Jaguar hopes to electrify the crowd today at the posh annual Motorsports Gathering at Quail Lodge & Golf Club in California with a production model of its classic 1960s E-Type sports cars turned into electric cars. Am I the only one who thinks this back-to-the-future idea is just wrong?
There will be rich buyers, of course, for these shiny new/old toys, which were first shown in concept form last year. But seriously, would you update the "Mona Lisa" into some kind of trendy digital art installation? (Keep in mind that an original E-Type (aka the XK-E in the U.S. market) is in the collection of New York's Museum of Modern Art.)
But ... Why?
Why do it? "Future-proofing the enjoyment of classic car ownership is a major stepping stone for Jaguar Classic," says Tim Hannig, director of Jaguar Land Rover Classic, which also restores the old sports cars in its E-Type Reborn program.
I'm not being a Luddite here; in fact, I really like Jaguar's new I-Pace electric SUV, which is a thoroughly modern vehicle being what it was meant to be. And anyone who has tried to keep an E-Type, given the record of British auto electronics from the time, might yearn for new wiring.
But Jaguar Land Rover's Classic Works will convert E-Type originals into battery-electric cars with specs still to be revealed, replacing the car's distinctive exhaust note with an electric whoosh. There is no indication that it will artificially pipe the old sound through the car speakers, though it wouldn't surprise me if some buyer with more money than taste asks for just that.
Something Old, Something New
Much of the interior will be restored, but the mid-20th-century dashboard's analog dials, toggles switches and padded leather give way to display screens and modern, but sterile, carbon-fiber and brushed-metal trim. And, of course, there's no need for that stubby, booted shift lever in the 21st-century electric version — a rotary dial for the single-speed gearbox will do.
The company says it's targeting a 170-mile range for the E-Type EV, which will have a 40-kilowatt-hour battery positioned in the same place in the chassis as the old gas engine with the electric motor just behind. It says many components from the I-Pace electric SUV will be used in the powertrain, which will route power to a carryover differential and final drive.
Jaguar says the new powertrain has similar weight and dimensions to the gasoline powertrain it replaces so that most of the car's structure, including suspension and brakes, do not have to change, and the original front-rear weight distribution is maintained for similar handling characteristics.
You Can Do It!
If you happen to already own an E-Type, Jaguar Classic also will convert your car to an electric. It will come back with a crate of parts, we assume, because Jaguar says that, "To preserve the authenticity of the base vehicle, the EV conversion will be fully reversible."
Jaguar has revealed no prices and it won't say how many it will build, only that it is gauging interest. In the meantime, you can appreciate an original E-Type still in the wild below, spotted this summer at a Rock Hall, Md., regatta.
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