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 1984. Like many similar classic car companies Eagle has achieved its pre-eminence through the single minded, or what some would call ‘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 life-long love affair with the Jaguar marque and the E-Type model in particular.
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 in the late 1990's.
Henry’s reputation and association with E-Types were further established when he was invited to enter the pioneering 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 Technical Director 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 competing against Pirelli’s ’Famous Five’ of Stirling Moss, Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen, Roger Clark and Ove Andersson, Henry and co-driver Gordon Cruickshank, deputy editor of Motor Sport Magazine, 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.
Creating the Eagle Legend
In 1989 Henry was joined by Paul Brace, who had established his reputation as a development engineer, and who had his own desire to do more than just restore E-Types. Matthew Dewhurst joined shortly afterwards, having been working with Paul for 5 years. They are both now Directors of the company.
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 its completion Eagle E-Type No.1 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 for the construction of Eagle E-Types and the other for the sale, preparation, upgrading and on going servicing of regular E-Types.
Today both sides of the company are prospering.
Our order book has remained constantly strong and thirty-six Eagles have been constructed to date, with deliveries to owners worldwide in countries such as Australia, the USA, Germany, Greece, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Argentina and also in our home market of the UK.
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 50 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.”
Through to the Millennium
Eagle received a huge boost when Jeremy Clarkson declared the E-Type his “Car of the Century", with the programme featuring Eagle No.8.
A surge of interest and orders resulted in a 7 year waiting list before Eagle was obliged to declare itself ‘fully booked”. To fulfil these new orders an in-house project, which had been started in 1998 to create the ultimate long distance touring E-type & dynamic sports car, was put on hold.
With no time to take the project further, the completed aluminium bodyshell was parked in Paul’s workshop when, in 2002, it was spotted by Eagle client Dr Rick Velaj. Rick loved the concept of this “Low Drag GT” project, but harboured a desire for an open top car.
It was here where Paul’s design skills came to the fore, with the initial concept proposals, production and final completion for a redesigned open E-Type. Eagle Speedster No.1 was born. The Eagle Low Drag GT project would finally be taken up in earnest, after the E-Type 50th anniversary celebrations in 2011 and was launched to the world at the St. James Concours in September 2013.