The Jaguar E-Type Celebrates A Half Century
By James Grahame
As a young boy, I was obsessed with aircraft. More specifically, British WWII machines like the De Havilland Mosquito, Bristol Beaufighter, Hawker Hurricane, Boulton Paul Defiant and the formidable Supermarine Spitfire.
The style of these machines hard-wired my brain to love the sleek and aggressive lines of the Jaguar E-Type, which paid homage to the fighters of a generation earlier. When it arrived at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show, the machine appealed strongly to successful 40-something year-olds who were in their early 20s during the war.
Driving a spitfire to work was out of the question. But if you squinted just right, the massive bonnet of the E-Type could pass for an engine cowl. Even Enzo Ferrari fell under its spell, declaring the Malcom Sayer design, "The most beautiful car ever made."
Over the course of 14 model years, some 72,000 E-Types were manufactured in three series. The Series I machines debuted with a 3.8 L Jaguar XK dual overhead camshaft (DOHC) inline 6-cylinder engine. They're my favorite version, with glass-covered headlights and a distinctive mouth opening in the front, along with signal and tail lights that seem to have been tacked on above the bumpers as an afterthought.
By the time the last E-Type rolled off the assembly line in 1974, the wretched wide-collar excesses of the early seventies had wrought a 5.3L 12-cylinder V12 engine that drank its way thirstily through the oil-starved OPEC Crisis. The more powerful engine was accompanied by more capable brakes and power steering as a standard feature.
All good things come to an end, and the E-Type was replaced in 1975 by the XJ-S -- an angular touring car that hinted at the sterile, straight-edge design that was to dominate much of the next decade.
Oddly enough, the last E-Type wasn't built at Browns Lane. It was hand assembled by Ray Parrot in 2008, cobbled together from a vast array of spare parts that had been languishing in storage for over three decades. It took 8 months of hard work, but over 95% of the vehicle was crafted from factory new components.
[Update from Martin in the comments... A Swedish designer, Bo Zolland, paid tribute to the Jaguar E-Type by designing the Growler E. Quite stunning!]