When Enzo Ferrari calls your car “the most beautiful car ever made”, you know you are on to a winner. In 1961, the first E-Type Jaguar rolled off the production line in Coventry. It was to become one of British car manufacturing’s most iconic coupe sports cars until its end in 1974.
The E-Type’s style was in a class of its own and had an air that was pure 1960s. Its features included a long, elegant, curvy bonnet, and prominent wrap-around chrome bumpers. The E-Type’s front wings, with their inset, oval headlights, its lock nut, spoked wheels, and swept back roof that dropped down to a petite rounded boot made it a distinctive car for its time.
The Series-2 from 1969 still featured the stylish bonnet with intake vents. The headlights, which were no longer made with Perspex covers, were moved slightly forward and had glass lenses, while the indicators, both front and rear, were made larger.
For the last facelift brought about in 1971, the larger V12 engine needed a bigger air intake. The car was equipped with rubber bumpers on some models that were exported to America, but all other versions had small, less intrusive protection.
Jaguar initially fitted the E-Type with their growling 3.8L DOHC XK engine which, when tested, achieved 0-100Km/h in 7.1 seconds and topped out at 240Km/h. On fuel consumption the Jag is quite thirsty, as it consumes an average 13.3L/100Km. These were linked to the Moss box 4-speed gearbox, but this aging system was a cause for concern. The car’s suspension took a month to design, and the finished product was so successful that it would serve Jaguar for the next 22 years. It ensured a quiet ride at speed and damped down road noise, guaranteeing a road-hugging and pleasant journey for the occupants.
The 4.2L E-Types were built with the more updated, all-synchronised gearbox, as a criticism that had dogged the Series-1 models was the lack of synchronisation of the low gear.
In 1968, the 2+2 version was brought out with its small parcel seats in the rear suitable for children. It had longer doors, a taller windscreen, and a 3-speed automatic gearbox.
The 3.8L XK powered E-Type was the first production car to break the 240Km/h target, reaching 242Km/h. Jaguar made much of this achievement, and the affordable sports car soon became a popular must-have item on the drives of the rich and famous.
The first E-Types were produced in two trims, the Roadster and the Fixed Head Coupe (FHC), which featured an opening rear hatchback. Standard trim, entry level design, and option packages were not around in the 60s. You got the car, leather upholstery, and choice of engines. Later models came with the addition of air-con or a factory-fitted radio, but much of the individual character of the E-Types on sale today has been developed by previous owners.
By the Series-2 model, demands from the marketplace meant that air-con and powered steering came standard, and the seats were changed for deeper, more comfortable sports versions.
The Series-3, released in 1971, came with pressed steel hubcaps and the traditional spoked wheels, which were classed as an optional extra. It also had power steering standard and a better braking system.
When it was released in 1961, it was half the price of its rival sports cars from Ferrari, Maserati, and Aston Martin, but faster. Interest was so great at the Geneva Motor Show that another test driver had to be brought out overnight to cater to the interest in trying the E-Type. The car was such a novelty at the time that Jaguar director Ian Hoban described it as a “white space car”, filling a sector not catered to upon its launch.
The cars in competition with the Jaguar E-Type include the Nissan 350Z, Porsche Cayman S, BMW 335i Coupe, Aston Martin DB5, Porsche 911 Carrera, Triumph Spitfire, and the MGB. Some may hold the road better and growl more, but they struggle to match the singular looks and styling of the E-Type.
There are plenty of pretenders to the title of best car of all time, and although there may be some niggling doubts around space and reliability, the E-Type always features at the top. Anyone who loves the simple joy of driving and sitting in an elegantly designed sports car will tell you this is the one to be seen in. Even the youngest E-Types have nearly 40 years under their belt, and their residuals have held up incredibly well. As classic vehicles, they now fetch considerable amounts when they come onto the market.