If you’re on this site, you must know you’re looking at an E-Type. It is a superstar among both car aficionados and average Joes alike. It has been voted the most beautiful car in the world on numerous occasions and appeared as a token of style and wealth everywhere from Austin Powers to Mad Men. Due to this iconic status, it is unforgivable for a car buff to not know the key facts about this sleek cat. Please, allow us to fill you in.
By the 1960s, the moment had arrived for Jaguar to seek a successor for their aging XK150. Concurrently, the firm's racing department was making remarkable strides at Le Mans with the exceptional D-Type. Aiming to make the most of their racing expertise, Jaguar utilized their motorsport knowledge in the development of the E-Type. This led to the creation of the legendary Jaguar with its aerodynamic monocoque body, 3.8 l straight-6, four-wheel disc brakes, and independent suspension. These were cutting-edge features at the time, making the car destined to turn heads. However, even Jaguar's founder Sir William Lyons could not have predicted the stir this vehicle would cause when it was unveiled at the Geneva motor show in 1961. The public was enchanted by the E-Type, prompting Lyons to instruct Jaguar's driver Norman Dewis to transport a second car to Switzerland for the following day. Dewis impressively covered over 1000 km between Coventry and Geneva in less than 11 hours, bravely navigating the roadster through the night.
Indeed, the allure of the E-Type wasn't just due to its stunning aesthetics, race car framework, or top speed of 240 km/h. The pricing was equally enticing. The E-Type was not only more cost-effective than the XK150 it replaced, but it was also a bargain compared to comparable Aston Martins and Ferraris, which were priced two to three times higher.
To an untrained eye, all E-Types look the same. And while the swooping and sleek shape did remain throughout the model’s 14-year run, it did undergo quite a few changes. E-Types are generally classified into Series I, II and III. It must be mentioned that due to the hand-built nature of these Jags, not all of the alterations happened at once, thus there are transitional models sharing features of different series. As you might have guessed, Series I was the original model and can be externally distinguished by its smaller front opening, covered headlights and tail lights above the rear bumper. In 1964 its engine was enlarged to 4.2 liters, granting more torque.
Being a racecar at heart, the E-Type was a common sight on the track, used by the automaker itself and privateers. Several versions took the racing theme a few steps further. The first one was the Low Drag Coupe. Just like the name suggests it was an exercise in aerodynamics and sported a sleeker and lower body, aluminium panels and a spicier version of the 3.8 l. The experimenting with lightweight alloys continued and in a few years, the world saw the E-Type Lightweight roadster. A true spiritual successor of the D-Type, it was quite successful when raced by private teams.
Sure, racecars are thrilling, but it is the road cars that make the bottom line. US market made up a lion’s share of E-Types production, so when the joy-killing 1960s legislation came into effect, Jag had to comply. The 1968 revised model was dubbed Series II, it had uncovered sealed beam headlights and repulsive safety bumpers. Disappointingly, these changes were applied to all of the E-Types, not only the ones sold across the pond. To meet the smog requirements, American cars also lost the triple SU carbs and, consequently, a chunk of power.
Series II also came in an unconventional looking 2+2 coupe body style. It was a more comfortable and spacious variant, full 23 cm longer than the standard car. There was an additional row of seats, suitable for tiny humans, but it did take a toll on the cat’s sharp handling and that pretty Malcolm Sayer design. That is precisely the reason the 2+2 coupes are the least desirable among the collectors and are usually the cheapest ticket into the E-Type ownership club.
Over time, E-Type shifted from its racecar origins and morphed into a GT. It became extremely evident when the Series III came around in 1971. It was fitted with Jaguar’s hefty, yet silky-smooth 5.3 V12. It now had plushier interior and seats, something that the original lacked. The sporty 2-seater coupe was ditched and only roadsters and 2+2 coupes were offered from 1971 onwards. The cross-slated front grille and wider stance differentiated the exterior of these late cars. Series III were produced quite briefly as the E-Type production ended in 1974.
The price of Jaguar E-Type
Want to get one of your own? Well, tough luck. With classic car market skyrocketing, E-Types were among the top appreciating examples. If you want to get a decent one for less than EUR 100,000, you should probably look at an S3 coupe. While frowned upon by Jaguar snobs (and thus cheaper), these were as refined and as comfy as the E-Types got. When it comes to the most exclusive E-Types, the sky is the limit and some go for millions.
1963 Jaguar E-Type - Jay Leno’s Garage