All of which makes Jaguar's announcement that it will build and sell six lightweight E-Type coupes — just as they would have left the factory when the original, limited run finished in 1964 — that much more stunning. No major automaker has ever built such time machines for public consumption.
How can Jaguar do this? The credit might go to Carroll Shelby; the late sports-car legend was famous for building period-correct versions of his Shelby Cobra by using vehicle serial numbers that had been assigned in the 1960s but never assembled.
In 1963, Jaguar assigned 18 serial numbers to build all-aluminum versions of its E-Type coupe for private racers, weighing some 250 lbs. less than regular E-Types, but only finished 12 a year later.
By using the final six numbers, Jaguar can have the new Lightweight E-Types meet international rules for historic racing; they still won't be street-legal thanks to their lack of emissions controls or modern crash safety.
Building the cars — of which only a seventh prototype copy has been completed so far — requires a mix of modern tools and historic knowledge. Jaguar digitally scanned the 230 pieces of bodywork and chassis of the original '63 to figure out how to stamp and assemble them in the modern era, calling in workers who had experience on the E-Type line in their youth.
From the wood-rim steering wheel to the magnesium-alloy wheels and even three Weber carburetors attached to the inline-six engine good for 300 hp, the new E-Types are almost mechanically identical to the originals. (The few nods to modernism mostly involve safety, like a lined fuel tank.)
And if you wonder whether this might be a car within your price range, chances are it's not: the numbers leaking out of Jaguar suggest a price tag somewhere north of $1.7 million apiece for the final six copies.
For that kind of money, a buyer could get a modern Bugatti Veyron with every available engineering advancement — but none of the nostalgia.