Brian Morrison sold guitars for a living, but the sweetest music he’s ever heard comes not from a Fender or a Gibson – it’s the symphonic, growling exhaust note of his Jaguar E-Type.
The Big Cat’s 4.2-litre, straight-six engine has been playing its own special brand of music in the country lanes around Brian’s Norfolk home since he bought the car 42 years ago.
A serial car restorer, Brian has owned – and sold – a multitude of cars over the years, but the red E-Type convertible is the one he has never been able to let go.
The most beautiful car ever made
“I admit I’ve come close to selling it several times, but I’ve never really needed to,” he says at his home in Swannington, north of Norwich.
“Some spring day you get up and feel like going for a drive and think ‘I nearly sold this and I’m having a lovely time in it’. So I’m always pleased that I’ve kept it.”
When it was launched back in 1961, no less than Enzo Ferrari described the E-Type as “the most beautiful car ever made”, a title it has never really relinquished despite a host of pretenders to its crown in the past half a century.
But the car was far more than just a pretty face; it could also hit 150mph and race to 60mph in under 7 seconds – for a time it was the fastest production car in the world, for a bargain price of just over £2,000.
The need for speed was why Brian swapped an MGB for the E-Type way back in 1975, and never regretted it.
They looked good and they were crazy quick
“The MGB was the biggest encouragement to get, and to keep, the E-Type you could possibly want. It was so slow by comparison,” he says.
“I bought an E-Type because it was the fastest car I could buy with the money available, simple as that. I thought they looked good and they were crazy quick compared with anything else that was around at the time for the money.”
Brian paid £2,500 for the five-year-old car, and completely restored it himself 10 years later.
“I’d already owned a white E-Type before and someone made a pig’s breakfast of the bodywork. I sold it immediately afterwards and thought, ‘if you can’t do better than that…’
“I decided to have a crack at it myself and bought a Haynes Manual – I’ve still got it – they are well written, and if I can follow it anyone can.
“You can get into everything on the car – there’s nothing especially difficult about it. It’s quite a simple car to work on.”
The car went on to win awards for the best E-Type at east of England Jaguar club events, and Brian is now rarely without a project on his hands.
Sharing a spacious garage with the E-Type is a red and white 1950s Chevrolet Corvette, one car which may well rival its neighbour’s wow-factor when it’s back to its best and on the road later this year.
When you finish a project, it leaves a bit of an emptiness
“I’ve changed over the years – I walk a lot more now so I’m not busting a gut to drive anymore,” says Brian, whose giant Great Dane, Monty, needs plenty of exercise…
“I get more enjoyment working on the cars than driving them, which I suppose is a complete reversal of what it should be. When you finish a project, it leaves a bit of an emptiness really, and I want to do the next one.”
The E-Type has never been Brian’s daily driver, so he’s always been able to take it off the road for restoration and running repairs.
“If it’s not the car you drive to work then you’ve got time to work on it,” he explains.
“The main thing is to keep going. There are so many unfinished projects out there because people stop and never start again. That’s the worst thing you can do. If you can’t set the time aside for it then you probably shouldn’t start it.”
As well as the long-serving red convertible, Brian has also recently welcomed back to his garage a blue, 1967 series 1.5 coupe he bought about three years ago.
“It was a terrible mess,” he says. “I stripped it to a bare shell, which was then blasted to bare metal, welded as needed, painted, and I then rebuilt it here, finishing it about 18 months ago.”
Unlike his “forever car”, the coupe may well be on the market some time soon.
E-Types always seem larger in the imagination than in the “flesh” – an illusion conjured by that long, long bonnet.
Inside, the dimensions are particularly diminutive, with a wide sill making the accommodation decidedly snug – the prospect of hitting that 150mph top speed seems a hairy one.
But Brian says: “Inside, there’s probably more space in an MGB, but it drives very well and even at high speeds it stays very planted on the road. It’s always been a thrill to drive. It won’t stop as quickly as modern car though!
“I’ve never been afraid to drive it in the wet, and I took it to France in the late 80s on tour and never had any problems.”
Like all cars of the 60s and 70s though, the E-Type was not without its problems.
“They used to rust like mad – the sills sometimes broke in half in serious collisions,” says Brian.
“I don’t think any of them have ever been reliable enough to be daily drivers. People forget the times they broke down.
“The float chamber on mine sunk once – it started running rough once, so I stopped and had a look and fuel was welling up. The needle valve just keeps letting fuel through and pretty soon it will over-run – you just have to hope you don’t get a fire!”
I think they are too much money now
Values of E-Types have rocketed over the past 10 years, with even barn finds and restoration projects often fetching more than £25,000 and top-notch examples going for six-figure sums.
“I think they are too much money now – it’s taking them out of the hands of enthusiasts,” says Brian, a view born out by the sale of a rusty husk of a series 1 at Duxford in April 2017 for £34,500.
As he ruminates again on the prospect of one day selling the car he has owned for nearly half a century, his friend Karen – overhearing from the kitchen – says: “Don’t listen to him, he’d be very sad to see it go and I’m not going to let him sell it anyway!”
She’s too scared to drive the Jaguar, “in case anything happened!” – but clearly doesn’t want to see the world’s most glamourous sports car fall into the hands of a hedge fund manager from London…
And Brian seems more than happy to keep the Big Cat purring for a long while to come.
Pictures by Simon Finlay.
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