Jaguar Sports Cars

Jaguar E-type

One of the most famous and recognized of all sports cars, the Jaguar E-type backed its libidinal lines with superior performance.

In the world of ’60s sports cars, this is where sex appeal came for lessons. Ferraris were provocative. Jaguar’s E-type -- XK-E in America -- was positively suggestive. An awed Road & Track subtitled its test report, “The greatest crumpet collector known to man.”

Of course there was far more to it than libidinal lines. Its performance was predatory. Jaguar took the hot S-spec 3.8 from the XK 150 and moved the big inline-six rearward to redistribute weight 49/51. The new car was shorter and lighter than its predecessor, and added a vital component even the LeMans winners lacked: independent rear suspension.

Construction, too, improved on the racing D-type’s, with a monocoque (unitized) bodyshell in a choice of roadster or new hatchback coupe. Styling was by aerodynamicist Malcolm Saver, making this the first production Jaguar not shaped by William Lyons. Still, the founder’s hand was evident in the overall character of the car, as well as in its well-appointed, if cozy, cabin and in its reasonable price.

Jaguar unveiled its E-type in March 1961 at the same Geneva show that launched the XK 120 13 years before, and to the same frenzied reception.

The Jaguar E-Type basically was a well-sorted production version of the LeMans-winning D-type racer, though with independent rear suspension. Jaguar’s grand 265-hp 3.8-liter six was mounted to provide a near-even weight balance.

“Here we have one of the quietest and most flexible cars on the market, capable of whispering along in top gear at 10 mph or leaping into its 150 mph stride on the brief depression of a pedal,” wrote John Bolster of Autosport. The new all-independent suspension provided a comfortable ride and combined four-wheel discs (inboard in back) for outstanding all-around road manners. There even was decent luggage space.

The E-type of 1965 got a displacement increase to 4.2 liters for better torque but no more horsepower. The following year brought a 2+2 coupe with a nine-inch-longer wheelbase, taller roofline, and optional automatic transmission. Styling of Series 2 models suffered in the late ’60s from side marker lights, clumsier bumpers, and upright exposed headlamps. But that hardly dulled their appeal. The E-type helped define the 1960s and to this day is one of the precious few sports cars to command the attention even of people who care little about automobiles.

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