The 1961 Jaguar E-Type
Born in the era of where even the legendary Enzo Ferrari once quoted saying, “The most beautiful car ever made” on the release of the car in 1961, who dare oppose the man who made some of the most beautiful cars himself.
In 1961 when the Jaguar E-Type was unveiled which was offered in coupe and soft-top from the off set, designed by aircraft and car designer Malcolm Sayer ( the same man that designed the D-Type Jaguar that won the 1954 24 Hours of Le Mans), most would consider it as the most beautiful car in the world. Sleek, beautifully shaped with intuitive styling and beautiful aerodynamic design and capable of speeds of 240 km/h, the E-Type was way ahead of its time. The hand-built prototype that was seen by most was called the 9600HP, and was the same car that was lent discreetly to a few motoring journalists to prepare for road test features in the UK. Because of this, very little time was left for the cars big reveal at the Geneva Motor Show, so Jaguar boss rang up the Midlands factory where the car was built, to bring in the second car to Switzerland the next day before 10 am or there was going to be hell to pay.
The car was driven flat out by Jaguar executive Bob Berry from Coventry to the Parc des Eaux-Vives in Geneva. That is quite a drive and mind you at that time most cars were only able to do the legal speed limit which was 112 km/h yet the Jaguar E-Type could do more than double that from the factory. The drive was 1126 km’s (700 miles) and Bob Berry amazingly managed to get there 20 minutes before the big reveal. The car was vigorously wiped clean and put on display for the world to witness. The demands of test drives were so high that Jaguar test driver Norman Dewis was told to ‘drop everything’ and deliver another E-type – open-top demonstrator 77RW – to Geneva. He drove through the night, arriving to great applause from the eagerly awaiting press.
The 1961 E-Type was called the S1 (Series 1) and design was heavily influenced by the D-Type Jaguar Le Mans racer, which had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for three consecutive years (1955–1957). It was powered by a 3.8 liter straight-6, featured disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, monocoque construction, independent front and rear suspension and a breathtaking and unrivaled design. The 1961 3.8 liter model featured creature comfort features like leather-upholstered bucket seats, an aluminium-trimmed center instrument panel and console (changed to vinyl and leather in 1963), and a Moss four-speed gearbox that lacked synchromesh for first gear. People didn’t take note of it because of the £2097 price tag for the Roadster and £2196 for the Coupe thinking it was cheap compared to the likes of Ferrari which cost significantly more, but little did they know what a gem of a car Jaguar had built.
These were the headline figures:
- – 3.8 liter straight-6
- – 198 kW and 325 N.m of Torque
- – 0-100 km/h 6.9 seconds
- – Top Speed 241 km/h
In 1964 Jaguar decided to develop a larger newly designed 4.2 liter straight-6, it had the same power but produced 10% more torque which went up from 325 to 384 N·m and the manual gearbox gained synchromesh on all ratios. The following year a 2+2 model joined the ranks (2+2 configuration meaning the driver and passenger up front and two smaller seats in the rear). In 1971, Jaguar released an updated model which was dubbed Series 1 ½ which was only in production for a single year from 1967 to 1968. The updated model featured a new unfaired headlight design (which managed to find its way onto the S2 model) and better brakes.
The Series 2 model was produced between 1968 – 1971 which came with many design changes because of U.S legislation. The design changes were absence of the glass headlight covers, re-positioned and larger front indicators and tail lights below the bumpers, wrap-around rear bumper, twin electric fans, more comfortable seats with headrests, smoothly polished cam covers but sadly the engine was detuned to 183 kW.
The Series 3 was built between 1971 – 1975 and was the pinnacle of the E-Type. Jaguar, since it wasn’t focusing its attention on racing, it turned its eyes to building the ultimate GT car of its time. Featuring a V12 engine designed by Walter Hassan and Harry Mundy which initially was an engine built to be put in the E-Type’s successor the XJ, Jaguar couldn’t let go of the chance of giving the E-Type a proper send off. The 5.3-liter Jaguar produced 203 kW and was good for 0 – 100 km/h in under 7 seconds. Amongst other things, the S3 E-Type had a wider track and less comely front-end styling, longer wheelbase for more room in all directions, uprated brakes and standard power steering and optional extras such as an automatic transmission, wire wheels, and air conditioning.
Till this day, the E-Type Jaguar is considered the most beautiful car in the world and its legacy lives on in new generation cars such as the F-Type Jaguar. Vintage, yes. Timeless, without a doubt.