Porsche guys can keep their Mezgers, and Alfa fans their Bussos, because the trophy for greatest-sounding European six-cylinder engine belongs in Coventry, home of Jaguar’s XK-series inline-six. Don’t believe me? Listen for yourself on the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, which features a meticulously-constructed Jaguar E-Type and the glorious music that emanates from it’s center-exit tailpipes.
Dan Mooney, president of Classic Jaguar, joins Leno for a walkthrough and quick drive of the company’s latest project, a 1963 XKE built for the sole purpose of driving. While not an all-out tribute to the legendary lightweight variants of the early ’60s, the car possesses a number of callbacks to those cars—most notably an all-aluminum bodyshell. Knock-off-style wheels, hood latches and belts, and a bumper delete round out the sleek, race-inspired package.
The theme continues inside, with a carpetless interior that trades any frivolous comfort items for only what the driver needs in front of him. Gauges up front, switchgear to the right, and a modern shoulder harnesses complete the spartan setup. Behind the driver sits a 35-gallon fuel cell, providing the Jag with a surprisingly-long-legged range of 400+ miles.
Lifting the clamshell hood, however, gives us a glimpse of where this build’s magic truly comes from. The original 3.8-liter inline-six has been stroked out to over 4.0 liters and fitted with a set of sidedraft Weber carburetors. These changes, in conjunction with a warmed-over wide-angle cylinder head and bump in compression, boost this vintage feline’s horsepower to a healthy 350.
Leno slides behind the wheel and turns the key, and the ferocious Jaguar roars to life. Yes, 350 horsepower is far less crazy than it used to be, but power-number-numbness be damned; the 2200-pound roadster is a reminder that there’s plenty of fun to be had in a featherweight, purely analog machine. Any human with a pulse and properly functioning ear drums would be easily convinced that this was one of the most sensational experiences you can have in a vintage car.
When deliberating on the different paths for building Jaguars, Mooney says he often asks himself, “Would Sir William Lyons have approved?” In the case of this aluminum XKE and its symphonic six-cylinder, we think Mr. Jaguar would absolutely love it.