Converting classic cars to electric power is a new craze that is gaining popularity all the time as shade tree mechanics around the world yank out old internal combustion engines and replace them with batteries and electric motors. Jaguar Land Rover’s Classics division has just finished a superb restoration of one of the most desirable cars ever built — a 1961 XK-E drophead coupe, the car Enzo Ferrari famously called “the most beautiful car ever made.”

Jaguar XKE Zero electric concept

Called the XK-E Zero, it is exactly the same as the original — same suspension, same dampers, same brakes, same independent rear suspension. What is different is that the iconic XK dual overhead cam straight six engine fitted with triple SU carburetors which lived beneath that magnificently sculpted bonnet when the car first left the factory has been replaced with a battery pack that occupies the same space and eerily echoes the look of that engine.

The clutch, bell housing, and transmission have also been replaced with a 220 kW electric motor. The dashboard has been updated with a carbon fiber motif and electronic readouts, but the original three spoke wood rimmed steering wheel is still there, inviting the driver to come experience the athletic capabilities of a real sports car. The XK-E Zero concept will be on display at the Frankfurt auto show next week.

The XK-E Zero is actually 80 kilos lighter then the original (the XK engine was a beast!) and it scoots to 60 a full second faster than the original. Range is estimated at about 170 miles. A full battery recharge takes 7 hours or so. The car has no fast charging option.

JLR Classics calls it the XK-E Zero a “concept.” What does that mean, exactly? According to managing director Tim Hannig, “It’s not unthinkable that a city like London could ban internal combustion vehicles at some point in the future. The E-Type’s the most tightly packaged Jaguar, so we can convert any classic Jaguar into an EV.

“Not only that, but we know there’s an audience out there that is attracted to the style of a classic car, but doesn’t want the inconvenience that can sometimes come with it. We also understand it’s not for everyone, and the guys who crave originality might have issues with it. But we think this is a way of future-proofing classic car ownership. We’re showing it to some of our clients, and we’ll see what the market makes of the concept.”

The XK engine in various guises was fitted to every Jaguar from 1949 to 1969, so that means the electric powertain could slide into any one of them if the present owner so desires. Not only that, if the original engine transmission and transmission are properly refreshed, they could be slipped back into the chassis at any time in the future.

Best to travel light, however. The inverter and battery management components are located where the gas tank used to be and take up much of the space in the trunk, which the British insist on calling the boot. There might be room enough left over for a bottle of sherry, some Carr’s Table Water crackers, and a brick of Stilton cheese to savor en route, but that’s about it.

The mighty XK engine. Photo by the author.

The idea that old Jags could be “future proofed” and continue to bring the joy of motoring to a new group of admires is laudable, but one has to wonder if a significant component of the Jaguar ownership experience is not lost if the car wafts along silently.

The bark of the exhaust on a crisp autumn morning while negotiating a twisty country lane at dawn, a practiced touch of heel and toe to match engine speed to transmission speed on downshifts, the rumble from twin exhaust pipes crackling in your ear — such are the things that memories are made of, says the man who knew such pleasures and savors those moments.

Source: Top Gear