My Motoring Month

Tempted by an Exquisitely Restored E-Type

This month saw a couple of wonderful steps into Jaguar history. First was a trip to see Henry Pearman at Eagle, the man who’ll take a rusty old E-type and turn it into something far better than even Sir William would have ever imagined.

I’ve always had a hankering for an E, failing to be put off even by a rather tired 4.2-litre 2+2 coupe that made a brief appearance in my childhood. This is the least desirable specification it’s possible to have, and I still loved it.

Once grown up my appetite was whetted further by Philip Porter suggesting I tried to reach 150mph in 9600HP, the oldest of the surviving E-type prototypes and the car that, with the aid of an engine more closely related to a D than an E, reached precisely that speed in 1961. First time out I blew it up at 140mph on Millbrook’s banking, but, undeterred, Philip rebuilt the engine, we tried again and it reached a slightly oversteery 147mph. I then drove the other E-type prototype, the convertible 77RW, from Browns Lane to Geneva in 2001 and thought I’d blown that too when I looked in the mirror and saw I was towing what appeared to be a ball of white smoke at 130mph down the autoroute. It was merely steam, and after pausing to replace a core plug we continued to Switzerland.

Sadly I think my E-type-owning aspirations will remain just that, at least any coming from the Eagle stable. Though cars can be had for far less, now I have seen the fastidious attention to detail foisted on cars that come its way, I understand why the cheapest E Henry has for sale costs £85,000, and the most expensive ‘normal’ car an eye-watering £225,000. If you want one of Eagle’s bespoke Speedsters you can double that cost.

Pearman says that if you deliver to him a sound but shabby E-type, it will typically be two years before you drive it again. In that time every nut and bolt will have been restored so that at least 80 per cent of the original car will be returned to you. What comprises the remaining 20 per cent depends on your tastes and budget. Large modern brakes and five-speed boxes are common upgrades, as are modern suspension components. My eye, however, was caught by a 4.7-litre engine block. Pearman says something over 400bhp would be easily possible, but it’s been tuned for effortless torque instead.

Is it Time to Reappraise the Jaguar XJ220?

My second visit was to old chum Don Law near Stafford to reacquaint myself with a Jaguar XJ220, almost 20 years after I first drove one. Don’s premises are akin to a shrine to Jaguar’s troubled supercar. When I was there he had a mere dozen or so on hand, including a yellow 680bhp XJ220S and David Coulthard’s class-winning (but later disqualified) Le Mans car. I was casually tossed the keys to what appeared to be a standard car but was actually one of the most important pre-production prototypes, the very car in which Andy Wallace reached 213mph during tyre testing. It was then turned into a race car for Don’s formidably quick son Justin before reverting to standard road-going form.

The XJ220 is not without its critics, but it’s worth remembering it struggled to sell not because it was a bad car but because the economic climate had turned against it. Its downfall was ensured by Jaguar’s decision to persuade depositors by force of law either to purchase their cars or buy their way out of their commitment. The decision may have made commercial sense but it was a PR disaster from which the XJ220 never recovered. But before the era of the McLaren F1, here was a beautiful, rare (just 283 were built) and British supercar that was not just the fastest in the world, but was fastest by a mile. Indeed it was the first production road car to turn 200mph from a near mythical objective to just another number on the dial. Perhaps the time has come for it to step out of the shadows.

Chassis Cleaner Turns Out to Be a Blast

I don’t usually do product plugs on this page, but out of the blue Kärcher sent me a chassis-cleaning attachment for theft pressure washer and I thought I’d give it a go. So l went for a blast in the old Porker and when I came back, rigged up the device and set to work. It sits on a small plastic trolley which can be slid under your car.

Judging by the fountain of detergent it shot into the air when I pulled it out again while forgetting to release the trigger it will clearly blast all the salt from the underside of your car. How much underseal will come away with it too is unclear. Even so, for around £80 (without the washer) I thought it a worthwhile addition to the garage.