You know, for a small island nation we do tend to punch well above our weight. Be it in historic naval battles, defending our borders against dictatorships, or standing up for what is right, Great Britain has earned the adjective in its name. One battleground that we have always been a world leader in is engineering. Our stereotypical “man inventing things in his garden shed” tag isn’t all that far from the truth with some of the globes most important inventions calling the UK home. Back in the 60’s British cars flourished and aimed to take on the very best that the world had to offer. Two homegrown heroes, Aston Martin and Jaguar, produced some of the most legendary cars to take on the growing might that was Ferrari. The Jaguar E-Type and Aston Martin DB4 are global icons even today, but what if this intercontinental battle turned native? What if the E-Type and DB4 started a civil war?
This is a feature we have been trying to put together for quite some time, but as you would expect, it isn’t exactly easy to get the key of the legendary E-Type from a protective owner or persuade a chap with a DB4 to let us take his £240,000 car onto a race track. Thanks to Mithril Racing, one of the UK’s longest running car experience day providers, we not only have both of these leviathans at our disposal but also the historic Goodwood racing circuit. Yeah, this job has its perks…
Though only separated by five years, our 1961 Aston Martin DB4 and 1966 Jaguar E-Type are two very different animals. The Aston Martin very much represents a GT car, something with plenty power under the bonnet but with all of the British charm and sophistication of a nobleman. This Jaguar on the other hand, is much more of a true British sports car. It might lack the refinement of the Aston, but it is much lighter and just as handsome.
Taking both out on track is like stepping out of a time machine with car each presenting you with large wooden steering wheels. The interior of the Jag is cramped and much akin to a cockpit than the relatively spacious DB4 cabin. Both cars conduct a fantastic symphony under acceleration, but it is the Aston’s 240BHP 3.7 litre inline-six that wins this battle. The heartbeat of its pistons can be felt throughout the car and its noise at about 3,000rpm is petrol head heaven. In the E-Type, its 4.2 litre 270BHP engine might not win the fight in the acoustics department, but its responsiveness in tandem with a four speed synchromesh gearbox is nothing short of delicious. There is no doubting that the E-Type has superior handling with its long bonnet tucking into the apex of a bend beautifully and its skinny tyres producing some easily manageable understeer upon exit. The Aston Martin DB4 with its heavier steering is harder work but no less satisfying. Keep it tidy through the bends and reap the rewards that its aluminium engine has to offer as you open the taps. The surge of naturally aspirated acceleration is intoxicating.
The winner? I’m afraid in a pathetically politically correct “everyones a winner, it’s the taking part that counts” sort of way they both are. You see whilst there is no getting away from the Jaguar E-Type being faster and more engaging to drive, it lacks the sense of occasion that the Aston Martin exudes from every nut and bolt. The DB4 is much better suited to cursing the streets of Monaco on a Friday afternoon, whilst the Jag just wants to go racing on the Sunday. Both of these cars were real game changers back in their day, and both of them fully deserve their place in the pages of history.
Words by Tyler Heatley
Photography by Sean Ward