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In terms of body shape, no car is more iconic than the E-Type.

I remember listening to a talk by Ian Callum at the launch of the XK in 2006 when he spoke of the “pure freedom” designers enjoyed with the E-type compared to the restraints facing designers of modern cars today.

New car designs are governed by light positioning, crash tests and other safety requirements. We also understand so much more about aerodynamics these days and designers of modern cars are guided as much by the science of what slips through the air as they are by stylistic preferences. Callum’s argument was that, if you were to put forward the design of an E-type as a proposal for a new car today, the changes you would have to make, to ensure the car conformed to modern regulations, would be so severe that it would be barely recognizable once you were finished.

It’s not just the shape of the outside of the E-type that makes it so special. For me, personally, what goes on inside the car is even more important. While the view down the bonnet is incomparable, these cars were designed for the journey and not just the arrival. When I speak to friends who are unconnected to the classic car scene and I try to explain how driving an E-type is different to operating most modern cars, the word I use most often is “event”. Climbing into the driving seat, past the paintwork and the chrome, then positioning yourself into the soft leather of the seat is an event. Placing a hand on the wooden steering wheel while pressing the ignition and hearing the XK engine crackle into life ahead of you is an event.

Approaching a slightly damp roundabout would be nothing in a modern car, but in an E-type, as you drop a couple of gears, hear the revs rise and ready yourself for the slippery road ahead, it’s an event.

I have to be honest and say that it was not always an event. When we first restored our Series 1 4.2 E-type (50EE) back in 2010, the finished car was a thing of absolute beauty and a crowd would gather everywhere it went. Yet, to drive 50EE back then, I have to be honest and admit I was expecting more.

I vividly recall a day, not long after we completed the car when I drove it from our headquarters in Bridgnorth to an event in Suffolk that no longer takes place called the Woodbridge Speed Trials, where a selection of cars drove up and down a runway to see what top speed they could achieve. The drive to the event was around 3 hours and was interspersed with rain showers; while the E-type didn’t miss a beat all day, I just didn’t enjoy the drive. The car had been built and restored correctly, but it just wasn’t quite “sorted.”

Since that day back in 2011, I have gone on to drive thousands of miles in 50EE including hundreds of trips up Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb. The car now drives and handles superbly well, and I relish every opportunity to get behind the wheel.

How did you improve your E-Type Series 1 after it’s restoration?

One of the first things we looked at was the steering. We fitted a 15-inch steering wheel to our car and discovered it gave the perfect balance between lightness of operation you would associate with a larger 16-inch wheel combined with the direct feel you get from a smaller wheel that requires you to take your hands off the wheel less. We also teamed up our 15-inch wheel choice with a quick release boss that meant getting in and out of the car was significantly easier. When you drive any car, you only have a handful of touch points, so making sure the steering wheel and other points of contact work for you is an important contributor to the overall driving experience.

You won’t get far if you aren’t in control of the pedals. The single biggest change, that made the most difference to my enjoyment of driving 50EE, was the throttle cable conversion that we helped to design alongside Mangoletsi. The clear advantages of this kit are due in part to the aircraft specification rose joints, but in terms of driving the car I would highlight the control, comfort and power advantages this throttle conversion delivers:

Control

The original E-type linkage system was badly set up and led to the feeling that the throttle was either on or off, the cause of some nervous moments, especially on wet “A” roads. Once we introduced the Mangoletsi kit with its dual cable action, there was a smooth sensation that allowed you to accurately control the throttle and decide whether you wanted 10% of the throttle or full-on pedal to the metal.

Comfort

Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis may have made history 60 years ago with his dash to Geneva and he clearly excelled in his work, but tall he was not. The early experiences I had in 50EE highlighted the fact that the position of the pedals was designed for someone closer in stature to Norman than myself. The flexibility offered by the Mangoletsi system to make vertical or horizontal adjustments to the pedals made a huge difference to the driving experience and overall comfort I could now enjoy on short trips or longer journeys.

Power

The introduction of the Mangoletsi throttle immediately offered a feeling of more available power under the right foot. The arrival of the acceleration was now instant which gave me more opportunity to sit back and enjoy the symphony being generated by William Haynes’ creation under the bonnet and performed right in front of my eyes. The ultimate drive should appeal to all of the senses and with everything in now tune, 50EE never disappointed.

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