Sadly by then the Ferrari 250 GTO was in its pomp and any dreams of Jaguar returning to its halcyon racing days, the car’s lack of competitiveness soon disabused that notion.
Eagle built the E-Type Low Drag Coupé up around a new chassis with a two inch extension in the wheelbase to provide additional legroom and installed in its nose its own take on the classic Jaguar twin-cam straight-six motor.
Bored but mainly stroked out to 4.7-litres and fitted with fuel injection and an aluminium block, its internals are made by Crosthwaite & Gardner, the same people who build brand new pre-war Auto Unions for Audi.
The gearbox has an Eagle alloy case and Eagle five-speed internals, although the bellhousing at least is Jaguar’s. At the back an aluminium limited-slip differential is fitted.
The suspension is Jaguar's but modified to Eagle’s own specification, featuring an adjustable front anti-roll bar and adjustable Ohlins dampers made specifically for this car and bespoke rates for its torsion bar springs. AP racing provide the ventilated, drilled discs.
Given this level of specification, I was expecting a brutal monster. And that was before I heard of the engine’s 345bhp and an extraordinary kerbweight of just 1038kg, which is probably what an Alfa 4C weighs once you’ve filled it with fluids and a driver but with over 100 extra horsepower.
That impressive kerb weight includes such civilising influences as climate control, power steering and fully trimmed interior including thick, comfortable chairs. When it reverses off the truck I’m amazed by how quiet it is: the engine note is deep, cultured and classically English straight six, but it doesn’t want to shout about it.
The driving position is pure E-Type, short in the leg despite the longer wheelbase, but can house a 6ft 4in driver. It’s snug. Then there’s the dash – apparently all E-Type too with a pair of large clocks in front and the rest spread in a single disciplined file across the centre console. The switches are the same too, but not their labels. One even says ‘climate’.
First engages with a solid, mechanical thunk. The car may only weigh a tonne but this transmission feels strong enough to change the rotation of the earth. Good. The clutch is heavy but gentle. There’s no hop or stagger as we draw away – it’s all elegant: E-Type elegant.
But this isn’t. As the test track opens out and the individual throttle bodies open up, the Eagle takes wing and flies. No E-Type even went like this, at least not with just 1500rpm on the clock. The roar becomes a snarl and we’re surging on a supercharged wave of torque, handily without the need for a supercharger.
Thunk, thunk, thunk, the gears come and go, each engaged with such deft fluency a passenger would think I’d been doing this for years, not knowing the class of the driveline was actually doing it all.
The Jaguar engine is still relatively new so I only use 4500rpm, but that’s just 500rpm short of the redline and all you’ll ever need. Even now, with limited traction and that slick but slow shift, it feels as fast as a modern Aston.
Would I have chosen power steering? Probably not: with that alloy engine and alloy panels, there’s not much weight over the nose but it’s hard to be unimpressed by the lucidity of the messages it sends through the wooden-rimmed Nardi wheel, the only item of equipment that doesn’t look born to be in an E-Type.