Right from the moment when deliveries commenced in 1961, the E-Type began to find its way on to the world's racetracks. In the Grand Touring class for production sports cars the E-Type proved competitive right from the start when Graham Hill, driving Tommy Sopwith's Team Endeavour car, celebrated the model's racing debut by winning at Oulton Park on 3rd April 1961 ahead of Innes Ireland's Aston Martin DB4GT and Roy Salvadori in John Coombs' E-Type.
A production sports car, the E-Type had never been intended for racing, even though its design owed a lot to that of the D-Type, and it was abundantly clear to all at Brown's Lane that considerable modification would be required to make it competitive at the highest level. Nevertheless, when the GT Class was elevated to Manufacturers' Championship status for 1963, Jaguar decided to develop a small batch of very special lightweight cars to challenge Ferrari. The FIA's regulations for the Gran Turismo category stipulated that a minimum of 100 cars had to be built but permitted coachwork modifications, thus enabling Jaguar to claim that its lightweights were standard E-types fitted with altered bodywork. (This is the same loophole exploited by Ferrari to get the limited edition 250 GTO homologated, by claiming that they were re-bodied 250 GTs). In fact, all 12 lightweight E-Types constructed in period were built from scratch with aluminium bodies, though they were invoiced as a new standard road car with additional modifications and numbered in the normal production sequence.
To create the 1963 lightweight version, the E-Type's steel monocoque tub and outer body panels were remanufactured in aluminium and the engine dry-sumped and fitted with an alloy cylinder black, 'wide-angle' head and Lucas mechanical fuel injection, producing in excess of 300bhp. The production four-speed gearbox was used initially before a ZF five-speed unit was adopted towards the end of 1963. Sadly, the lightweight and low-drag E-Types failed to fulfil their potential in the endurance classics, though they did prove able to take on and beat the Ferrari GTOs at shorter distances. Since then E-Types have been raced successfully the world over, with development continuing well beyond the level achieved by Jaguar themselves.
This particular E-Type coupé has enjoyed an illustrious 20-year competition career, which has included participation in the Spa 6-Hour endurance race and Goodwood Members' Meeting. Maintained regardless of cost by the current owner, it is fitted with a very tractable, triple Weber-equipped racing engine built by the acknowledged maestro, Rob Beere, which was refreshed in 2015 and is said to produce 340bhp. Other noteworthy features include peg-drive wheels, correct brakes, Avon competition tyres, plumbed-in fire extinguisher, roll cage, leather seats, full synchromesh close-ratio gearbox, 3.54:1 ratio Powr-Lok differential, and a fast road/race suspension set-up. This car is eligible for the Jaguar Heritage and other historic sports car series or would be equally suited to fast road use. Fully prepared and race ready, 'PFL 478' comes with sundry invoices, MoT to August 2016, a V5 registration document and current FIA/HTP papers.