Ever imagine what a great world it would be if the Jaguar E-Type had lived on past the 1970s, and not just in name, like other classic car models that have evolved into completely different animals, but in all its curvy, original-form glory? That's the world Eagle lives in, its series of restored, modernized and reimagined cars ensuring that the E-Type family remains small but thriving. This month, it launched its latest special edition, the Spyder GT, a convertible tourer with hardcore sporting on its mind.
Founded by Henry Pearman, Eagle started off in 1984 as a traditional restoration business, buying, restoring and selling original E-Types to customers. Engineer Paul Brace joined the shop in 1989 and helped Pearman transition from simple restoration into high-caliber restomods.
In 1991, author John McLaren came to Eagle with needs that a standard restoration couldn't meet. McLaren wanted to fuse the pure driving experience of his classic E-Type with everyday reliability and performance fit for the new decade. Eagle got to work, and the Eagle E-Type was born.
Instead of a standard restoration (which Eagle still offers today), the Eagle E-Type is stripped down until every part down to the tiniest bolt can be carefully inspected and replaced where necessary. Eagle then rebuilds the car to the customer's specifications, pulling new pieces off its shelf of modern components and packages. The new car has the look and character of a classic E-Type with the technology, reliability and performance of a more modern car. It's a process that takes around 4,000 hours, according to Eagle.
Twenty years after launching the successful Eagle E-Type restomod series, Eagle took another big step forward in its quest to preserve the E-Type legend. Working with an American client to identify something truly special – more special, that is, than a fully rebuilt, modernized, custom-spec E-Type – Brace sketched out the E-Type Speedster. The client fell in love, and the Speedster (pictured below) launched in 2011.
Like all Eagles, the Eagle Speedster started from an original E-Type, and like the Eagle E-Types, it was a complete rebuild job. However, this car also departs slightly from the original design, featuring a full injection of aluminum, including an all-aluminum body, a widened track, lowered floor pan, raked custom-made windscreen, and rear "waterfall" bodywork splitting the two seats. Since launching, it's served as a bespoke representation of what the "Jaguar E-Type might have become."
If you think an attempt to improve on the E-Type's greatness might offend Jaguar, it appears much the opposite. Eagle's website quotes this impression from Jaguar design director Ian Callum: "If I were to have an E-Type, it would have to be the Eagle Speedster – I just love that car. It's just how I would have designed it, taking the E-Type Jaguar's purity to a whole new level."
Two years after introducing the Speedster, Eagle followed it up with a hard-top grand tourer, the Low Drag GT. And now it officially adds the third member of the family, the Spyder GT.
The new Spyder GT essentially splits the difference between the Speedster and the Low Drag GT, giving the driver the rolling, wind-through-hair sexiness of the Speedster with the touring prowess of the Low Drag. A folding roof completes the gap forge.
"Development of the Spyder GT began soon after the launch of the Speedster in 2011, and like everything we produce, we wanted to ensure that we got as close to perfection as humanly possible," Brace explained when announcing the car at last year's London Classic Car Show. "We're renowned for being perfectionists and our clients are too – so we took the time to develop and deliver an E-Type that stands proud alongside the Speedster and the Low Drag GT."
Eagle has completed construction of the first Spyder GT. The curvy cabriolet relies on Eagle's 4.7-liter XK straight-six for its 330 bhp and 340 lb-ft (461 Nm) of torque. Working with the five-speed manual transmission to power the rear wheels, the engine inspires the 2,269-lb (1,029-kg) car to fire off the line to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in less than 5 seconds and power through to a top speed above 170 mph (274 km/h). Front and rear wishbones with Öhlins dampers help the car become one with the road while AP Racing aluminum calipers and ventilated discs stop the 16-in custom wheels from spinning.
While it looks every bit as exquisite as the Speedster, the Spyder GT has a taller windscreen and, of course, the folding roof. The handcrafted leather interior is cut from the same cloth and includes the bold, taper-down center console design and hidden handbrake lever.
A reimagined, remade Jaguar E-Type convertible certainly isn't a cheap proposition, and you could buy a few different high-performance exotics for the same £695,000 (approx. US$870K). But there's no chance in hell they'd look as close to proportional automotive perfection as the Eagle Spyder GT.
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