‘If Les Vingt Quatre Heures du Mans has been responsible for the new E-Type Jaguar, then that Homeric contest on the Sarthe circuit will have been abundantly justified. Here we have one of the quietest and most flexible cars on the market, capable of whispering along in top gear at 10mph or leaping into its 150mph stride on the brief depression of a pedal. A practical touring car, this, with its wide doors and capacious luggage space, yet it has a sheer beauty of line which easily beats the Italians at their own particular game.’
There have been few better summaries of the E-Type’s manifest virtues than the forgoing, penned by the inimitable John Bolster for Autosport shortly after the car’s debut. Conceived and developed as an open sports car, the Jaguar E-Type debuted at the Geneva Salon in March 1961 in Coupé form. The car caused a sensation – spontaneous applause breaking out at the unveiling – with its instantly classic lines and a 150mph top speed. The newcomer’s design owed much to that of the Le Mans-winning D-Type sports-racer, a monocoque tub forming the main structure while a tubular spaceframe extended forwards to support the engine. The latter was the 3.8-litre, triple-carburettor, ‘S’ unit first offered as an option on the preceding XK150. Its engine aside, only in terms of its transmission did the E-Type represent no significant advance over the XK150, whose durable four-speed Moss gearbox it retained.
With a claimed 265bhp available, E-Type’s performance did not disappoint; firstly, because it weighed around 500lbs less than the XK150 and secondly because aerodynamicist Malcolm Sayer used experience gained with the D-Type to create one of the most elegant and efficient shapes ever to grace a motor car. Taller drivers though, could find the interior somewhat lacking in space, a criticism addressed by the introduction of foot wells (and other, more minor modifications) early in 1962. Today, the E-Types graceful lines live on in modern Jaguar sports cars, and there can be little doubt that William Lyons’ sublime creation would feature in any knowledgeable enthusiast’s ‘Top Ten’ of the world’s most beautiful cars of all time.