The Jaguar E-Type is considered by many to be one of the loveliest cars of all time. That sort of beauty makes people reluctant to modify them. A wrecked one, though, is a totally different story. Maybe that's why when hill-climb racer Jim Thomson wrecked his in 1972, he felt free to go nice and bonkers with it.
Thompson wrecked his Series III E-Type around Yorkshire in a night of crappy weather and, let's face it, probably a bit of too-spirited driving. Just a guess. The E-Type was salvageable, but instead of just taking it to a body shop and having those luscious curves beaten back into shape, he decided to contact auto designer William Towns to design him an entirely new car based on the E-Type.
Oh, and he also decided to name it after the shot-blasting equipment company he was working for, Guyson. I think that makes it the only sports car ever to be named after a company that makes equipment for sandblasting.
William Towns' style is about as far from the flowing, languid curves of an E-Type as you can imagine. He's perhaps best known for his Aston Martin Lagonda, or maybe the Jensen-Healey — both cars that could have been mostly designed with a T-square and a steady hand. So from this choice we can surmise that Thomson was looking for a big change. And he certainly got that.
Towns used some interesting and slightly lazy-sounding methods to design and build the car:
Towns set about his task by firstly removing the damaged bonnet and the still-pristine bootlid, and then caked the remaining front and rear bodywork with the kind of clay used in styling studios when honing prototypes. He then skillfully crafted the shape he had defined in his initial drawings. Next stage was to make a set of moulds from the resulting pseudo-prototype, from which a set of glassfibre body panels was created. These panels were then attached to the E-Type's bodywork by means of screws and resin, leaving the car's basic superstructure (and most of its original panelwork) entirely intact. Indeed, if the owner so desired, the car could be returned to its standard form by removing the glassfibre panels, refitting the original bonnet and bootlid – and making good any superficial damage incurred by the method of attachment.
So, just to be clear, that totally re-designed fiberglass body was pretty much just screwed right into the original body underneath! It's about as close to the idea of clothes for a car as I can think of in all of motoring. It's a whole car body right on top of the original body. That sounds insane, but you have to admit, it's a quick way to re-body a car.
I'm sure there had to be a pretty significant weight penalty for a car having, oh, two bodies on it. Presumably to counteract this, the E-Type's huge V12 was rebuilt to put out an impressive for the time 345 HP, though to get there required the use of six Weber carbs, which were so big a special little shelter had to be built for them in the new hood.
The car itself was really pretty striking looking, in a long, clean, 70s-modern sort of way. I'm not sure I'd go so far to say it improved on the E-Type, but it was certainly eye-catching. Apparently, it got a lot of positive attention at the time:
Thomson finally took delivery of his new creation in 1974, he was suitably impressed. And he wasn't the only one: when he stopped at a motorway service station, he reportedly returned to his car to find a man from Jaguar "drooling over it", and bemoaning the fact that his own company produced nothing like it. Imagine his surprise when he learned that this was little more than a rebodied E-type (although one can't help feeling that the distinctive E-Type windscreen should have been a dead give-away).
Jeez, get ahold of yourself, 70s Jag guy.
Towns like the result so much that he had another set of body panels made for his own personal E-Type, but stopped short of offering the kit as a set of E-Type car-clothes for commercial sale. Towns didn't go for the engine upgrades, reportedly because he didn't like the way the carb bulge ruined the lines of the hood. Towns seems to have been a real vast, unbroken plane fetishist.
So, only two of these interesting Guyson E12s were made. I think this construction method is pretty fascinating, though. Think how many cars could be customized via over-the-body full-panel re-bodies! With some adhesive and a weekend, you could turn your car into pretty much anything — it's like the next step after stick-on body kits.
Or, it could just turn your car into a massive rolling rust trap. Still, excitement either way!