England claims so many boutique, specialist car companies doing such sensational work that if an artist were to draw a national muse for Britannia, she would hold a scepter in one hand and a gear shift in the other. Next up in the island’s crowded showroom of posh vehicular gems, Eagle presents its Lightweight GT. The slinky coupe started as a Series 1 Jaguar E-Type (built from 1961 to 1968), then, after 8,000 hours of work in the chrysalis of Eagle’s East Sussex workshops, the coupe emerges as a modern and much more comfortable version of Jaguar’s factory Lightweight racers from 1963.
Some context: After Jaguar stepped away from racing in the late 1950s, the company decided to convert 25 incomplete D-Type chassis into the road-legal XKSS roadster. Come 1962, with the D-Type and competition still on its mind, Jaguar toyed with its new E-Type road car to create the Low Drag Coupe for competition. The factory built just one, powered by a mightier version of the 3.8-liter straight-six in the E-Type that used a wide-angle cylinder head designed for the D-Type. The next year, Jaguar’s racing fancy expressed itself in the E-Type Lightweight, still harking back to the D-Type with all-aluminum bodywork and an aluminum block for the 3.8-liter. The automaker planned to fabricate 18 Lightweights, but only got around to building 12.
The Lightweights didn’t dominate any of the big races, but privateers put them to effective use in smaller series. Their pedigree, aura, and multi-million-dollar valuations convinced Ford to debut an Advanced Lightweight Coupe Concept at the 2005 Geneva Motor Show, and in 2014 convinced Jaguar to complete the six remaining cars in the 18-car build.
Enter Eagle. After its Speedster, Low Drag GT and Spyder GT, the firm calls the Lightweight GT the answer to the question, “What’s the best an E-Type can be?” The hand-formed aluminum skin takes 2,500 hours to shape, revised slightly for better aerodynamics and comfort. A deeper ramp angle in front leads to deeper side sills, which bolster chassis stiffness, and with a lower floorpan, put the driver lower in the car and give him more headroom. Larger wheel arches fit 16-inch magnesium alloy versions of the peg-drive wheel Dunlop introduced in 1954, an inch larger than the wheels on the original Lightweights, and aluminum, three-eared knock-offs. There’s steeper rake to the windshield and backlight.
The iron block of the 3.8-liter straight-six road car is transmuted to aluminum and bored out to 4.7 liters, fitted with the wide-angle heads that house larger valves and a higher-lift camshaft. Output comes in at 380 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, which is 80 hp and 110 lb-ft more than the original, for a car that weighs 2,242 pounds. Custom pieces like the magnesium alloy gearbox case and bell housing for the five-speed synchromesh transmission, the differential case, sump, and rear hub carriers, plus titanium and Inconel steel make possible a curb weight 100 pounds less than a Mazda Miata. Double wishbones all around managed by Ohlins adjustable dampers keep the package even lighter on its toes. The dash to 60 miles per hour takes less than five seconds, top speed clocks in at 170 mph.
And that’s with a sumptuous leather interior and air conditioning, because Eagle “wanted to retain that special feel of a 60s competition car from an incredible era in British motorsport, but with the comfort, refinement and reliability that would make it an exhilarating daily driver or long-distance GT.” Additional design mods to the cabin to promote comfort include better seats with 3D-printed seat controls with more clearance for fingers, and a revised bulkhead and pedal box allowing more legroom.
Eagle has capped Lightweight GT production at two per year. The company didn’t supply a price, but its Low Drag GT started at nearly £700,000 ($869,820 U.S.) six years ago. A seven-figure cover charge for “the best an E-Type can be” doesn’t seem out of place.