Road Cars - Even better than the real thing

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Fans of British classics can soon drive their dream

Two new and very different ‘recreations’ were announced this month from two very different companies.

The first came from Jaguar, which announced that it would be restoring a run of Series 1 E-types under its ‘Reborn’ programme. At first there will be 10 cars that will be turned from presumably quite scruffy donor vehicles into effectively brand new cars. Prices quoted start at £285,000. Later on, you can of course have your E-type subtly uprated with an all-syncromesh gearbox, better brakes and so on, but otherwise the cars will be to the precise original factory specification.

It’s a lot of money to pay for a car that even today remains in plentiful supply, but Jaguar is banking on the stamp of authenticity inherent in the work being done by its engineers and craftsmen in Coventry to persuade well-heeled buyers to put their hands in their pockets.

These E-types follow in the footsteps of the lightweight E-type continuation cars Jaguar has already sold for a six-figure sum each and the brand-new XKSS roadsters it is in process of building.

At the other end of the size scale, but close in age and price, is the ‘Mini Remastered’ made not by BMW but David Brown Automotive. You may remember this is the company that reskins new Jaguar XKs in clothing remarkably reminiscent of an Aston Martin DB5. It calls them Speedback GTs and sells them for close to half a million pounds. 

The Mini Remastered is the second brainchild of the company’s founder, who really is called David Brown although is unrelated to the former industrial magnate and Aston Martin saviour. At its heart it remains an original Mini, but one that’s had 1400 man-hours lavished upon it to uprate it in every way imaginable. As a guide, a modern shopping car takes around one hundredth of that time to build.

The process involves fitting entirely new bodywork to each Mini and a unique grille. Inside there is, of course, hand stitched leather, deep carpets and a wood rimmed wheel. But more remarkable is the fitment of a brand new state-of-the-art touchscreen infotainment system, complete with Apple CarPlay.

Mechanically the Mini Remastered still uses a 1.3-litre A-series engine but one available in various states of tune up to about 90bhp, half as much again as it would have had in an original 1275GT Mini. The suspension and brakes are also claimed to be fully upgraded to handle the extra performance. 

And the cost of this new old Mini with its hot motor, uprated chassis and new interior? Prices start at about £70,000, or just a little less than the amount Porsche currently asks for a brand-new 911.

Aston breaks new ground

Aston Martin has officially received the keys to its new manufacturing facility at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan. It will spend the next two years installing a production line in three ‘super hangars’ previously used for servicing RAF aircraft. By the end of 2019 the all-new DBX SUV will be in production in Wales, followed two years later by two other new cars based on the same architecture but badged as Lagondas. They will be the first to use the name as a marque rather than a model in more than 60 years.

Aston Martin’s initial plans are for up to 7000 cars to be constructed each year at St Athan, each wearing a ‘hand-built in Wales’ plaque under its bonnet. However, Aston has space and buildings to spare on its 90-acre site so boss Andy Palmer will also set up an engineering centre to help develop electric and autonomous drive systems for the future. It will also look after cyber security, which Palmer regards as every bit as big a challenge as making a car drive itself. And, he says, until a car is effectively hack-proof, it cannot safely become autonomous.

Palmer says he has no plans to make Aston Martins drive themselves; any autonomous technology will be reserved for the Lagonda brand. There is no formal news yet as to how the two brands are to be differentiated but the logical step is to keep Aston Martin in its current sporting role and set up Lagonda as a pure luxury brand to rival Bentley and, in particular, Rolls-Royce. There will doubtless be some overlap between the two as their shared architecture makes clear. No one is saying exactly what form the two new Lagondas will take, though the smart money is on a large saloon and SUV to rival the Rolls-Royce Ghost and its forthcoming ‘Cullinan’ SUV. 

In the meantime, Aston Martin is working on a new ultra-sporting mid-engined supercar, unrelated to the Valkyrie hypercar, that will be seen at the turn of the decade.

1000bhp McLaren

McLaren has teased a few details of what is effectively a successor to the P1 hypercar (above). Code-named BP23, the new car is part of the company’s so called Ultimate series and features the arrow-head three-seat cabin configuration that was one of many unique calling cards of the original F1.

Production has been set at 106 units, the same number of F1s that were sold, though that figure included all versions including racers and was dramatically fewer than originally intended. McLaren will have less trouble shifting the new car: even at a mooted list price of about £2 million all are already sold.

Details of the car’s specification are still secret but we know it will be a hybrid. It will also be far more road- orientated than the track-focused P1 and will be the fastest McLaren ever made, eclipsing even the 240mph top speed of the F1. The car is sure to retain rear-wheel drive and with the P1 already rated at over 900bhp, a four-figure power output is surely a given. It will join the Mercedes-Benz Project One and Aston Martin Valkyrie among the first of a new generation of hypercars with performance to make that of even the likes of the P1 seem somewhat pedestrian. Do not expect Ferrari to stay out of the limelight for long, either.

Overpowered and over there

Jeep and its sister brand Dodge revealed two of the maddest cars ever made at the New York Motor Show. First came Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trackhawk powered by a supercharged 6.2-litre V8, offering 707bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 3.5sec, earning it the gloriously pointless accolade of becoming the world’s fastest SUV. Its former stable-mate Mercedes-Benz, could only muster 503bhp for its new GLC 63 SUV, meaning it’s probably going to struggle to duck under the 4sec 0-60mph barrier.

But if the Jeep sounds faintly nuts, it’s nothing for Dodge, which has had that exact engine in its Challenger coupé for a while now. It wanted to go one better or, ideally, three or four. Which is why the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon comes with an even bigger supercharger to boost the engine’s output to 840bhp and allow Dodge to claim the Demon to be the fastest-accelerating production car in the world.

The numbers are surreal: 0-60mph in 2.3sec, a 1.8g acceleration rate off the line and a standing quarter mile in 9.65sec which Dodge is claiming as a world record. What kind of witchcraft has been wrought to allow a rear-wheel drive, front-engined car to record such numbers is not clear, but given that it will genuinely lift its front wheels clean off the tarmac under full acceleration from test, the rear tyre compound would presumably be something to behold. Dodge has not yet released prices for the Demon but has said it will build 3300 units, of which a grand total of zero will be officially sold in the UK.

***

Jaguar has announced a 2-litre turbocharged version of its F-type coupé and roadster, the marque’s first four-cylinder sports car. Before you scoff, it still produces 296bhp and will accelerate to 60mph in the same 5.4sec as the current entry-level car with its 3-litre supercharged V6. The biggest difference is in claimed fuel economy that rises from 28.4mpg to 39.2mpg, with a matching fall in CO2. However, unlike six-cylinder F-types, the car will not be available either in manual or four-wheel drive form. Available to order now for a list price of £49,900.

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