What was so special about the E-Type, then?
Pick a term to describe the first E-Type Jaguar and 'super sexy' comes instantly to mind! When it was first launched in 1961 – initially just for the American market – it's unashamedly phallic shape earned it the highest plaudits and even the legendary Enzio Ferrari described it as the most beautiful car ever produced.
It was not just a beautiful face only, either. With a claimed top speed of 150 mph (with a fair bit of tweaking; 140 mph was more realistic), a luxurious interior, and a highly competitive price, it was an instant hit with popstars, sports personalities and ageing business people trying to recapture their youth queueing up to buy one. Jaguar was hard pressed to keep up with demand!
Did it handled well?
A combination of a stiff body shell, and a redesigned suspension, gave it excellent and predictable handling characteristics. It not only stuck to the road very firmly but gave superb comfort to the driver and passengers as well, with none of the bounce and roll associated with sports cars at the time. The four-speed manual gearbox was a little clunky, however ; and braking a little vague.
Was it powerful?
When it was first launched, the car was fitted with the elderly, but still powerful and reliable, XK engine. This produced 265 brake horsepower. Although it was by this time 13 years old, the engine was well tested with plenty of spares, and there was no shortage of experienced engineers to repair it if a fault developed.
Was it popular?
Initially, yes. More than 72,000 were built between 1961 and 1975, but demand tailed off towards the end of production.
Were there other variants?
In 1964 a bigger, 4.2 L engine was introduced. This had no more brake horsepower than the earlier one, but it had more power at low revs and the gearbox was greatly improved. The brakes were upgraded too.
In 1966 a 2+2 version was launched; and even a version with a three speed automatic gearbox. This was brought out less for the UK market than the American one; where problems were starting to mount up owing to legislation.
A 12 version was the final incarnation; again, this was aimed mainly at the American market.
Why did it fall out of favour?
A combination of changes to the lighting and emission controls, prompted by American legislation, took the edge off both the car's performance and its beauty. Fatter wheel arches, and (then fashionable), garish chrome grilles made it look quickly dated. The classic beauty of the original E type had gone. Sales were drying up; and rumour even has it that Jaguar had some considerable difficulty in selling the last remaining models.
Is it worth buying?
It is still an exhilarating car to drive and a good looker! Modern standards of power, comfort, reliability and economy have left it well behind however. The original Series 1 is still the most popular, because of it's sheer beauty; this means that a prospective buyer would probably have to find somewhere in excess of £120,000 to get hold of a fairly mint example. Later variants come cheaper, but don't have that same visual impact.