The CEO of Stratstone's parent company, Pendragon PLC, talks about his passion for the E-type, and the plans for Lightweight E-type no. 15, over the coming year
How did you first hear about the Lightweight E-type project?
You can trace the story of Stratstone and Jaguar back to 1929, and we've developed a great relationship over the years. The concept of Jaguar doing something around heritage was being talked about, and we flagged our interest. There were a number of discussions with respect to distribution of cars, or refurbishment. Then the Lightweight E-type project came up.
It was a bold idea. Did you have any concerns about how it might turn out?
It was a leap of faith, but Jaguar have got the right people, the enthusiasm, the passion, and the experience - all of which you need when building a car like this. With all of that, and knowing how Jaguar go about things today, it was a reasonably safe bet. If anything, we thought it would probably turn out better than anybody's expectations - which it absolutely has.
It's rare for brands to celebrate heritage in such a direct way. What makes Jaguar different?
There was a time when Jaguar didn't talk about the past, and just focused on looking forward. The big change in the last 45 years has been that, under [Jaguar Land Rover CEO] Dr Ralf Speth, it has been okay for Jaguar to talk about the past as well. There has always been huge passion within Jaguar for its heritage and those great stories of the past, and Jaguar is transforming the way they talk about how that affects today's cars and how they're looking to the future. The Lightweight E-type encapsulates how they're doing that.
How pleased have you been with the response to the Lightweight E-type project?
It's already catching so many people's attention - not just in the classic car world, but the world in general. The fact that the 2015 Lightweight E-type exists is a great thing on its own, but there's also the fact that it's a trailblazer for other things to come out of Jaguar.
What's your own personal history with the E-type?
I used to be a car mechanic in the 1970s at a BMW dealership, and we once took an E-type in as part exchange - a red one. I'd seen a few on the road, but this was the first time I'd seen one upclose, which is something very different. I got an opportunity to drive the car around the workshop and yard, and that was the moment my passion for E-types started. Then I went back to admiring from afar until I got the chance to own one. I bought my own - a V12 model - in 1991, and I've still got it.
What do you think it is about the E-type that makes it so alluring?
The car is, in so many respects, uncompromising. You could get away with less bonnet; you could add a bit more boot space. You could get away with lots of things, but so many cars start to look similar because they're all about compromise. With the E-type, that long bonnet, the way it sits so low to the ground - there's nothing else looks like it. It's a really brave design, which has stood the test of time.