First manufactured in 1961, the E-Type Jaguar was the epitome of upper class British manufacturing and private car ownership, drawing attention from the rich and famous.
Described by Enzo Ferrari as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’, this stunning sports car was originally designed as a two-seater coupe, in both a hard and soft top version, before its longer wheel-based cousin hit the tarmac a few years later. It was the unrivalled combination of outstanding performance, stunning design and relatively affordable price tag that turned the E-Type Jaguar into the ultimate representation of luxury British motoring.
This iconic vehicle, with its distinctive low bonnet and spoke wheels, was considered to be appropriate for racing, following Jaguar’s success in the inimitable Le Mans 24 Hour race a decade earlier; the first prototype, however, made almost entirely from aluminium, didn’t meet the company’s high standards.
When the second prototype, the E2A, rolled out, the chassis was made of steel and covered with lightweight aluminium; it sported a three litre XK engine and, more importantly, it passed the tests to become the next Le Mans Jaguar racing car.
The actual racing car, E2A, which went on to become one of the most famous E-Types produced, was kitted out in its Cunningham white and blue racing colours but eventually retired comfortably from Le Mans 24 Hour without ever winning a major title. It left for the USA to be driven by Briggs Cunningham, a notable American sportsman with a love of motor racing. It was driven not only by Cunningham, but also by Bruce McLaren in the Laguna Seca’s Pacific Grand Prix, finishing 12th and 17th over two heats.
When it returned to Britain in 1961 it went to Roger Woodley, a Jaguar employee who learnt that the E2A was to be scrapped. Saving the car from an undignified end, it was kept by Roger, and ultimately his wife Penny after he passed away from cancer, until 2008 when it was sold by Bonhams for around 5 million US dollars.
Racing cars aside, the E-Type Jaguar was a popular choice for around 70,000 motorists, impressive numbers in the early days of motoring. No doubt its designer, Malcolm Sayer, never suspected that it would become such an iconic figure of British motoring but the car was propelled into the public eye when a stream of celebrities such as Roy Orbiston, Sid James and Tony Curtis lined up to buy one.
Although production of the E-Type ceased as early as 1975, it still retains the imagery of wealth and power that it conjured up nearly four decades ago. In fact, trying to buy an E-Type in this generation is a rare opportunity that can only be undertaken by the very rich, and the very lucky.
You won’t find one of these cars on the forecourt of your local second hand dealer, usually being found in the possession of classic car enthusiasts, and they don’t come up for sale very often either. But then if your car was ranked first in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘100 most beautiful cars of all time’ list, and then topped the list of Sports Car International’s ‘Top Sports Cars of the 1960s’, you probably wouldn’t be in a hurry to sell either.
To own an E-Type Jaguar is to join an exclusive club that stretches around the globe yet is restricted in number. When the recent 50th anniversary of this legendary Jaguar was celebrated at Silverstone, a record number of the cars – 767 to be precise – turned out for the event. Arriving from as far afield as Australia and Mexico, the number shattered the previous Guinness World Record for the largest number of Jaguar cars to parade together; nose to tail, they went on display around the length of the Silverstone circuit. Yet it has to be said that from the 70,000 cars that were originally produced, the number is perhaps worrying small for aspiring collectors.
Later models of the car, and particularly the Series 3 models of the early 1970s, still attract a price tag of £30,000, and the older you go, the higher the price. Still, for owners who like to set heads turning, there can’t be a better car than the E-Type Jaguar to achieve it.