Rarely does a car get voted in the “100 most beautiful cars of all time” list by the Daily Telegraph, and yet the Jaguar E-type holds a place. Introduced to the public in 1961, this breath-taking car was described by one pundit as “the sexiest car of 1961”. The greatest honour came when it was called "the most beautiful car ever made” by Enzo Ferrari himself!
The car we see here has a famous history behind it, being purchased by Donald and Vagdevi Fernando in 1969. Mrs. Fernando was a teacher and fell in love with this beautiful car after seeing it on the cover of Issue 86 of “Commonwealth Today” magazine. She told her husband she wanted to buy it someday, and the couple made it their mission to bring a car to Sri Lanka.
In 1969, the couple went to the United Kingdom to work and earn some money. The money they earned was entrusted to a relative to purchase an E-type and ship it down.
“My uncle initially purchased a Convertible” recalls Donald and Vagdevi Fernando’s daughter Dr. Erasha Fernando, a medical professional attached to the Kandy General Hospital who is married to renowned car collector Dr. Rizvi Hasan. My father scolded him, saying “I have a small daughter! How can I go about in a convertible? Buy me a fixed head!” The uncle restored and sold the convertible and purchased a fixed head which was sent to Sri Lanka. The car was manufactured on 1st February 1962, and came in a shade called Carmen Red. The first owner in the United Kingdom was one Mr. O. E. Berry. It was fitted with the 3.8 litre straight six engine that breathed through triple SU (Skinners Union) carburettors and put out a healthy 265bhp. The car was from the first batch of 100 fixed-head coupes that were manufactured in right-hand-drive, and it can be identified by the passenger floor pans being flat and the chassis number was all numerical – no English alphabets!
“My father and my mother raced the car” recalls Dr. Fernando. My mother raced it only once, around the Kandy lake where she crashed it. The organisers thought the car was too powerful for her as she had won all the heats in it, and she was angry about the crash too. My father raced the car frequently, sometimes with his brother as co-driver. He wasn’t interested in winning, but the sheer thrill and joy of racing and the fellowship”.
Dr Fernando fondly recalls that this was their only family car for quite some time, they travelled the length and breadth of the island in it and she had the rare honour of learning how to drive in this very car!
Following Donald Fernando’s death in 1988, the car languished for over ten years until Dr. Rizvi spoke to Mrs. Fernando and pledged to restore the car to pristine condition. Family friend Mr. Ajith Hemachandra, a legend in the restoration trade carried out the major restoration with personal supervision of the E-type to the condition you see it in today. “My father was always modifying the car, which made my mother very angry” fondly recalls Dr. Fernando. “he loved to take it apart, see how it worked, raced minus the bonnet to reduce weight…” The car has some upgrades on it, says Dr. Rizvi, such as wider wire wheels, an aluminium radiator and upgraded cooling fan, power steering and 5-speed synchromesh gearbox. It is still fired up with the original ignition key and wears the original rear number plate it received on first registration.
In January of this year, the car took part in the Colombo Jaffna Classic Motorcade, running like clockwork on the 800+ kilometre round-trip and attracting lots of attention along the way!
Today, the iconic car is with the third generation of the family, the second son of Dr. Rizvi Hasan and Dr. Erasha Fernando, Chiru Hasan is entrusted with the safe-keeping and running of this classic. It shows in Chiru’s eyes whenever he walks towards the car, sits in it and drives it, that it is indeed a family heirloom that he is immensely proud to have in his custody.