the body). Next I opened and hinged the doors and trunk and cut out the new rear window. I then separated the back portion of the chassis from the front and center section so I could permanently attach and then smooth over the rather large gaps between the top part and the bottom of the rear quarters (covered by the bumpers on the street car). On the real cars, you can see the panel attachment seams, but I decided to smooth these over because it just looks more finished. I then finished off the trunk interior adding the reservoir bottles on the wall and installed a gas tank and the bungee cords used, I guess, to hold the real one down. Then I added the filler neck and topped that off with the filler cap fished out of one of my many parts boxes. Obviously, I added the opening in the trunk lid for the filler and then added the air vents on the trunk lid and the hardtop. The interior has a few modifications too. I built this as a right hand drive, as the porotypes are with a modified and simplified dashboard, roll gage fabricated from plastic rod with a steel rod center and a fire extinguisher on the floor of the passenger seat. New very plain interior door panels were made. The seats and door panels were painted Tamiya Flat Red with decal seat belts added (just too lazy to make them with photo etched parts as they are difficult to see inside the car anyway). The rear window and side windows were cut from sheet acetate.
The front hood or “bonnet” as the Brit’s refer to them is basically stock. An issue I ran across when building the street XKE’s is that the clear plastic lens covering the headlights is too small to fit unless you are using the chrome outer rings which would not be appropriate on the race version. Because of this I made larger ones out of acetate, which are not perfect, but sit better than the kit supplied ones. I also filled in the gaps on the upper and lower sections of the nose, like the back and I added the triangular wings directly behind the front wheel opening and the leather buckles that hold the bonnet down along with the handles. I also added a photo etched screen in the nose opening as the real car has something similar in theirs.
These six new vehicles, from what I can find have different body colors, but at least a few were done in gunmetal, so I went with gunmetal too. The example I followed the closest has the white rondel’s on the doors and bonnet (I kind of like the sound of bonnet, now) so I added white rondel’s which are cut from white vinyl on a computer (I had my brother, a sign maker, cut these the size of nickels), which I estimated would be the correct size. The exterior is Tamiya Light Gunmetal with a Tamiya Pure White ring around the nose opening and all topped with one coat of clear so as to not make it “too” shiny.
The closest wheels I could find, without making myself crazy, are the wheels supplied on the Tamiya SL300 gullwing. Fortunately, I have a set not being used on that car, so they are available for this build. These wheels are meant to be used with hubcaps, so I had to dig around to find an unused set 0f three eared spinners. The only issue is that the rear wheels which are an acceptable diameter, are not deep enough to replicate the ones on the actual car. I had to find wheel “backs” from the parts box that were the proper diameter and cut away the center of the wheel and a bit of the side wall. After sanding and a few adjustments, they fit fine over the SL300 wheels and represent the deep dish look of the actual wheels. With the addition of a wider tire in the back, the result was acceptable to my old eyes. Lastly, as I did on the two street versions, I modified the ride height on this car since, at least to me, the ride height right out of the box on the kit is too high for my taste, so, this car’s ride height was lowered too.
Under the bonnet, there are a number of modifications. The engine block and head are the same as the kit, and as a side note, on the real “new” version of the car, the engine block in now aluminum alloy and not steel as the street car engines were and the valves were enlarged and repositioned in the head to provide maximum breathing. I replaced the three SU carburetors as on the street car with a fabricated “mechanical” fuel injection system made mostly from bits unused on a F1 model. The real car came, buyer’s choice, with three Weber side-drafts or the early generation mechanical fuel injection system, and surprisingly, many claim the Webers outperform the fuel injection on the high end, who knew? On the left side of the engine is an oval shaped oil container tank and an overflow catch can, not seen on the street version. I added a few more wires and hoses just to make the engine bay look more interesting even though it is mostly hidden because the bonnet is limited in its opening ability, as on the real cars. The bonnet was hinged and made to open, as I did on the two street version previously built.
That is basically it. This build required more time and a few different techniques to complete, but the result, at least to me is a unique and interesting variation on an absolutely stunning automobile, and as I said before, this may be the most beautiful mass produced vehicle of all time. Sure, there are a couple of more bodacious race cars designed out there like the Ferrari 330 P4, or the Ford P68 which looked like the Ferrari 330 P4 and the Ford GT IV had a baby, but for street vehicles, my choice is the XKE.
What do you think?