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The Monaco Sale 'Les Grandes Marques à Monaco' / 1970 Jaguar E-Type Series II to US SpecificationChassis no. 1R13134
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The story of this US-specification Jaguar E-Type Series 2 Roadster is recorded in a chapter of the book 'Our Le Mans, The Film, The Friendship, The Facts', by Hans Hamer and substantiated by our vendor Alfred 'Fredy' Zurbrügg. The car is commonly known as the Jaguar that was gifted to its current owner, Alfred 'Fredy' Zurbrügg, by none other than Hollywood superstar Steve McQueen in recognition of the former's culinary talents in the SOLAR productions' village. Swiss-born Fredy was working as a chef on the set of Le Mans, Steve's pet project that was being made by his company, Solar Productions, when McQueen offered him the pick of the fleet of cars purchased for the production.
"Choose one," said McQueen.
"I haven't got a driving licence," Fredy replied.
"That's a gap in your education," McQueen declared, in German.
Fredy Zurbrügg had been approached by the movie's production manager, Hubert Fröhlich, to work on the production of the sixth Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, filmed partly in Switzerland. Fröhlich was very pleased with Fredy and approached him to work on his next production, Le Mans, filmed in the eponymous town where the crew established its own compound known as 'Solar Village'. Fredy brought his own kitchen from St. Gallen, which was soon catering for 800 cast and crew members, including leading man Steve McQueen for whom he invented a special dish, the 'Steve Steak'.
The troubled making of Le Mans has passed into movie legend. McQueen was an avid motorcycle and motor racing enthusiast; whenever he had the opportunity to drive in a movie, he would perform as many of his own stunts as the studio would allow. With a series of major box-office successes under his belt, including Bullitt (1968) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), McQueen was Hollywood's highest paid star; Warner Brothers didn't hesitate when it came to bankrolling his new project.
Unfortunately, things began to unravel as soon as filming began. McQueen's obsession with authenticity, not to mention the absence of a script, led to costs spiralling out of control. Original director John Sturges quit and the studio fired McQueen as producer, cancelling his share of the profits. Experienced Hollywood screenwriter Harry Kleiner came up with a script and the film was duly completed by director Lee Katzin. McQueen refused to attend the premiere and the movie bombed at the box office. Paradoxically, Le Mans is now recognised as the best film ever made about motor racing.
When interviewed for the 2017 book Our Le Mans (as well as that year's documentary DVD Remember Le Mans), which offers personal insights into the filming by supporting actor Siegfried Rauch and other members of cast and crew, Fredy states in a dedicated chapter on the E-Type's story that his encounters with the leading actor were "always friendly".
Faced with an array of mouth-watering cars that also included a Porsche 911 and a Mercedes-Benz 280SL 'Pagoda', Fredy decided on the silver Jaguar E-Type, a 'Series 2' roadster with only 600 miles on the odometer. Although supplied and first registered in the UK, the E-Type was a US version because it was supposed to be shipped back to America. Then 27 years old, Fredy duly obtained his driving licence in Le Mans "on my second attempt on 17th October 1970". Fredy took his new sports car back to Switzerland, telling the customs officer at the border that "I had the Jaguar and two crates of cognac to declare".
What Fredy had acquired was the latest 'Series 2' version of Jaguar's iconic sports car, albeit a model that would be replaced the following year by the V12-engined 'Series 3'. (It should be pointed out that Jaguar never used these now common 'Series' designations, (1, 1½, 2 and 3) which have been applied retrospectively by historians to highlight the major changes in the E-Type's specification.)
In 1968 all three versions of the Jaguar E-Type had undergone major revisions to comply with US safety and emissions legislation, the USA being a vitally important market where 85% of E-Types found homes. The E-type duly emerged in 'Series 2' guise, minus the original's distinctive headlight covers. In addition, enlarged side and rear lights were adopted while a thickened front bumper centre section bridged a larger radiator intake. Inside, the fully US-compliant dashboard was now standard on all models, with safer rocker switches rather than toggles in the central panel, which also housed the clock. A new steering column-mounted combined ignition/starter switch doubled as a steering lock when the key was removed. The steering column now featured a collapsible section, although the traditional wooden steering wheel was retained. The rear-view mirror was now mounted on the windscreen rather than the dashboard, while improved seats, still upholstered in leather, featured headrests for the first time. Borg Warner automatic transmission became an option for the first time (although only on the 2+2 version) as did Adwest power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering. Chrome-plated pressed-steel disc wheels were another new option, though the standard wire-spoked variety remained unchanged.
Beneath the bonnet, the familiar 4.2-litre XK engine now boasted ribbed cam covers and, on cars destined for North America, twin Stromberg carburettors, replacing the previous triple SUs that remained standard on those supplied to other markets. The adoption of the Strombergs, together with their associated inlet plumbing and a new Lucas ignition distributor, enabled the E-Type to meet the emissions targets but, inevitably, resulted in a reduction in power. Testing a US-specification E-Type in February 1968, Autocar found that this made little difference to acceleration, as the car had the lower overall gearing standardised for North America, and that fuel consumption overall was virtually identical, remarking: "... in many ways we preferred the lower overall gearing for Britain's crowded roads. Performance figures apart, the E-Type remains a delightful car to drive, slow or fast: it is still astonishingly docile, and we were able to take acceleration figures from a mere 10mph in top gear with the 4.2-litre engine turning over lazily at only 460rpm". Even today there are few cars that can match this effortless performance.
Having become probably the first – and possibly the only – learner-driver whose first car was an E-Type, Fredy Zurbrügg has owned and enjoyed the Jaguar for the last 52 years. It has been used sparingly rather than as a daily driver, as testified by its low odometer reading of fewer than 46,000 miles. Now Swiss-registered, the E-Type retained its original silver and black colour scheme and has never been restored.
"For many years I had no idea that I owned something so valuable," said the now nearly 80-year old Fredy, adding that it is time for the car to be enjoyed by a new custodian. "Everything in my life seemed to boil down to this half year in Le Mans and was later somehow connected and defined by it."
Offered for the first time ever since 1970, in totally original condition and complete with its authentic period British registration plates and a photograph from its time on set taken by Peter Samuelson, this Jaguar represents one of the last untapped links to Le Mans, Steve McQueen's passionately conceived masterpiece.
Please note that if this vehicle remains within Monaco or France, the reduced rate of Import VAT at 5.5% will be applicable on the hammer price. All customs charges will be invoiced and collected directly by our customs agent, Benaim. Please note that if you purchase as an EU Company, the VAT amount will be calculated based on your registered country's rate and paid directly there. Import rates to other EU Countries may vary and an administration fee will be charged to prepare the necessary customs clearances. If you have any questions regarding customs clearance, please contact the Bonhams Motorcar Department or our recommended shippers.