It has been 60 years since the iconic Jaguar E-Type was first launched at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. The public reaction to the long coupé available for test drives was so strong that Jaguar rushed a second E-Type, a roadster, from Coventry to Geneva overnight.
Famously described as “the most beautiful car ever made” by Enzo Ferrari (I concur), the Jaguar E-Type epitomised the glamour and excitement of the swinging ‘60s. Jaguar had planned to make 250 examples of the E-Type, but by the end of the Geneva Motor Show, pre-orders topped 500. Over the next 14 years, they would sell 72,000. The E-Type was based on Jaguar’s D-Type racing car which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three years in a row from 1955. The design was quite revolutionary at the time. It involved a front subframe carrying the engine, front suspension and front bodywork bolted directly to the body tub. No ladder frame chassis, as was common at the time, was needed and as such, the first cars weighed only 1315kg. The E-Type’s 265 bhp, 3.8 litres straight-six engine gave it a top speed of over 150 mph, with a price tag of just half an Aston Martin or a Ferrari. What was not to like?
Two-thirds of the Series 1 went to America. So high was the demand that changes were introduced to Series 2 and 3 to satisfy the U.S. market.
Frank Sinatra is said to have taken one look at the E-Type upon its unveiling and exclaimed, “I want that car, and I want it now.” With its impossibly long bonnet and sleek monocoque design, the E-Type love affair with Hollywood had just started. Purchased for his wife Britt Ekland in 1967, Peter Sellers’ E-Type was actually one of the very last Series 1 models from the production line. Featuring a bespoke “Fiesta” red finish with black upholstery, it also had uniquely fitted sports wing mirrors. The car went on to be driven by the likes of Steve McQueen, Tony Curtis, Charlton Heston and Brigitte Bardot, as well as many other stars on both sides of The Pond, including George Harrison, lead guitarist of the Beatles, who was a well-known petrol-head. He was given an E-Type for his 21st birthday by manager Brian Epstein. The car was customised and even featured a dash-mounted record player.
The E-Type itself appeared in many films over the years. It made its debut in 1967, in Bond’s movie Casino Royale. In 1969, two E-Types were crushed by the Mafia in the original version of The Italian Job. In both cases, only the bodyshells were damaged. The cars were fitted with new bodies and are still in existence. Harold’s hearse in Harold and Maude (1971) is a modified 1965 E-Type roadster. The 1986 U.K. black comedy film Car Trouble centres around a 1965 E-Type. The British automotive icon also featured in the Austin Powers films and in the television series Mad Men.
Over the 14 years the E-Type was in production, 72,000 units were sold.
It wasn’t only the rich and famous that loved the car. The E-Type was – and is – adored by the public. In 2004, Sports Car International placed it at number one on their list of “Top Sports Cars of the 1960s”. In 2008 the Jaguar E-Type ranked first in The Daily Telegraph online list of the world’s “100 most beautiful cars” of all time.
Despite its roaring success, the last E-Type rolled off Jaguar’s production line in Coventry in 1974. David Moore, Project Engineer at Jaguar Classic explains why they stopped making it, “Most cars have a lifespan of around ten years. In 1971, when the final E-Type was launched with a V12 engine, Jaguar was already looking at replacing it with the XJS. The design language in the 70s was changing and so we had to move forward with the times.”
Six decades after its launch, the E-Type 60 Collection pays tribute to two of these legendary cars: the Opalescent Gunmetal Grey coupé “9600 HP”, driven flat-out by Bob Berry to make the launch itself, and the British Racing Green roadster “77 RW”, driven by Norman Dewis who was told to “drop everything” to get to Geneva the next day.
The new E-Type 60 collection cars are sold as a pair, one coupé and one roadster.
Restored and refined by the experts at Jaguar Classic in Coventry, the E-Type 60 Collection cars are finished in exclusive “Flat Out Grey” and “Drop Everything Green” paint colours respectively. These colour formulations are inspired by the originals from 1961 and – I’ve been told – won’t be used on any other Jaguar.
Subtle enhancements for improved usability and driveability include a five-speed manual gearbox that features synchromesh on all ratios, helical cut gears and a reinforced cast aluminium casing for enhanced reliability and greater durability, as well as closer gear ratios and smoother changes. They are all fitted with the Jaguar Classic Infotainment System with built-in satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.
The E-Type 60 collection boost a 265bhp 3.8-litre six-cylinder XK engine.
The 265bhp 3.8-litre six-cylinder XK engine benefits from an authentic 1961-style alloy radiator, with an electric cooling fan and electronic ignition, together with a polished stainless steel exhaust system that is dimensionally identical to the standard mild steel system but produces a slightly deeper tone and offers greater longevity.
The engraving on the centre console recalls the drive routes from Coventry to Geneva of those original cars.
The most distinctive visual highlight for each of the specially produced cars is an engraving by artist and designer King Nerd on the centre console of each car. Each piece of art takes more than 100 hours to create by hand. The Smooth Black leather-trimmed coupé features a stylised route map plotting the key locations along the journey taken by Bob Berry, with an overhead sketch of the E-Type and the words, “I thought you’d never get here”, recalling the reaction of Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons to Bob’s arrival just minutes before the unveiling. For the six Suede Green leather-trimmed roadsters, the engraving tracks the route taken by Dewis on his last-minute drive to Switzerland, with a sketch of the car and another Lyons’ quote – this time his instructions to Norman: “Drop everything and bring the open top E-type over.”
In addition to the centre console, the bonnet badge, clock face within the tachometer, fuel cap and chassis plate are all finished with a commemorative E-Type 60 logo created by Jaguar Design, featuring the years “1961-2021”. A light beech-rimmed steering wheel, as fitted to 1961 cars, features a 24-carat gold horn push. Every car is supplied with a tailor-made E-Type 60 car cover, tool roll and jack storage bags to complete the enhancements and exemplifies the attention to detail lavished on each vehicle.
In Summer 2022, the six customers and their guests will take part in the ultimate E-Type pilgrimage: a Coventry-to-Geneva drive experience with their cars to create their own E-type memories, enjoying breath-taking scenery, epic roads – including iconic Alpine passes – exclusive stays and fine cuisine throughout the trip. This promises to be a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience. As David says, “Driving an E-Type is a unique feeling. You can go to any modern car show these days and still the E-Type will steal the show. It is a real head-turner.”
Our editor, Julia Pasarón ready for the Gstaad Palace Challenge in 2019.
My memories flashback to two years ago when I had the chance to take part in the Gstaad Palace Challenge driving an E-Type Series 1 owned by the Palace’s owner, Andrea Scherz. Other girls dream of crystal slippers when they are little. I dreamt of a golden E-Type convertible.
Words: Julia Pasarón
Opening picture: In 1996, the Jaguar E-type Series 1 made it to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.