The Jaguar E-Type is the flagbearer for iconic sports cars.
There are sports cars, and there is the Jaguar E-Type.
Described by Enzo Ferrari as “the most beautiful car ever made”, the Jaguar E-Type defines a generation. Its arrival sparked perhaps the most important and historical shift not only in sports car production, but within popular culture.
It remains the epitome of the Swinging ‘60s and is as quintessentially British as a cup of tea. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle even drove an original 1968 E-Type (modified with an electric engine) to their wedding reception.
More than that, the E-Type is a perfect cocktail of design, style, performance, and unbridled sex appeal. It was and will always remain ahead of its time, both in its perfectly proportioned looks and innovative engineering. The Jaguar E-Type is one of the most significant cars in Britain’s rich automotive history.
Jaguar E-Type: A Sex Symbol
The E-Type, or the XKE as it is known in North America, was launched at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show. Even its journey to Switzerland is cloaked in folklore. After allowing UK journalists more time to road test the car, Jaguar representatives then had to drive it from the factory in Coventry to Geneva. The E-Type arrived moments before its covers were due to be lifted. Much to the relief of the company’s founder, Sir William Lyons.
It would be worth the wait. Between 1961 and 1975, around 72,500 Jaguar E-Types were built across a number of different specifications and models as it soared in popularity. Not only was it stunningly sexy, but at the time it was significantly cheaper – and faster – than a Ferrari. Half the cost of an Aston Martin, Jaguar had produced a car that was both desirable and attainable just as Britain’s economy began to boom again following years of post-Second World War austerity.
Anyone who was anybody wanted to be seen with an E-Type. The car became the must-have accessory for the rich and the famous. It was prevalent among rock stars, artists and fashionistas – the who’s who of 1960s society. Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, George Best, George Harrison, Sid James, Tony Curtis all drove a Jaguar E-Type. It embodied the ‘Cool Britannia’ movement, like the miniskirt and Swinging London. Quite fittingly, a Union Jack-clad E-Type would later be used in the Austin Powers’ films to depict that infamous era.
A Revolutionary Car Among The Revolution
It ruffled the feathers of a cultural movement driven by Britain’s hedonistic and free-loving youth, hell-bent on revolution.
Because the Jaguar E-Type was itself revolutionary. Exotic in shape and performance, it would inspire perhaps the greatest decade of sports car production.
It was designed and built by people who came from much more modest backgrounds than the aristocratic heads of other British marques, like Rolls Royce and Bentley. Focus shifted from stuffy conservatism to out-and-out sex appeal as Britain’s tastes changed and London became the epicentre of style.
Malcolm Sayer, a genius of aerodynamics, devised the E-Type’s pinpoint and voluptuous curves. They would stand the test of time. Over the last 60 years, the E-Type has topped hundreds of listicles and articles.
It is referred to as the pinnacle in sports car design. In 1996, over 30 years after its release, a 1963 Jaguar E-Type was inducted into the permanent design section of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. At the time, it was only the third car to be given such recognition.
The E-Type originally showcased Jaguar’s pioneering XK engine, developed in 1948 by William Haynes, Walter Hassan and Claud Bailey. The original 3.8-litre straight-six produced 265 horsepower and a top speed of 150 mph, reaching 0-60mph in just 7 seconds. Quicker and more advanced than what Ferrari and Maserati were producing at the time, the XK engine was every bit revolutionary as the E-Type’s harmonic design.
This was a car ahead of time and its European counterparts. The Jaguar E-Type featured ingenious four-wheel disc brakes and a light monocoque structure. Its inventive independent suspension system gave a ride as smooth as it looked.
Jaguar E-Type: Three Main Series
A rear-wheel drive grand tourer, the Jaguar E-Type was originally released as a two-seater fixed head coupe (FHC) and two-seater convertible open head coupe (OHC). It was based on the D-Type race car, which enjoyed success throughout the 1950s with multiple 24 Hours of Le Mans victories.
Three main series of E-Type were built during its lifespan. Series 1 refers to earlier models which are usually the most valuable and sought after by collectors worldwide. Examples built between 1961 and 1964 featured the original 3.8-litre straight-six engine, whereas models built from 1965 to 1967 came with an enlarged 4.2-litre engine and more bite on the throttle. The 4.2 litre E-Types were more reliable with a better transmission, but still carried the same stylings as earlier examples.
Series 2 E-Types were produced between 1968 and 1971 and had a number of design features altered to satisfy U.S. safety mandates. Most controversial of all was the removal of the iconic glass headlight covers – still a sore point among Jaguar E-Type lovers today.
Jaguar then produced E-Type Series 3 models between 1971 and 1975, which included an upgraded 5.3-litre V12 engine, better brakes and power steering. To accommodate for the larger engine, the wheelbase and body were lengthened – although some argue it lessened the impact of the E-Type’s famous curves. Flared wheel arches were introduced, while U.S. models were fitted with another contentious touch: rubber bumpers.
Jaguar E-Type: The story continues
Throughout production, Jaguar explored several concept models and sub-series of the glorious E-Type. Some had the headlight covers removed to improve illumination, while others incorporated newer fuel-injection systems. Four-seater versions were made. One aluminium-bodied Low Drag Coupe was built in 1962 as Jaguar looked into revamping its racing program.
Most comforting, however, is that it is still a story Jaguar is exploring today. While 18 examples of the lucratively rare Lightweight E-Type were planned in the mid-1960s, only 12 were ever built – until Jaguar built the remaining six to original specifications in 2014. They remain exceptionally valuable and have inspired a generation of tributes – such as this authentic example available on the Racing Edge Paddock.
The Jaguar E-Type is without doubt one of the most important sports cars ever built. You can own this beautiful 1967 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 today.