It’s one of the most iconic cars ever made. Regularly praised for its beautiful style, elegant design, and undeniable sense of cool. The Jaguar E-Type is a symbol of all things right with the sixties. Now, it’s one of the most desired classic cars on the market, models regularly fetching tens of thousands of pounds at auction. Just what is it about this car that makes it so special?
The Jaguar E-Type made its debut at the Geneva Motor Show back in 1961. The car was built by the company’s defunct racing department, moving from their success at Le Mans throughout the 50s to design a road going sports car based on a D-Type construction. It’s unveiling was met with widespread acclaim, so much so that the founder of Jaguar Sir William Lyons ordered a second car to be delivered overnight to allow more testing.
Enzo Ferrari was particularly taken with the car, describing it as “The most beautiful car ever made”. Its success was immediate, down to its unique design and surprisingly affordable price of £2,200 (£38,000 in today’s money). There were a total of three different variations built across the E-Type’s lifetime, the Series 1 with its 3.8 Litre engine from the D-Type, the Series 2 with its slightly modified front headlights to remove the glass coverings, and the Series 3 with its new 5.3L twelve cylinder Jaguar V12 engine. Over 70,000 E-Types were sold in its fifteen year lifespan between 1961 and 1975, making it one of the most successful sports coupes ever built.
From the outset, the E-type’s design made it stand out from every other car on the market. The long curved front bonnet takes up almost half of the car’s body, its curved front and aerodynamic length making it seem like a design from the far future, fitting for its time with the space race and surrounding increase in interest of all things science fiction. The central double exhaust another unique feature helping the E-Type become an original that still hangs onto its uniqueness.
The car was designed by Malcolm Sayer, who came from a background of aeronautical and aerodynamic design. Having worked in the aircraft industry during and after World War II, Sayer joined Jaguar cars in 1951. His skill with mathematics and aerodynamic design quickly made him stand out, with race cars he designed winning at Le Mans five times throughout the fifties. When it came to the E-Type, he applied the same principles he used on aircraft to create the distinctive sleek curves that make up the car’s front section. Considering he created this without the use of computer aided design, it truly is a marvel of engineering.
Malcolm Sayer – the idea and mathematics behind the Jaguar E-Type
An example of Sayer’s design work on the XJ21
The E-type was the third car to enter the Museum of Modern Art in New York, one of just six cars to be included into the prestigious museum’s collection. The key to Sayer’s success wasn’t just the aesthetics he brought to the company, it was the thinking behind the design. Sayer hated being described as a stylist, seeing it as demeaning. Every design was created geometrically, mathematics behind every curve, every deviation in the bodywork. When they tested the car, Sayer would attach cotton wool to see how the air flowing over the bonnet was affected. This attention to detail has helped the car transcend the fifteen years production time into the classic it is today.
The Sixties heralded the start of a change in car design. The focus on practicality and conservative design aesthetics started to give way to more stylish, more fashionable cars. The rise of fashion and increasing influence of pop culture meant image was becoming more and more important. The unique look of the E-Type cannot be underestimated. To have someone so aesthetically focused as Enzo Ferrari call it the most beautiful car he has ever seen is just one piece of evidence to how bold the car was when it first appeared. There really hasn’t been any other car like it, with modern standards of design and safety keeping the car’s originality intact.
It’s an investment. Jaguar E-Types were regularly selling for £30-40,000 in 2011. In today’s market, they are averaging over £120,000. With just 3,600 E-Types left on the road, they are becoming increasingly rare. Rusty and barn find models are still selling for huge amounts of money. Owners will become increasingly rare as the prices continue to rise.
The Jaguar E-Type is also a symbol of its time. The swinging sixties personified. George Best drove an E-Type, one of the most iconic sportsmen of the 20th century, both for his skill on the pitch and lifestyle of it. This sums up the image of the car. Owning one is to be a part of that image, turning heads wherever you go. It’s a symbol of your style and taste, that you know your stuff when it comes to classics.
During the E-Type’s initial production run, 18 lightweight models were scheduled for production. To be built with an aluminium chassis, only twelve of the models were produced. As part of the Jaguar Heritage project, the six missing Lightweight E-Types have been built in the same factory as the original twelve, using the same skills as the engineers and builders used fifty years before. Read more about the heritage project.
There will never be another car like the Jaguar E-Type, but Jaguar have taken principles from their most famous car and applied it to their most recent models. The Jaguar XF is quickly becoming one of the best executive saloons on the market, whilst the Jaguar XJ is a bold continuation of Jaguar’s luxury car history. But it’s the F-Type where the Jaguar E-Type’s influence is most clearly felt.
The aerodynamic body and long curving body have been subtly modernised for today’s safety and engineering standards, and the large headlights hark back to the changes made to the Series 2 variation. Whilst impossible to replicate the famous original E-Type, the F-Type makes for a fantastic continuation.
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