Readers of this space know I’ve always been soft in the head where old cars are concerned. It’s probably why I can’t think of a single retro-themed car I haven’t liked—unless you count the Chevrolet SSR, which promised so much in the realm of looks but delivered so little in the department of chassis.
I’ve also loved all the factory-correct reissues and restos, all the way back to the short-lived Nissan factory-supported 240Z restorations of 20-some years ago. “$25,000!” people exclaimed at the time. It seems cheap now, and I’ve no problem with the big bucks being spent on continuation Astons and the like.
So it’s no surprise I’m 100 percent behind the Jaguar Land Rover Classic program, which charges many spendingtons sterling to recreate things like continuation XKSSs and lost D-types while exacting somewhat less but still plenty enough for restorations to better-than-new condition of more affordable classics like Jaguar E-types and, lately, first-generation Range Rovers.
In these days of sameness and automotive androgyny, there’s something kind of genius in proactively advertising your heritage while having others underwrite the expense of preserving these potent reminders of your authenticity and enhancing your overall business in the process. In these troubled times, with car companies desperately trying to figure their way into the future, here’s an idea that’s comparatively easy to scale up. In JLR’s heritage vehicles, you find pretty much ideal source material. It’s not right for everybody, but it is surely sensible in a country so well stocked with underemployed automotive craftsmen. It reminds us of a happier time when businesses weren’t too busy to pick up the small bills found in the street, content to run operations that paid for themselves while doing real work and delivering a personal service.
Still, I really hadn’t expected the all-electric E-type from JLR’s Reborn program announced at Pebble Beach. With its lithium-ion battery pack and 220-kW (290-horsepower) electric motor, the electric Jaguar roadster (or coupe) accelerates as briskly as a gasoline-powered E-type, has a quoted range of 170 miles, and manages to maintain the original’s weight distribution. The reversible removal of a boat anchor-like 900 pounds of conventional engine and gearbox allows for a lot of batteries to go in. It feels like a fast, modern electric car but looks and drives like a vintage E-type.
In May, hundreds of millions saw an opalescent blue E-type Zero drive off with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, headed to their sunset wedding reception. The other day in Monterey, California, up the road from Pebble Beach, I got to drive it. Repainted a silvery, shimmery bronze, it was a delight.
The Zero is meant to stand for its emissions, not your chances of avoiding bad jokes about Lucas electrics from folks who know a little about cars, or rather just enough to know to put down British electrical systems. Those who know more refrain from such cracks, except as sport, because in point of fact Lucas components are only ordinarily bad, not epically bad as legend has it. Then again, Zero may also stand for the three zeroes that come after $375 when you ask how much it costs. A customer’s existing car can be converted for a more reasonable $75,000. It’s also quite conceivable, JLR hinted, that with minor adjustments to mounting points, the battery drivetrain kit could be installed in any XK-powered Jaguar, suggesting a massive list of conversion candidates from the 1948 XK120 to the last XJ6s of 1985.
Jaguar’s leap into electric vehicles is more serious than most, and elements of the powerplant from its new I-Pace reside in the E-type Zero. Which is promising. The I-Pace, which I drove down to Pebble from San Jose, was excellent, let down only by a low-speed, rough-road ride that was combine-harvester diabolical.
With its old-school 15-inch wheels, this electrified E-type reflects well on the modern product, being only the most beautiful car in the world. And Jaguar’s other modern products reflect well on it: for example, the XE-based, 592-horsepower Project 8 sedan. This is one serious high-performance automobile. I only drove 4 miles in it, but holy smokes. Or as we say in French, early smirks.