The Jaguar E-Type is the most beautiful, elegant car ever built.
It is one of only six cars in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent design collection (in 1966, a blue Series 1 roadster). On its release Enzo Ferrari called it “The most beautiful car ever made.” In 2004, Sports Car International magazine placed the E-Type at number one on their list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s.
The Jaguar E-Type (a.k.a. Jaguar XK-E) was manufactured by between 1961 and 1975. Its combination of beauty, high performance, and competitive pricing established the marque as an icon of 1960s motoring. At a time when most cars had drum brakes, live rear axles, and mediocre performance, the XKE sprang on the scene with 150 mph and a sub-7 second 0-60 time, monocoque construction, disc brakes, rack and pinion steering, independent front and rear suspension, and unrivaled looks.
Over the course of its production Jaguar produced the E-Type in three different series. The Series 1 was initially designed and shown to the public as a rear-wheel drive grand tourer in two-seater coupé form (FHC or Fixed Head Coupé) and as a two-seater convertible (OTS or Open Two Seater). A “2+2” four-seater version of the coupé, with a lengthened wheelbase, was released several years later.
The Series 1 cars (built between 1961 and 1968 – by far the most valuable) fall into two categories: those made between 1961 and 1964, which had 3.8 litre engines and non-synchromesh transmissions, and those made between 1965-1967, which increased engine size and torque by around 10%, added a fully synchronized transmission, and also provided new reclining seats, an alternator in place of the prior generator and other modern amenities. The 4.2 became the most desirable version of the famous E-Type due to their increased power and usability while retaining the same outward appearance as the earlier cars.
The Series 2 (built between 1968 and 1971) introduced a number of design changes, largely due to U.S. design legislation. The most distinctive exterior feature is the absence of the glass headlight covers. Other hallmarks of Series 2 cars are a wrap-around rear bumper, re-positioned and larger front indicators and tail lights below the bumpers, an enlarged “mouth” which aided cooling but detracted for the Series I design purity, twin electric fans, plastic rocker switches in place of the Series I toggle switches, and, of course most importantly, a material downgrading in performance resulting from a switch from the three SU carburetors used in Series 1 models to a mere two “smogged” Stromberg carbs, reducing horsepower from 265 to 246 and reducing torque from 283 to 263.
The Series 3 (built between 1971 and 1975) introduced a new 5.3 L twelve-cylinder Jaguar V12 engine, uprated brakes and standard power steering. Optionally an automatic transmission, wire wheels and air conditioning was available. The brand new V12 engine was originally developed for the Le Mans series. It was equipped with four Zenith carburetors. The Series 3 is easily identifiable by the large cross-slatted front grille, flared wheel arches, wider tyres, four exhaust tips and a badge on the rear that proclaims it to be a V12.
The New Lightweights
Way back in 1963, Jaguar embarked on a special project. A project to build 18 lightweight, all aluminum GT E-Type destined for racing domination. Jaguar planned to produce 18 units but ultimately only a dozen were built. These are exceedingly rare and sought after by collectors – one sold in early 2015 for more than £5 million.
Determined to complete the project, the craftsmen at Jaguar Heritage in Coventry, England, are hand-building the remaining 6. Take a look at the creation of vehicle S850670.