A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE E-TYPE
To many people the E-type is as sensational a car today as it was when it was launched in 1961. Then, of course, it was a sensation. It was vivacious, sensuous, shocking and fast – as much a symbol of the 'Swinging Sixties' as the Beatles or the mini-skirt. But a sign of greatness was that the E-type was no passing fad. Over the years the love affair between this beautiful sports car and enthusiasts everywhere has endured.
Appreciation is often kindled by rarity. Relatively, the E-type is not rare and yet it is highly revered. There are, it is true, faster cars today and there are better built, more sophisticated cars. But it is debatable whether there exists any more beautiful car.
Nothing is perfect in the real world and the E-type was not perfect. It was, however, a tremendous step forward. Just as the XK 120 had brought racing car performance to the enthusiast in the street, so, 13 years later, did the E-type. And just as the XK 120 put Jaguar way ahead of its rivals in the performance stakes, so the 'E' did the same. Both boosted British prestige and engineering worldwide.
E-type 60 will be the only event celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the E-type where 9600 HP - the original launch press car - will be present. See it in the paddock and watch it GO up the hill
Starting life as a prototype in 1960, 9600 HP was used for development work, for pre-launch road testing by the national and motoring press (officially achieving the magic 150mph), as the launch press for the Geneva Motor Show in March '61 after a mad, literally flat out drive from Coventry arriving with 20 minutes to spare and then the Press Car for media features, advertising and E-type brochures. It is the oldest E-type in existence.
1961 to '64 Series I 3.8-litre
Fixed Head Coupe
Launched in March 1961, there were initially two E-type models, the Roadster and the Fixed Head Coupe. The latter was the first to be seen in public and was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, with both models on display at the New York Motor Show in April for the important US launch. With stunning looks, sophistication and 150mph performance, the E-type was a sensation and early examples were literally mobbed.
Powered by a 3.8-litre version of the brilliant XK engine, the E-type was based on the racing D-types which had won Le Mans three times, so the pedigree was unquestionable. The Open model with folding soft-top was, like the FHC, a two-seater, pure sports car with roadholding and ride enhanced by the introduction of the new independent rear suspension. At around £2000, including tax, the E-type was actually slightly cheaper than the XK 150 it replaced.
1964 to '67 Series I 4.2-litre
Fixed Head Coupe
In the 1964, the two E-type models were updated with the 3.8-litre engine being replaced by one of 4.2 litres. There were improvements to the brakes and the gearbox was replaced by one with synchromesh on all gears, so improving the only areas in which the 3.8 E-types had been criticised. The interiors were also updated.
The new 4.2-litre engine gave the E-type increased torque which combined well with the new, much improved gearbox. The bucket seats of the 3.8s did not suit everyone and so revised seats were adopted on the 4.2 model. The E-types continued to be in great demand, particularly in the USA where the majority were exported.
1966 to '67 Series I 4.2-litre
Two Plus Two
Two years after the launch of the 4.2-litre engined Roadster and Fixed Head Coupe, the range was widened by the addition of an occasional four-seater, known as the Two Plus Two. With two extra small seats, and a raised roofline, this meant that those with a young family could still enjoy E-type ownership. With a 9in (23cm) longer wheelbase, automatic transmission could now be accommodated and became an option.
1967 to '68 Series I½
Roadster, FHC & 2 + 2
As the sixties passed, American Federal regulations began to rear their ugly heads. With so-called safety in mind, an increasing number of changes had to be made on cars imported into North America. Jaguar addressed the challenge in two stages. First, an interim model, which has come to be known unofficially as the Series 1½, was introduced in late '67. Most distinctively, the glass covers to the headlamps were deleted.
E-TYPE MODELS 1970s
1968 to '71 Series II 4.2-litre
Fixed Head Coupe
In 1968, the Series II was introduced and featured a number of changes, both to the appearance and specification. To assist engine cooling, a concern in hotter climates, the bonnet aperture increased considerably in size and the headlamps scoops were altered to improve lighting and now sprouted a large chrome finisher, with the front bumper becoming a more substantial wraparound item.
The Series II models benefitted from improved brakes and the rear end appearance was face-lifted with a raised wraparound bumper and a lateral stainless steel finisher to which were fitted the larger rear lights. The interiors had many detail changes to meet the new regulations and included rocker switches and recessed interior door handles, first seen on the interim model.
Two Plus Two
The Two Plus Two was more radically altered with the introduction of the Series II. The windscreen rake was increased by moving forward the base of the screen to the extremity of the bulkhead top panel. Under the bonnet, the polished cam covers atop the engine had given way, as they had on the 1½, to ribbed items, presumably considered more modern. With a less clean shape and the emission equipment adopted, performance started to decline.
1971 to '73/'74 Series III V12
Two Plus Two
To address the declining performance and maintain the technical prowess of the E-type, Jaguar launched their new 5.3-litre V12 engine in the Series III E-type in 1971. The engine combined performance with smooth sophistication. Henceforth only two models were offered and the Fixed Head Coupe was dropped. The timing of the release of the V12 was unfortunate for the world became beset with fuel crises and ever-increasing petrol costs. As Jaguar had become part of British Leyland, reliability suffered and production of this model ceased in 1973.
The Series III models changed quite noticeably in appearance, as well as specification. The Open model adopted the longer wheelbase of the 2 + 2. The bonnet now had a grille and there were small flares to the wings (fenders) to accommodate the wider wheels. With the silky smooth V12 engine and power steering, the E-type was becoming more of a touring car than a pure sports car. Like every model of E-type, the SIII had its own great virtues, being arguably more practical and usable than the earlier cars.
'To many the E-type is simply the greatest sports car of all time. It has everything: sensuous sculptural beauty, allied to superb performance, as proven by its successful career on the race track, and, above all, is a fantastically enjoyable car to drive and utterly usable.
'Our 'E-type 60' event next June at Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb is designed to be a fitting tribute to the sensational E-type and a fabulous celebration of the car and the period into which it was born, a period when people and cars could be free spirits.' Philip Porter