50 plus years for the E-Type

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Jaguar E-Type.
Jaguar E-Type.

Is it really over 50 years since the E-Type was released on an unsuspecting world? In actual fact, the Jaguar E-Type was released in 1961 at the Geneva Motor Show, which makes it 57. Almost ready for the pipe and slippers.

“Half a century of progress has not diminished the significance of the E-Type,” said Mike O’Driscoll, Managing Director Jaguar Cars and Chairman Jaguar Heritage in 2011.

“It was a sensation when it was launched, and remains Jaguar’s most enduring and iconic symbol. The E-Type is simply one of the most exciting cars ever created and a legacy to the genius of Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons.”

E-Type owners included celebrities such as George Best, Brigitte Bardot, Tony Curtis and Steve McQueen and the sports car became as synonymous with the Swinging Sixties as the Beatles and the mini skirt.

“It is impossible to overstate the impact the E-Type had when it was unveiled in 1961,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar Design Director. “Here was a car that encapsulated the spirit of the revolutionary era it came to symbolize. The E-Type is a design that even today continues to inform the work we do in styling the Jaguars of the future.”

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961, Jaguar’s E-Type caused a sensation. Capable of achieving 150mph, but costing a fraction of the price of rivals with similar performance, it was the affordable supercar and became an instant icon – remaining on sale for 14 years.

A few tid-bits from Jaguar cars in 2011.

– The E-Type was presented to the world’s press at the restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva on 15th March 1961. Such was the media excitement and clamour for demonstration runs up a nearby hillclimb that Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons instructed chief test driver Norman Dewis to drive through the night from Coventry to bring another model to Switzerland.

– Even Enzo Ferrari admitted it was “the most beautiful car in the world.”

– The E-type’s straight-six engine had powered Jaguar to five Le Mans victories in the 1950s and by 1961 in 3.8 liter form produced 265 bhp and 260 lb ft of torque, making the car a genuine 150 mph proposition and, like its XK120 predecessor, the fastest production car in the world.

– At launch the E-Type cost £2,256 15s, including purchase tax and the all-important optional wire wheels, the equivalent today of just £38,000.

– The E-Type’s perfectly proportioned bodywork was the work of Malcolm Sayer, an aeronautical engineer by training who also applied his aerodynamic expertise in shaping the earlier Le Mans-winning C and D-Type racers.

– The E-type remained in production for 14 years, selling more than 70,000 units, making it Europe’s first mass-produced sports car.

It was a sensational car for the time, but if you were to make it a daily driver, you had to ignore the fact that the driver’s foot-well became unbearably hot and you had to bend your legs to the left to find the pedals (as did early Porsche 911’s).