When Jaguar boss William Lyons, by now Sir William, unveiled the E-Type Jaguar at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1961, its ecstatic reception rekindled memories of the 1948 British launch of the XK120. The E-Type, or XKE as it is known in America, created a sensation. British car magazines had produced road tests of pre-production models to coincide with the launch—and yes, the fixed-head coupe really could do 150.4 mph (242 km/h).
OK, so the roadtest cars were perhaps fine-tuned a little, and early owners found 145 mph (233 km/h) a more realistic maximum, but the legend was born. It was not just a stunning, svelte sports car though; it was a trademark Jaguar sporting package, once again marrying sensational performance with superb value for money. Astons and Ferraris, for example, were more than double the price.
The impact the shape made at its launch on March 15, 1961 at the Geneva Motor Show, is now the stuff of Jaguar lore. Those first E-Type roadsters and fixed-head coupes, produced until June 1962, are now referred to as “flat-floor” models, and they are the most prized of all. In fact, their flat floor was something of a flaw, and recessed foot wells were later incorporated to increase comfort for taller drivers.
Wire wheels were standard road wear for six-cylinder E-Types; steel discs were attached to V12s.
Jaguar designed an all-new independent setup at the rear. Handling in the wet and at top speed is often criticized, but for its day the E-Type was immensely capable.
The stylish but inefficient lens covers were removed in 1967.
All-around disc brakes as standard were part of the spec from first E-Types.
SIMPLICITY OF LINE
Designer Malcolm Sayer insisted he was an aerodynamicist and hated to be called a stylist. He claimed the E-Type was the first production car to be “mathematically” designed.
Thin-backed bucket seats of the 3.8s were criticized. In the 4.2, as here, they were greatly improved.
Louvers are not for looks; E-Types, particularly early ones, tended to overheat in hot climates.
The thin bumpers with lights above are an easy giveaway for E-Type spotters. From 1968, with the introduction of the Series 2, bulkier lamp clusters appeared below the bumpers. A detachable hardtop was available as an option.
Top was neatly tucked away beneath a fitted tonneau cover.
Chromed slimline bumpers were beautiful but offered no protection.
The E-Type’s amazing export success is summed up by the fact that of every three built, two were exported. Fixed-head coupes actually accounted for a little over half of all E-Type production, yet the roadster was the major export winner, with most going to the US. Ironically, though, it was American emission regulations that were increasingly strangling the Cat’s performance.
Unusual and sporty-looking triple wipers gave way to a two-blade system with the 1971 V12.
This view of the E-Type’s bulging, sculptured hood is still the best of any car.
The interior of this Series 1 4.2 is the epitome of sporting luxury, with leather seats, wood-rim wheel, and an array of instruments and toggle switches—later replaced by less sporting rocker and less injurious rocker switches. The 3.8s had an aluminum-finished center console panel and transmission tunnel.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL E-Type Jaguar (1961–74)
BODY STYLES Two-seater roadster and fixed coupe, 2+2 fixed-head coupe.
CONSTRUCTION Steel monocoque.
ENGINES 3781cc straight-six; 4235cc straight-six; 5343cc V12.
POWER OUTPUT 265 to 272 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual, optional automatic from 1966.
SUSPENSION Front: independent, wishbones and torsion bar; Rear: independent, coil and radius arm.
BRAKES Discs all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 150 mph (241 km/h) (3.8 & 4.2); 143 mph (230 km/h) (5.3)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 7–7.2 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 16.2 sec (3.8)
A.F.C. 16–20 mpg (5.7–7 km/l)