East Sussex - Eagle E-Types was founded in 1984 specifically to maintain, repair and restore these iconic 1960s classics and in fact does nothing else. Eagle staff claim that when anybody else is finished with a rebuild, they’re just getting started, and Eagle is now regarded as the world’s leading restorer of E-Types.
But most enthusiasts buy an E-Type, not as an investment or a showpiece, but because they want to drive it, and over the years Eagle has had many requests for race-spec engines, updated electrics, better brakes and more modern gearboxes.
Eventually the company hand-built just a few bespoke cars to ‘zero miles’ standard - i.e. better than brand new in absolutely every respect - incorporating everything it had learned about upgrading the E-Type, with subtle styling tweaks that meant they could never be mistaken for an original and, out of deference to Jaguar designer Malcolm Sayer, called it the Eagle E-Type.
At about £500 000 (R8.4 million) each they were also insanely expensive, but the demand was such that the Eagle E-Type was followed by the Eagle Speedster, restyled with some influence from the factory’s lightweight racing version to be the ultimate expression of what the E-Type could have been.
Then Eagle went way out in left field with the Low Drag GT, inspired by Chassis No.EC1001, Malcolm Sayer’s one-off 1962 coupé-bodied endurance racer, and now the fourth model in the series - the lightweight Spyder GT, built specifically as what used to be called an Open Two Seater, with a slightly taller windscreen than the Speedster and a rather claustrophobic, removable (not folding - you don’t drop it, you take it off) fabric roof.
Four thousand hours later…
Each Eagle Special Edition car starts life as an original, unrestored Jaguar E-Type, which is then stripped down literally to the last nut and bolt. The body is then rebuilt on a specially-made aluminium monocoque with deeper sills, a lower floor pan, additional stiffening gussets and wider wheel-arches, to accommodate modern 16 inch rims and tyres.
The 4.7 litre straight-six engine is assembled around an aluminium block, topped by a ‘big valve’ racing spec twin-cam cylinder head and three 51mm SU carburettors. A lightweight five-speed gearbox replaces the original four-speeder, driving the rear wheels via a limited-slip differential.
The torsion bar front suspension is reassembled with adjustable dampers from superbike suspension specialist Öhlins, the twin-spring rear setup also gets Öhlins damping, and anti-roll bars are fitted at both ends. Braking is entrusted to servo-assisted AP Racing callipers on 315mm front and 280mm rear ventilated discs, and the original skinny cross-ply tyres are replaced by 225/55 front and 235/60 rear radials on special 16 inch cast-alloy rims.
Eagle quotes 246kW at 4800 revs and 462Nm at 3600rpm for the finished car - which weighs just 1029kg ready to rock ‘n roll - good enough for 0-100km/h in less than five seconds and 270km/h flat out.
The entirely handcrafted interior is trimmed in premium-quality leather, with a sweeping centre console that houses a concealed handbrake lever - very much an Eagle trademark. Colour, trim and options are literally an open book - as well they should be, at a base price of £695 000 (R11.7 million) each.
For that, however, you get, quite literally, a dream car - an updated, perfected, brand-new example of what no less an expert than Enzo Ferrari called ‘the most beautiful car in the world’, hand built to your personal requirements, to standards that would have left Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons open-mouthed.
But the nicest thing of all is that a perfectly restored but absolutely original Series 1 E-Type is a much better investment, so the handful of Eagles that do find buyers are likely to be driven the way they’re intended to be - enthusiastically and often.