Articles: Historic Jaguar E-Type Is Perfect Choice in London Chaos

Historic Jaguar E-Type Is Perfect Choice in London Chaos

By Paul Horrell
June 20, 2024
1 Comments

Central London, Friday morning. Manoeuvring delivery trucks wedge the streets, scooters and Uber Eats cyclists swarm. Rain threatens. Marc Gordon weaves his immaculate and historically significant Jaguar E-Type through the chaos. Without a trace of anxiety.

‘It’s like the E-Type was built for London. Their suspension is superb; they don’t mind the speed bumps at all. They’ve got good ground clearance. They’re narrow. The engine behaves.’

OK, so it’s an amenable machine for quotidian local as well as special long-distance trips. But it’s also precious. This is chassis number 860015; the prefix 86 indicates right-hand-drive coupes, so this is the 15th of them. The first few months of E-Type production had been reserved for export. This car left Jaguar’s Coventry factory on 27 October 1961, to become the Scottish Motor Show car.

‘I bought it for the colour,’ says Gordon. ‘Yes it’s an early car, which was important to me. But it’s the only E-type fixed-head made in this colour in 1961. With the blue interior and aluminium dash…’ he tails off, lost in the scheme’s perfection.

It has appeared at, and sometimes won prizes at, several high-zoot shows: Salon Prive at Blenheim Palace, Hampton Court Concours Of Elegance, London Concours at the Honourable Artillery Company.

But Gordon was never looking for it to be held in cryogenic suspension. He uses his classics, and has done 5,000 miles in this E-Type as well as 35,000 in another that included a 10-day rally with his then-nine-year-old daughter navigating.

‘The E-Types drive beautifully. If they’re looked after and driven regularly they’re reliable. It’s an incredibly comfortable car to drive… admittedly I am five foot three.’

Ah yes, the cramped ‘flat-floor’ early E-Type cockpit. I once met the late Norman Dewis, Jaguar’s development driver who famously drove non-stop in getting the first E-Type roadster to the 1961 Geneva Show. He was much the same stature as Gordon.

The flat cockpit floor marks out the first 500-odd cars. Early ones like this also have welded bonnet louvres. The 3.8-litre engine wasn’t expanded to the torquier 4.2 until 1964. Shortly before the engine change, the Moss gearbox, which did without synchromesh on first, was replaced by an all-synchro Jaguar unit.

Gordon isn’t all that bothered about the lack of synchro – there’s a knack to it and he never grates while driving me. But he admits the proximity of reverse to first, and its lack of a detent, has given him the odd bad moment.
Gordon has traced almost the entire ownership history of chassis 860015.

After the motor show appearance it rapidly passed, hot property, through two motor traders until reaching the first registered owner, Nick Moor, in November 1961. He was just 21, but kept it four years. Records, says Gordon, are ‘patchy’ until 1969, when it went through two more owners for three and four years.

From 1976 it was with one owner, a Mr Johnstone, for 37 years. During that time he moved from Britain to France, where the car fell into decrepitude and hosted a bird’s nest. But still he kept it, dismantled (by that time it had been painted red) with the noble intention of restoring it. Which he never did, and then he died and there it languished.

In 2013 globally noted British Jaguar experts CMC tracked it down, and the following year bought it from Mrs Johnstone. CMC put it through a 3,000-hour restoration, salvaging the drivetrain, most of the interior, some of the monocoque and much else, and returning it the original pearl grey.

The restoration was funded by the next owner and finished in 2015. Soon after, Gordon bought it and reunited it with that first owner Nick Moor, as well as with Guy Spollon, son of Bruce Spollon who had sold it to Moor. Bruce was a well-known racer of a pre-war ERA and at one time president of the Vintage Sports-Car Club.

As well as taking it for regular service by Tim Griffin’s team at CMC, Gordon has also sent it through the hands of William Heynes, noted expert on originality. His grandfather was Jaguar’s Chief Engineer and Technical Director, Bill Heynes. There’s provenance.

It needs servicing because it gets driven. ‘You’ve got to use them. It’s the only way. And there’s a huge amount of appreciation. People love the way they look. They come up and talk to you in a friendly way, lots of thumbs up and waving. It makes people happy.’

He no longer has a modern car. All his personal imperatives pointed to a lightly modernized Jaguar Mk2 saloon as the family car. He also races an XK140, once putting it on pole at the Goodwood Revival.

Which is why he doesn’t keep his several classics in some big facility miles from his London home. They’re squirrelled away in ‘lock-ups’, the British term for single-car garages, dotted around the streets nearby. Point of fact he’s been known to buy a house just for its garage, install a car, then put the house itself up for rent. ‘It’s so I can use the cars regularly.’

We head off again, tracing to London’s inner Ring Road, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. ‘It’s just such a beautiful feeling being in a work of art, but being able to drive it rather than just look at it.’

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katherins
katherins
26 days ago

That’s a fascinating topic! The Jaguar E-Type in London’s chaos sounds like an unexpected yet surprisingly perfect combination. Here’s what we can glean from the information you provided: The E-Type’s Maneuverability: The article suggests the E-Type’s design makes it well-suited for navigating London’s congested streets. Its narrow body, good ground clearance, and superb suspension allow it to handle tight spaces, speed bumps, and unpredictable traffic.
A Classic Built for Daily Driving: While the E-Type is a coveted classic car, the owner seems to use it regularly. This goes against the stereotype of keeping such vehicles tucked away for special occasions.
Advantages Over Modern Cars?: The article hints that the E-Type might even have some advantages over modern cars in London’s urban environment. Perhaps its size and handling make it easier to navigate the tight streets compared to some larger modern vehicles.
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Last edited 26 days ago by katherins

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