The Jaguar E-type was the epitome of the British sports car, an icon of the 1960s that is still instantly recognizable today. It enjoyed a 13-year production run, during which 72,529 were sold – or could it now be 72,530?
Ray Parrott, a member of the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club and a Jaguar fanatic, knows all about E-types. He has five of them: a 3.8-litre Roadster, a Series 2 Fixed-head Coupé, a replica Lightweight and now two V12 Roadsters. An avid Jaguar devotee from an early age, he’s owned 25 models in 17 years but he isn’t completely obsessive – he now has a Sunbeam Tiger, BMW 850 Alpina and a rally DB6, to complement the everyday Jaguar XKR and XJ6.
Ray is a self-taught engineer and has developed a significant number of skills in every aspect of vehicle restoration over the years. Now that he has set himself up with all the equipment and facilities needed to do most of the work on his cars, all his E-types get the ‘Parrott touch’ and have been adapted and improved for today’s driving conditions. They are always kept in pristine condition and in regular use.
Ray’s passion for what he terms ‘the ultimate classic car’ was further fueled about two years ago when he was contacted by Mike Wilkinson of M&C Wilkinson Jaguar Spares, a Yorkshire-based Jaguar parts business of which Ray was a regular customer. Through his many contacts, Mike Wilkinson had been able to acquire a cache of original E-type parts. They turned out to be highly significant.
Back in 1974, when the final E-type left the Browns Lane assembly line, all the remaining parts were sold off to one gentleman who kept them in storage with the hope of using them for his own needs. He had several lorry loads of parts, all new and in their original packaging, which included significant items such as a complete Roadster bodyshell, an unused V12 engine and gearbox, a rear axle and all those little fixtures and fittings that go to make up a complete car. Eventually, due to age, the gentleman concerned sold the lot to Mike Wilkinson, who immediately thought of Ray because of his enthusiasm for all things E-type. What better person to benefit from some of these rare finds?
Discussions followed and it became clear after viewing a hastily compiled list of all the parts that it just might be possible to create a new E-type from them. Ray and Mike made a detailed appraisal during Ray’s numerous visits to Mike’s premises in Yorkshire.
The amazing thing was that, although some parts were inevitably duplicated, there was sufficient of most things to actually build a complete Series 3 Roadster. Apart from the bodyshell, which had only suffered a few minor dents and surface rust, there were several made-up assemblies ready for installation, like the complete instrument panel with wiring and the radiator with all its connections, electric fans and cowls. These assemblies had been made up at Jaguar for dispatch to the assembly line, and were ready to fit to a car.
Altogether, Mike and Ray estimated that there was 95 percent of what was required to complete the job, and that included a new set of original-spec Dunlop tires! Amongst the numerous small packets of ‘goodies’ there was even a brand new RAC Running In sticker.
A deal was struck and Ray, a hauler by profession, arranged for everything to be moved to his home in Essex for the project to commence. Mike agreed to supply back-up for any outstanding parts required, on the basis that they would only be original Jaguar parts and not reproduction items, so as to retain the authenticity of the finished car.
Ray’s first priority was to get the bodyshell cleaned, the minor repair work carried out, and have the shell stripped and painted. This was the only work undertaken by an outside contractor; Ray undertook all the other jobs himself.
Deciding on the color that the body should be painted was very difficult. Ray is fond of red but in the end he opted for black, as this was the color chosen for 49 out of the last 50 E-types. It turned out to be a wise move, because most of these black cars had a tan interior, and, while Ray again thought about using red, he found virtually a complete set of tan trim in his cache of parts.
With the bodywork underway, Ray started researching the minutiae of his project, realizing that he had been given a unique opportunity to build a ‘last E-type’, provided he used only original parts.
He meticulously worked through the factory Parts and Workshop Manuals, identifying every part he would need to build the car and cross-referencing them to other suppliers’ information and to the packaging his purchased parts came in. His intimate knowledge of E-types and the fact that he already owned a Series 3 Roadster were extremely useful in understanding not only what was required but also how the different bits went together.
Ray also checked out the legal position with the DVLA. He was assured that, given the original content of the finished car, he could safely be granted a period registration number and chassis number.
As the parts identification continued, Ray never ceased to be amazed at what he had been lucky enough to find. For example, there were items that rarely survive long-term storage – such as a complete hood assembly, still boxed and with absolutely no damage or creasing to the clear plastic rear screen.
Other items, like the pre-formed fibreboard center console surround and even the Bainbridge mild-steel exhaust system, were all in as-new condition. Most of the upholstery was present and for those areas where he would need the trim finishing off, such as around the rear storage box, he even had a roll of new material!
Some of the exact material types used on the later E-types are no longer available so Ray was lucky that he could either adapt ‘spares’ from his new parts or make up new trim using the raw material he had also acquired. Oh yes, it should also be pointed out that Ray has excellent trimming skills and his own industrial sewing machine – so none of this work presented any real problems to him.Over a period of eight months, Ray painstakingly worked night and day on the project, slowly assembling every component to exacting standards. The only large items he was missing were a windscreen and battery, which were easily sourced. Sensibly, he decided not to use the period tires...
Any minor bracketry and trim pieces that he was short of were successfully sourced from spares suppliers and the Jaguar Enthusiasts Club Spares Days held in March and October. Of course there were no nuts, bolts, washers or rivets so Ray scrupulously identified all the original fixtures and tracked them down, acquiring the entire stock from a business that was closing down locally.
One spin-off from the project was that it provided a rare opportunity to carry out direct comparisons between Ray’s original and still-packaged parts and the crop of reproduced items currently available for the E-type. Some incredible differences were revealed, which proved to Ray that there is still no substitute for using genuine parts. Everything, literally everything, went together like a knife going through soft butter. Every screw hole matched up perfectly, every trim item fitted first time, and Ray found it a joy to put the car together.
Ray has kept a detailed log of every part used or acquired and a photographic record of the work he carried out on this unique experiment, which was finished in August 2005. The icing on the cake was finding a brand-new factory hardtop for the car, again still wrapped up and in its original black paint.
Not surprisingly, Ray was really looking forward to his first drive in this ‘new’ E-type and he wasn’t disappointed. There wasn’t a rattle or squeak and the car just felt right, even down to having the special smell that’s peculiar to a car that is to all intent and purposes new.
The E-type has since been MoT tested and currently awaits registration. But what now? Ray has completed his challenge and has even built a new luxury garage on the side of his house to accommodate this and his other E-types. However, owning the finished car has turned into something of an anti-climax. The real joy for him was the detective work, the attention to detail and the actual construction.