60 years of Jaguar E-type

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Unique Cars Archives, Jaguar

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Very few cars have made an impact like the slinky Jaguar E-type

Jaguar E-Type 1961-2021

Enzo Ferrari was so enamoured by the sight of the E-type when it debuted, he called it, "The most beautiful car ever made." One hell of an accolade that helped make it an instant classic. The fact it had a pricetag of £2,097 British pounds (A$3713), around half that of a Ferrari probably gave him nightmares.

Launched March 15, 1961, at the Geneva Motorshow to worldwide acclaim, its debut is a story in its own right.

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Soft top still flutters hearts

Apparently the evening before the motorshow Jaguar’s then PR man Bob Berry left Jag HQ in Browns Lane Coventry bound for Switzerland in the unseen E-type. After ferrying across the English Channel Berry hotshoed the Gunmetal Grey E-type coupe flat chat for over 1100 kilometres in time for the car’s debut at the show, arriving within minutes of public test drives beginning. One thing for sure, it was well run in.

| Reader Resto: 1967 Jaguar E-Type Series I

The E-type was really like nothing else before it boasting power-assisted disc brakes, (in-board rears) rack and pinion steering, rear independent suspension torsion bars at the front and the employment of racing design principles such as having a spaceframe carrying the engine, front suspension and front bodywork.

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Jaguar claimed the E-type had a top speed of 241km/h and a sub-seven second 0-100km/h time thanks to a triple-carburetted version of the classic 3.8 litre DOHC inline six producing an astonishing 265hp. They were hugely impressive numbers for the time.

| Read next: Jaguar E-Type lightweight review

In addition to the 3.8-litre engine, leather-draped interior and aluminium-trimmed centre instrument panel and console (changed to vinyl and leather in 1963), was a Moss four-speed gearbox that had no synchromesh in first gear. The badge on the boot simply read Jaguar with no reference to its engine size, which came later. Options included chrome spoke wire wheels and a detachable hardtop for the roadster.

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One of the best sixes ever..

Needless to say the motoring media was in a frenzy over the E-type English magazine Autocar road tested a UK spec E-type 4.2 coupe in May 1965. The tester achieved a top speed of 246 km/h a zero to 100km/h time of 7.6 seconds and a standing quarter mile in 15.1 seconds. Their summary read, "In its 4.2 guise the E-type is a fast car (the fastest we have ever tested) and offers just about the easiest way to travel quickly by road."

| Read next: 1965 Jaguar E-Type factory special

UK’s Motor magazine also road tested a 4.2 coupe and wrote, "The new 4.2 supersedes the early 3.8 as the fastest car Motor has tested. The absurd ease which 100mph (161km/h) can be exceeded in a quarter mile never failed to astonish. 3000 miles of testing confirms that this is still one of the world’s outstanding cars".

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Like many cars of the era a number of variations existed throughout production with the first 500 cars having flat floors and external bonnet latches that required a special tool to open them. Towards the end of the Series 1 a batch was produced without headlight covers.

In late 1964 or early 1965 the 3.8 litre engine was replaced with a more powerful 4.2 lire straight six and the Moss manual gearbox got synchro added to first gear. Other running changes included reclining seats, an alternator replacing the dynamo and negative earth electrical system.

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1966 saw a 2+2 coupe added to the existing line-up of two-seat coupe and roadster. An auto transmission was also offered.

A 5.3-litre V12 was placed in the snout of the E-type in 1971 and at the same time Jaguar dropped the 2-seat coupe.

Given its motorsport heritage, it wasn’t long before Jaguar produced a competition version. Originally the plan was to produce 18 but in the end just 12 were made. The rare dozen utilised aluminium in the chassis, body and engine components resulting in a decent drop in heft. In 2014, Jaguar announced its intention to build the remaining six lightweights, at a cost of approximately £1 million (Au$1,770,000) each.

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Bob Jane, who won the 1962-63 Australian Touring Car Championships in a Mk 2 Jag, had established a relationship with the factory, which explains how he was able to get his hands on one of the rare dozen. He put it to good use winning the 1963 Australian GT Championship.

In 2017 it sold in the US for an eye-watering $9,616,826 Aussie dollars, including buyers premium.

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Manufactured until 1975, three generations or series of E-types were built, Series 1 1961-1968, Series 2 1969-1971 and Series 3 1971-1975.

Happy anniversary.

 

From Unique Cars #449, February 2021

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