Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
12/22/08 11:54 a.m.

What was the best street-going Jaguar ever built? When we visited Jay Leno’s garage in Burbank, Calif., recently, we think we saw the answer sitting near the door and ready for use. After we looked it over, Jay graciously gave us the chance to drive it, clinching our first impressions.

It’s a relatively unassuming red Jaguar that probably gets as much use as any car in Jay’s collection. At first glance it appears simply to be a nicely maintained E-Type roadster, with the long, curvaceous bonnet tapering back to the two-seat cockpit and short rear deck that were the hallmark of all E-Types.

But to anyone who knows the key changes that took place during the E-Type’s 13-year evolution, there’s something slightly askew. The body has the graceful faired-in headlamps and modest bumpers of the early series E-Types, but they flank the large chrome grille that wasn’t added until the Series 3s. And how do you explain the V12 insignia on the rear deck and the slight fender flares that cover tires wider than any that ever shod the straight-six Series 1s and 2s?

The differences are there because this is Jaguar builder and restorer Jason Len’s improvement on Jaguar’s own creations. This was the car Jaguar might have built in the early ’70s, had the company not been hemmed in by mundane constraints such as environmental and safety regulations. A closer look shows that this car combines the best of the body lines and short wheelbase of the Series 1 E-Types with the power of the V12 engine that motivated the heavier, longer and clunkier Series 3 XKEs. But how did it come to exist?

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