Catfight!

I am grateful to my old friend Nigel Smith – @neij on Twitter – for drawing my attention to this story. A Swiss bloke with lots of dosh and presumably a preference for old Jag styling over contemporary commissioned a Swedish company to build him this homage to the E. The car is called the Growler E and was built by a company called Vizualtech. They have some previous, having done some unpleasant things to the new Camaro and an unsuspecting Volvo C30. Rather more successfully, they’ve created a seriously gorgeous retro powerboat design.

Vizualtech is of the opinion that nobody much likes Jaguar’s current styling and that they can do better. I’m going to make one of three assumptions here; that they’re blind, that they’re stupid or that they’re picking a fight they know they’re not going to win in order to gain publicity. They are at least getting some attention from the car blogs. They think that the XK, the E-type the Mark 2 and the Series III XJ are all better in visual terms than current Jags. I’m not convinced of that. I was only today drooling gently over the rear haunches of an XKR for sale at Marshall’s on Newmarket Road. I admire the style of the old cars but I’m a gym-going, blogging, 21st Century man and I will happily dribble all day on Jaguar’s current line-up. At least until the showroom staff ask me to leave.

This confection owes a lot to the Jaguar XKR. Its supercharged 5.ol V8 has been boosted from 51obhp to 600bhp. I’m not at all sure that those rather attractive wire wheels will be able to cope with the torque of the engine. The central tub is made of carbon fibre and the oily and springy bits from the XKR are attached to tubular frames bolted to the carbon tub. The bodywork is made from composites. I quite like it but it’s not anything like as sexy as the original E-type or even Ian Callum’s XKR. While the Growler E has hardly been beaten with the ugly stick, it does look as if a Series 1 E-type coupe spent the night giving a ’56 ‘Vette a thorough seeing-to and nine months later, this was the result. Both Corvette and Jag have good genes so their offspring is hardly a minger but it’s no match for me for the XKR. There is too much pastiche in the design for my taste. Vizualtech say that they will build a limited run of Growler Es if there is sufficient interest.

I can’t help feeling that Mr Swiss Bloke would have been better advised going to Eagle and having them build him one of their re-engineered E-types. He could then have 21st century engineering and performance in proper 1960s styling. If he’d wanted a saloon, then Beacham would have built him a supercharged V8 Mark 2. If he were slightly strange, and being Swiss that’s just possible, KWE would have done him a very nice Series III XJ or even better an XJ-S. My favourite new old Jags are the XKs that JD Classics build in Maldon. If you haven’t been, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to their showroom and workshops. They ran some open days in 2009 which were very well run and well-supported by local petrolheads. I made the trip down from Cambridge for the last one of the year when they had Brian Lister as guest of honour in conversation with Tony Dron. It was fascinating. As well as repair, restoration and maintenance of all sorts of classics, they have a series of upgrades for the XKs of the 1950s which will result in a car which looks like a very nicely restored XK but which will not overheat in heavy traffic, will handle nicely on modern tyres and will be wind- and weather-proof. I know that they’ve done at least one Series III XJ and that was a very, very nice motor car indeed.

There are few things which were better in the Sixties than today. The absence of AIDS is about the only think I can think of which makes that period better than this. In every other respect we’re better off today than we were then and that includes the design of our Jags.

Back To The Future

There are a couple of anniversaries this year I’m keen to mark in some way. The Geneva Motor Show opens in about 10 days and it’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Jaguar E-type.

Phwoar!

 I’d normally expect a new concept from Jaguar to mark the anniversary but last year they built the rather wonderful C-X75 as a 75th birthday present to themselves. That car was an awful lot of concepts all rolled into one: a range-extended, plug in, gas turbine-powered hybrid with four in-hub electric motors and a ridiculously gorgeous two-seat supercar body. All that engineering effort means that there is probably precious little left over to build a new E-type even though such a car has been mooted for years now. I expect there will be some kind of special edition XK or XKR with some nice leather seats, a turned aluminium dash and some crackle black trimmings to the fascia.

You might also expect Renault to party like it’s 1961. That’s when they launched the Renault 4. The boxy little Renault is pretty much everything the Shaguar isn’t. It’s lack of overt sex appeal was such that it is alleged that one Italian model refused to be photographed with it. I think it’s quite sexy in a French peasant way, you know like really rough wine, cheese that smells like a goat with halitosis and a mustache that’s been marinaded in Pernod for years. Having said all that, the Quatrelle was in production for much longer than even the Jag and that lasted in three series until 1974. The Renault was in production until 1992 and it changed a lot less than the Jaguar did.

Renault will no doubt have some kind of celebration planned for the anniversary. Its new electric cars could form part of the celebrations but none of them are the basic transport for four people that the Quatrelle was. The Fluence is probably closest but it’s a bit too posh. The Twizy is too small and weird. The closest in spirit to the 4 in the current Renault line-up is the Kangoo van-with-windows thing. It’s nice and simple and has a big hatch at the back. It’s one of the things I like. Renault will build an electric Kangoo van and it would be the work of but a moment to add the windows, back seats and big hatch and I would have only the second electric car that I actually like.

Another of the things I like is the new Morgan 3 Wheeler. Only Morgan could introduce a car which looks even older than the car it’s had in production since the Norman Conquest. It has a big, throbby, 100bhp Harley-Davidson engine and a five speed gearbox from a Mazda. It’s made from aluminium but to be honest, from not much aluminium so it only weighs about 500kg. It has leather seats and a cockpit like a Tiger Moth. The brochure says it has an aerodynamic bullet-shaped body. Yeah, right. Adrian Newey would laugh his very technical socks off at that notion. The brochure also talks about a feeling of flying through the air so its top speed will probably feel about 400mph. In truth, it’ll be flat out at 115mph but frankly, who cares? It’s a thing a beauty and a joy for ever. The price will likely to be around £30,000 and that’s quite a lot of money for three wheels, some tubes, the engine from a Hog and the instruments from a biplane. On the other hand, it’s not much to pay for the most fun you can have with your bobble hat on.

Tally ho, chaps!