By: IOL Motoring Staff
Browns Lane, Coventry - This is 'Car Zero', the unnumbered prototype for the 'new' Jaguar Lightweight E-Type - a further six of which will be built and sold.
In May 2014 Jaguar announced that its new Special Operations division would hand-build six new Lightweights to a specification originated from the last Lightweight E-Type produced in 1964.
The new cars are the 'missing' six vehicles from the Special GT E-Type project, which started in February 1963 with the intention of building 18 aluminium-bodied Lightweight E-Types. Only 12 were actually made and the remaining six designated chassis numbers were never used - until now.
The six new cars will carry those original, historic Lightweight E-Type chassis numbers; they'll be sold as period competition vehicles and will be eligible under FIA rules for historic racing.
What makes a Lightweight E-type so special is, of course, its aluminium bodyshell, which replaced the steel of the production E-Type for a weight saving of 114kg compared with the standard car.
Despite the enormous advances in technology since the early 1960s, however, it was decided not to incorporate modern materials or fixing methods. High-strength aluminium alloys and bonded structures would have been invisible but they would not have been true to the original design - and nor would they have conformed to the FIA's homologation requirements for historic racing.
Instead the inner and outer surfaces of an existing Lightweight bodyshell were digitally scanned down to a fraction of a millimetre; the resulting image was then assessed by the Browns Lane technicians to establish just how the body was assembled back in the 1960s and how consistent the structure was side-to-side.
This digital capturing process enabled the design team to create exact drawings for each of the 230 individual components - even bracing panels which would never be seen were faithfully reproduced. To ensure absolute symmetry, one side of the scanned body was used as the 'master' and was then mirrored to produce identical dimensions for the opposite side.
All the panels were made from grades of aluminium almost identical in mechanical properties to those used for the originals, more than 50 years ago, and the prototype body was riveted and spot-welded together to exactly the same specifications as chassis no.12 - which had some extra stiffening in key areas - and completed with aluminium bonnet, doors, boot and, as with the original cars, an aluminium hard top.
The only non-original feature is a tubular-steel roll cage, which is mandatory for historic racing.
The Lightweight E-Types' 3868cc straight-six was based on that of the 1957 Le Mans-winning D-Type of Ron Flockhart and Ivor Bueb, with the same big valve 'wide-angle' cylinder head and dry-sump lubrication, but using a specially-cast aluminium block with pressed-in steel liners, rather than the D-Type's cast-iron block, to reduce the weight over the front wheels.
The exhaust manifold was a steel fabrication, leading to dual down-pipes, a centre silencer and dual tailpipes.
Car Zero's engine is exactly the same, with a 10:1 compression ratio and three Weber 45DCO3 carburettors - although Jaguar homologated the Lightweight E-Type for sports-car racing both with carburettors and Lucas mechanical fuel-injection, which will be offered to the six chosen customers for the new cars as a option.
Either way, peak power will be about 255kW at 6500rpm with torque in the region of 380Nm at 4500rpm. Given that Car Zero weighs almost exactly a ton with fuel and oil, its performance is going to be exciting even by today's standards.
Drive is taken to the rear wheels via a four-speed close-ratio, all-synchromesh manual gearbox and a Powr-Lok limited-slip differential; a 3.31:1 ratio will be standard for the new cars, but, as with the original 12, a variety of final-drive ratios will be available.
Running gear is as per the standard E-Type but with uprated dampers, bigger front discs and 15” perforated magnesium-alloy rims running 150mm front and 165mm rear Dunlop CR65 racing tyres.
TRIM - WHAT TRIM?
Much of Car Zero's interior - floorpan, sills and rear areas - has intentionally been left unpainted, to emphasise the car's aluminium bodywork. The competition bucket seats and centre console have been trimmed in leather specially supplied by Jonathan Connolly to the same specification as used by Jaguar in the 1960s.
And that's that, although the six chosen customers will be invited to discuss bespoke trim with Jaguar head of design Ian Callum in person - which could include door panels, a headliner for the detachable hard top, removable custom saddle-leather floor mats, and a cover for the transmission tunnel, in a choice of seven true-to-period colours, so it's unlikely any two of the cars will be identical.