It might be rude to stare, but it’s also impossible not to. The Ecurie Ecosse LM-C is an irresistible eye magnet when sitting still and quiet in the corner of Hofman’s showroom in Henley, looking like an exceptionally well preserved museum piece. But it becomes really magical in the real world: pedestrians stop and stare, point and even turn on their axis to track it moving past. Sitting in the driving seat at a red traffic light, wearing a very silly flying helmet and goggles combo, I hear a shouted greeting over the rumble of the exhaust note. It comes from the Velar in the next lane, whose driver looks about 15 feet in the air from my lowly perch. He clearly knows his sports cars: “is that a C-Type?”
No, it isn’t. But explaining the intricacies of why not would take too long given the lights are changing and I’ve got to do some gentle clutch work to avoid the public disgrace of a stalling. My response is limited to a wave and a thumbs up as I switch concentration to making a smooth start.
The Ecurie Ecosse LM-C feels both old and new, especially on public roads in wintry conditions, but it’s not one of the growing trend of continuation models. Firstly that’s because it lacks official sanction from Jaguar, which has announced it will be making its own run of 16 pixel-perfect official replicas of the 1953 Le Mans winner. But it’s also because, although inspiration is obviously drawn from the C-Types that were raced by the original Ecurie Ecosse team, some substantial changes have been introduced to try and make the LM-C better suited to the 21st century.
Don’t worry: this isn’t one of those restomods with power steering, air conditioning or a 500W sound system. The basics remains basic, with the LM-C having an entirely analogue driving experience – and as little weather gear as the original car. There’s a cut-down Perspex screen and a pair of smaller wind deflectors, with a half tonneau to keep the unoccupied passenger seat dry. Beneath the bulkhead the cabin features a leather dash facing considerably plusher than any original C-Type, plus a pair of rally-style clocks and some modernish switchgear in an offset panel. You’ll look in vain for any Jaguar branding for the simple fact there isn’t any. What there is, although I didn’t realise this at the time of my drive, is noticeably more elbow room than there would be in a genuine C-Type.
That’s because of a very neat bit of re-engineering. The LM-C’s bodywork is made from hand-formed thin gauge aluminium, and beneath this is a chassis mostly fabricated from steel tubing – just as on the original car. Yet although the proportions remain spot-on, the dimensions have changed significantly, Ecurie Ecosse’s Chris Randall confirming the new car is four inches longer and two inches wider than the original C-Type. The decision was taken to both help clean up the lines – earlier replicas have reportedly also tended to be larger – but also to increase space in what would otherwise by an uncomfortably tight-feeling cabin.
A similarly pragmatic approach has been taken elsewhere, with the LM-C’s chassis and suspension following the same similar-but-different approach, with non-prototypical strengthening plates and different suspension mounting points. While the powertrain does indeed feature a rebuilt 4.2-litre six-cylinder XK engine, this works with a new multi-point fuel injection system rather than carbs. The car also has electronic ignition, a Lambda sensor and even a well-hidden catalytic converter to allow it to pass low-volume emissions and thereby an IVA test. Drive is also sent through a five-speed Tremec gearbox; an original C-Type would have a far less sturdy Moss four-speeder.
Yet despite the enlarged footwell and tractable engine low-speed progress is still, initially, a challenge – after leaving the showroom it takes most of Henley’s one-way system to get the knack for blending accelerator and clutch with reasonable smoothness. At lower speeds the engine soundtrack is still very 1950s, with a lumpy idle and what seem to be countable individual exhaust pulses bouncing back from every flat surface. The motor lacks much enthusiasm below 2,500rpm, although it is tractable enough for smooth urban progress, while the ride is purposefully firm and the steering slack-free. Well before passing the desrestriction sign on the A4130 the LM-C is telegraphing clear enthusiasm to go faster.
But am I? The Ecurie Ecosse’s power-to-weight ratio of 300hp driving 1,000kg is healthy by modern standards, but the presence of 185-profile Avon Turbospeed tyres at each corner acts as a mental brake. I’ve had some scary moments on classic rubber in slippery conditions in the past, and knowing there aren’t any electronic safeguards between me and the cold, damp road surface triggers an instinct for discretion rather than valour.
But it doesn’t take long for the LM-C to persuade me to push harder. Lateral and longitudinal grip are indeed limited, but the Ecurie Ecosse flags its limits as clearly as an elite semaphore instructor. The combination of crisp steering feedback and the sensitivity of the accelerator pedal makes it easy to take both ends of the car to the edge of adhesion without conspicuous speed. On one roundabout I experience the full set of understeer, oversteer and what feels like a ‘fifties appropriate four-wheel drift.
The gearshift has a beautiful action and the brake pedal is firmer and more effective than previous experience with classic classics led me to expect. The engine sounds great and enjoys occasional trips to the upper reaches of its rev range, but rapid progress will always be down more to mid-range muscle than regular attempts on the redline, this marked at a relatively lowly 5,800rpm. Sitting low behind the surprisingly effective aero screen the LM-C felt impressively snug at a 60mph cruise, the glass deflecting both rain showers and spray. It might not be the most obvious choice of car to drive through an English winter, but it can certainly handle challenging conditions far better than you’d likely expect it to.
Comparison between the LM-C and the official C-Type Continuation is inevitable, but also misguided; these are definitely two cars aimed at different markets – the Ecurie Ecosse intended for road use, the official car for historic competition and (let’s be honest here) the sort of collectors who are likely to regard it as a piece of art more than a driving machine. There’s also the small matter of what is almost certainly a seven-figure difference in price.
We know that JLR engaged in a legal battle with the maker of another C-Type replica, Karl Magnusson in Sweden, ultimately winning a copyright case but also creating the unedifying spectacle of a corporate Goliath apparently squashing an enthusiast David. Although Ecurie Ecosse won’t confirm that any discussions took place with JLR, the very existence of the LM-C seems welcome proof that ‘inspired by’ replicas can still exist alongside officially sanctioned ones. Oh, and anyone going to the Bicester Scramble this Sunday can see the LM-C up close themselves and have a good gawp.
Specification | Ecurie Ecosse LM-C
Engine: 4200cc, straight-six
Transmission: 5-speed sequential, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],500rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],780rpm
Top speed: 157mph (gearing limited)
MPG: “around 27mpg”
Price: £430,000 ex-works (+ VAT)