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Liam Bird meets a motoring legend and test drives an E-Type jag

PUBLISHED: 17:38 17 May 2011 | UPDATED: 19:23 20 February 2013

Liam Bird meets a motoring legend and test drives an E-Type jag

Liam Bird meets a motoring legend and test drives an E-Type jag

Liam Bird meets the man who introduced the iconic E-Type to the world 50 years ago and visits a Shropshire business that is a world leader in Jaguar restoration


Purrfect bodies

Liam Bird meets the man who introduced the iconic E-Type to the world 50 years ago and visits a Shropshire business that is a world leader in Jaguar restoration

Bridgnorth-based Classic Motor Cars is the worlds premier Jaguar restorer and its easy to see why, says Liam Bird

Stepping over the wide, high sill and settling into the aged leather seat of 1 VHP, the first production Series 1 fixed head E-type Jaguar, its hard not to be reminded of Norman Dewiss epic overnight drive to Geneva 50 years ago. Speaking at his home in Church Stretton, Norman remembers the details as if it were something that happened only yesterday.


Purrfect bodies

Bridgnorth-based Classic Motor Cars is the worlds premier Jaguar restorer and its easy to see why, says Liam Bird

"There are subtle ways of showing off," says Nick Goldthorp as he leads me around the workshops of Classic Motor Cars in Bridgnorth. "We used to have a customer that ran an Aston Martin DBS, but when he bought it his clients thought he was doing too well and was charging them too much. He sold the Aston and bought an E-Type instead. Everybody loves it, but only those in the know, know how much it cost."

Nick and his team of 25 skilled trimmers, panel-makers and mechanics have been restoring all things Jaguar XK C, D and E-Type as well as XK120, 140 and 150s plus Inspector Morse Mk2s since the early 1990s and have built an enviable reputation. In fact, they are now considered the worlds premier Jaguar restorer and its easy to see why.

The sight of panels on which the paint shines so deep it looks like you could swim in it and endless shelves containing everything required to rebuild even the rarest of E-type variants make it obvious that CMC is as far from a back-street bodyshop as its possible to get. "No car is un-restorable even if it arrives in a couple of tea-chests," says Nick. "It usually takes us around 12 to 18 months to fully rebuild what youd call a barn find. From day one to handing the car back to the owner were in constant contact with one another so between us we get things just right."

By getting things right he means that customers who opt to have a classic Jaguar restored here can chose to have it rebuilt exactly as it left the factory or discreetly modernised to include things, that when the car was originally built, were the stuff of the future. Five speed gearboxes, power steering, up-rated brakes or suspension and air-conditioning can all be fitted in a way that to the untrained eye they look like theyve always been there. Enhancement rather than modification for the sake of it is the order of the day and its possible to have a classic Jaguar for everyday driving, rather than just for special occasions. All of CMCs bodyshells come with a five-year paint warranty even some modern manufacturers dont offer that.

But its the detail that really impresses. All of the wiring harnesses are wrapped in the original woven type sleeving, air-boxes and bulkheads carry all the original labels and everything that can be, is polished to perfection. Panel gaps are better than when the car left the factory and if something isnt right its done again and again until its just so. Everyone here is a perfectionist and enthusiast, and most of them drive, or are restoring classic cars of their own.

"Of course there are a few things we wont do," says Nick "What might seem like a good idea to an owner initially may not quite be so attractive when they see the leather and painted panel samples side by side. With some customers spending in excess 100,000 on what is their dream we also want to ensure that should they choose to sell their car later on, theyre not stuck with something thats worth a lot less than it should be because of its strange colour or trim."

Such is the level of expertise here that a quick look around the workshops reveals that some of the rarest Jaguar E-types of all are being brought back to life at CMC. Chassis number 4 is undergoing a full restoration. The original factory prototype 9600 HP is in for some minor work and a service and of only 12 all-aluminium low drag E-Types ever made, two are here being rebuilt.

"We didnt set out to be just a Jaguar specialist, it just kind of happened," says Nick modestly. You cant help thinking he likes the craftsmanship and the cars to speak for themselves.

Classic Motor Cars, Bridgnorth: 01746 765804


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