This E-Type Became One Man’s Perfect Road-And-Racing Machine
Photography by Sean Smith
Growing up in Washington Heights, New York, you were in one camp or the other. You were a ’Vette guy, or you were an E Type guy. Not Chevrolet Corvette. Not Jaguar XKE. It was ’Vette or E Type, and you knew what that meant.
Bob Millstein was an E Type guy. From a young age he was drawn to British cars. His older brother got into racing and started out with an MG TC, then moving on to an Austin Healey Sprite. Following his brother to the track got young Millstein even more addicted. His fate was sealed while hanging out in Carl’s garage in upper Manhattan—that was where he was able to get up close and personal with an E Type Jaguar being raced by “The Sugar Hill Racing Mob”.
As he grew up, Millstein fed his desire with ever-increasing doses of British machinery. He started with a Bug Eye Sprite; that led to a Mini Cooper, which grew into an MGB; then on to an Austin Healy Mk III; then, finally, the E Type. Each step was a quantum leap in horsepower and handling, climbing the evolutionary scale until he reached the pinnacle: his dream car.
A 4.2 litre, six cylinder, double overhead cam, triple carburetors, independent rear suspension, 4 wheel disc brake dream machine.
When Millstein got the car, it was more nightmare than dream. It was a wreck that had been sitting in the back of a garage for many years, unwanted and unloved. A friend owed Millstein some money; he took the car to settle the debt. First, he had to replace the bonnet and get the car running… not a problem, as a few years earlier he’d opened his own shop, Briarcliff Classic and Imported Car Service. When finished, it truly hit home what a special car the E Type was. It was on a par with the Ferraris and Astons of the time… a very cool car indeed!
The Jaguar became his road car. In 1976, a friend was heading up to Mount Equinox in Manchester, Vermont for a hill climb. Millstein and the XKE followed along.
This was the beginning of a 40 year relationship with the Jag. It was his multi- purpose machine. Along the way, the engine and suspension were rebuilt with competition in mind; better brakes and other go-fast items were also added. It was driven to and raced at Lime Rock, Bridgehampton, Watkins Glen, and other local events. In 1987, the duo headed to Speed Week in the Bahamas to race around the streets of Paradise island.
Millstein moved on to more serious racing in the SCCA, running an H production Sprite. He became the New York regional champion and a North American road racing champion in the Sprite—but still observed his annual pilgrimage to Equinox in the Jag, taking multiple fastest times of the day over the years.
Around this time, another Jaguar came into his life: the Hansgen Jaguar Special built by racer Walt Hansgen. it won the 1953 Watkins Glen Grand Prix with Hansgen behind the wheel.
It was also in sad shape when Millstein acquired it; he brought it back to fighting trim and raced extensively in the VSCCA. The E Type was put away, but not forgotten.
After a number of years, it was time to rebuild the E. The years of hard driving had taken its toll on the Jaguar. A ten year nuts-and-bolts, ground-up restoration was begun.
The car was given a new look. Taking a page from Jaguar racing history, he gave his rebirthed XKE the look of its lightweight racing relatives. The engine was balanced and blueprinted, forged pistons and Isky cams were added, along with triple Weber carbs. Headers and a stainless steel exhaust helped bring the horsepower somewhere north of 300; a 5-speed gearbox was added to give the car a more modern ride. D-Type style Dunlop wheels and Avon tires added the final touch.
The E Type has had many stable mates. Other Jaguars, 120s, the Jaguar special. Aston Martin DB4s and DB4 GTs have come and gone. The E Type is always a constant. Millstein has been through a lot with the E—even almost losing his life several times in the car. There are too many miles and to many memories to let it go. At the time of its release, Enzo Ferrari called the XKE, “The most beautiful car ever made”.
Bob couldn’t agree more!