The name Eagle is synonymous the world over with Jaguar E-Types
A remarkable achievement for such a small company situated in rural Sussex and established in 1982.
Like many similar classic car companies, it has achieved its pre-eminence through the single minded, or what some would call the total dedication of one man for a make or model of car. In this case, Eagle’s owner and managing director Henry Pearman, and his love affair with the Jaguar marque and the E-Type model.
But what separates Henry and his long established team at Eagle from other specialists with a similar passion, is the Eagle E-Type. While, like some others, they successfully race, rally, develop upgrades and of course deal in their chosen car, they have gone a step further. Since 1991 Eagle has been re-manufacturing the E-Type to a modern day standard of quality that has resulted in a leading automotive authority referring to it as "probably the best built handmade car in the world."
High praise indeed, especially since the authority in this instance was the BBC’s Quentin Willson, after featuring Eagle on BBC TV’s Top Gear programme. And the car that won his admiration and that of similarly respected journalists the world over - the famous Eagle E-Type.
Henry’s reputation and his association with E-Types were further established when he was invited to enter for the pioneering first ever long distance classic car rally - the 1988 Pirelli Classic Marathon, covering over 2,000 miles across Europe in little over a week.
Despite driving his own hastily prepared 4.2 E-Type, he managed to gain a second in class, fifth overall and an Alpine Cup. Co-incidentally, Paul Brace, now Eagle’s general manager, whom Henry had known for some time and who shares his approach and dedication, was also competing that year and took sixth place driving an early Porsche 911.
The next year Henry entered the Marathon driving the same car, but this time it was fully set-up. Despite finding himself and co-driver Gordon Cruickshank, deputy editor of Motor Sport, competing against Pirelli’s ’Famous Five’ of Stirling Moss, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen, Roger Clark and Ove Andersson, to everyone’s surprise except those acquainted with Henry and Eagle prepared E-Types, he won the event outright.
The third consecutive year saw Henry and Paul driving together to win a third Alpine and therefore a Gold Cup - one of just 4 awarded. They have both continued their involvement in motor sport when time permits, and together shared the driving in the E Type 40th anniversary race at Donington Park in 2001, where they led from pole position for much of the race. This partnership is set to continue when Eagle has completed construction of its first full lightweight E-Type.
Creating the Eagle Legend
Henry was joined by Paul Brace, who had established his reputation as a development engineer, in 1989 and who had his own desire to do more than just restore E-Types. With Paul shortly afterwards came Matthew Dewhurst with whom Paul had been working for 5 years and who now heads-up Eagle’s workshop operations.
In late 1992 the company moved to larger and better-equipped premises near Uckfield in Sussex. The next milestone in the company’s development had occurred in 1991 when author John McLaren approached Henry with a quest. An owner of an E-Type and delighted with what this classic car was capable of providing, John, like many owners, had become disillusioned with its inability to provide that pleasure on a reliable basis. As a result he was driving a high performance Japanese car, a Skyline GTR, on an everyday basis.
Despite that car’s reliability, speed and equipment, he hankered after the pure driving pleasure he enjoyed in his E-Type.
What he wanted was an E-Type that would perform faultlessly, whether it was commuting through a city or making a high-speed tour across the Alps and through Europe – more than a conventional restoration would offer at that time. From that desire was born Eagle Number One - the first of the model type that has gone on to become a classic in its own right.
Eagle E-Types and E-Types
Following completion of that car, it was exhibited at a classic car show, which resulted in four additional orders being taken from awe struck enthusiasts. From that point the company took the decision to operate two separate divisions. One division being responsible for the construction of Eagle E-Types and the other for the sale of regular E-Types, as well as for their preparation, upgrading and servicing.Today, both sides of the company are prospering.
Thirty one Eagles have been constructed and delivered to owners as far afield as the Australia, USA, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Argentina and the UK and the order book remains constantly strong.
A High Demand for E-Types
The demand for original E-Types has also continued to strengthen. However, as Henry is quick to point out, "Anyone associated with this 40 year old model will know, that even the very best original examples still need an expert "sorting" before they are reliably capable of giving of their superlative best. Especially since the expectations for braking, handling and reliability of today’s driver is so much higher than in the 1960s.