Hit 80 miles an hour in the hushed environs of your luxury sedan and you’ll experience only the mildest sensation of velocity.
No wind noise, no tire roar—just a gentle V-8 purr from somewhere under the hood. Pavarotti on your Panasonic never sounded so pianissimo.
But this isn’t a cushy sedan. This is a classic Jaguar D-type race car, and right now, every follicle on my head is being wrenched from its root as an 80-mph blast pummels my face. Tears are streaming from my eyes as if there’s a fire hose attached to each duct.
My ears are pulsating from the rasping, snapping, snarling exhaust seemingly inches from my right lobe.
It feels incredible.
To drive a D-type these days, you must either be friends with Ralph Lauren, who owns a famous 1955 long-nose D, or have around $5 million of disposable loot to purchase your own at auction. The most recent D-type to come across the auction block sold for $4.3 million.
But there’s arguably a better, more achievable alternative: Jump on a plane to merry olde England, head to Warwickshire, and enjoy a breathtaking day at Jaguar’s new Heritage Driving Experience.
Here, you can climb behind the wheel of a classic D-type and hurl it around Jaguar’s snaking Fen End racetrack until your heart’s content—or you go bald, whichever comes first. Then put the D in brake and take your pick from a mouthwatering lineup of other famous classic Jags.
How mouthwatering? This inventory boasts a stunning 1950s C-type racer, an original 1961 Series 1 E-type roadster once owned by legendary British motorcycle ace Mike Hailwood, and a 1974 E-type Series 3 V-12 convertible, one of the final 50 commemorative models.
Just when you think it’s impossible to have any more fun, you’re handed the keys to Jaguar’s latest 550-horsepower, all-wheel drive F-type R Coupe.
Two very fortunate, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities helped Jaguar establish the Heritage Driving Experience in late 2014. The first was its purchase of the massive, 500-plus collection of James Hull, a successful British cosmetic dentist and Jaguar fanatic.
The second was the availability of the Fen End track. A former Royal Air Force base, it’s been used since the late 1950s by automotive suppliers for component testing before being put up for sale last year.
“It gave us the opportunity to create this great lifestyle event,” says Dave Davies, operations manager for the Jaguar Heritage Driving Experience.
Davies says his customers have included classic-car fans, spouses and offspring gifting a loved one the ultimate present, and companies using the program as a corporate day out or an employee incentive.
There are experiences to suit all pocketbooks, beginning with a $140 passenger ride in a D-type or E-type and skyrocketing to the full-day “Grace and Pace” package that costs roughly $3,000. But that’s a small price to pay for the chance to drive any car you want for pretty much as many laps as you want. There’s even a fancy lunch thrown in.
My Saturday at Fen End was a true kid-in-a-candy-store experience of Ds, Cs, Es, and XKs. Just 16 other lucky lads turned up during the day—mostly Jaguar enthusiasts or special-occasion gift recipients—so the whole experience seemed unrushed and laid-back.
Jaguar has a team of super-friendly instructors, most of them former racers, who give you the skinny on whichever Jag you’re driving. They’ll even risk life and limb to sit alongside and coach you on the best lines around the challenging track.
For Jaguar lovers, it’s the only way to burn rubber.