By Richard Thomson
Last November I was given an E-Type Experience at Knockhill as a birthday present. I should explain that my only previous experience of a Jaguar E-Type was also at Knockhill, but that time as a passenger in an ex-Ecurie Ecosse lightweight version. Winter is not the best time to be driving at Knockhill, so I decided to wait until spring and the better weather.
Come that day I had booked, and the weather didn’t look good at all. It was very, very wet on the M74, and conditions only started to improve as I approached Edinburgh. Sadly the traffic didn’t, and I was lucky to arrive at Knockhill on time. There were 3 of us taking part in the experience, and I don’t think the others would be too unhappy if I was to say that I was comfortably the youngest! It was decided that I would go first, which had the advantage that I had the track mostly to myself. Out first for 4 laps in a Honda Civic Type-R to get used to the damp circuit, and with strict instructions to keep off the painted kerbs, apart from at the chicane. I had been looking forward to the Honda, but it was a bit of a disappointment. It had loads of grip through the corners, and I think it was quite quick on the straights, although it didn’t feel so. I remember driving a Golf GTi around a damp Mallory Park about 20 years ago, which was much more entertaining! The Honda felt like it would let you do anything, until it ran out of grip and you had a big accident!
Anyway, having convinced the instructor that I was safe to be allowed on the track, I was allowed into the E-Type. This was a series 1, 4.2 litre coupe, which is 50 years old this year. First impressions were good as I fitted the car well, and the view along the bonnet was very impressive. I had the car’s owner for company, and he warned me about the kerbs (again!), the brakes, and not getting 1st gear when I was going for 3rd! Out onto the track and the gear change was good, but the thin rimmed steering wheel took some getting used to. Approaching the first corner, and where are the brakes!? Harder shove on the pedal, and there they were! As the engine was cold it stuttered on the corners for the first couple of laps, but ran well after that. Also the brakes were very good and predictable once warmed up.
All too soon my time in the car was over. Would I like to own one? You bet, but I would need to win the lottery first. There used to be a couple of companies who produced replica kits based on Jaguar saloon parts, and I would be interested if they were available again.
By the way, can you guess which car is faster around Knockhill, the Honda or the E-Type? Well of course it is the Honda! Not only more grip, but more power too. Still doesn’t mean it is the more desirable car though.
The day was rounded off by half an hour of karting. A slightly damp track was just perfect to keep it entertaining. Although I only had one other person to chase in my session, I was pleased to find out that my best lap had been half a second quicker that his, and the following day I was told that this lap had been the fastest of all that day. Not bad for an old codger!