Jaguar E Type
The Swinging Sixties

The Swinging Sixties and all that stuff!
The new E Type Jaguar on its first showing to the International World.
Published by: All Car Central Publishing
Date published: 11/05/2013

The Swinging Sixties and all that stuff!

Jaguar E Type Series-1 1961 Fixed Head Coupe

Jaguar E Type Series-1 1961 Fixed Head Coupe

I think most readers of this publication will recall the Swinging Sixties. The image of Mini Skirts, Flower Power, The Beatles, etc. are always associated with this period... However there was one rather special product that you may not automatically associate with "The Swingers"! Let me give you a clue: Its October 1961 in the city of Coventry, England. A car is about to depart on a 650 mile drive to the Geneva Switzerland Annual Motor Show... A major European event second only to Frankfurt or London.

The car has to be in Geneva by noon the next morning with a channel crossing to consider. (October, is the season for storms), as to be expected the ferry was delayed, however, once on the French highways the driver could use the unique performance of the car cruising around 120 MPH and even touching 130 MPH on certain open sections.

At aprox Eleven AM the car pulled into the local dealer in Geneva and is washed and dusted ready for the show. The car... The new E Type Jaguar on its first showing to the International World. Throughout 1961 this car and a fellow vehicle had been driven in various conditions both in the UK and Switzerland but the time had come to present the car to the world which the Geneva Motor show certainly would do. . If you feel that my mention of 130 MPH was a little exaggerated let me assure you it is not.

Later in its career the E Type (XKE to my American readers), recoded 150 MPH and was known from that point as the 150 Jaguar not to be confused with a previous car of almost the same name!.. How was this production car capable of such speeds? It had a Family Pedigree based on the famous D Type Jaguar that showed a clean pair of rear tires to virtually every contender throughout the 1950's and winning the Le Mann's no less than three times. This Public display of the E Type was in the form of a Fixed Head Coupe, the brother that had also been tested was the soft top version.

Jaguar E Type Series-1 1961

Jaguar E Type Series-1 1961

Why this model never went to the Geneva show is not know by this scribe as I think it's equally as attractive, perhaps more so.. If you could get the bank manger to fork up around five thousand dollars you could be the proud owner of the Roadster Version and for about two hundred bucks more the Fixed Head Coupe. A few days after the show ended "Enzo Ferrari" called the XKE "The Most Beautiful Car Ever Made". In 2004 Sports Car International placed this car at number one on their international list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960's. and I guess the fact that the New York City Museum of Modern Art in 1996 featured a Blue, (now known as the XKE 150.) In its permanent design exhibition. Completes the picture...To date only six such vehicles have been so honored.

If the car was truly beautiful it would be equally honest to say that it was fast, make that very fast. There were a few cars that could top the Jaguars speed l but the cost was virtually twice that of the Jaguar and they were only made to order! . Here in the US sales were brisk after the Geneva show with orders taken on the understanding that the purchaser may have to wait a few months before his dream car arrived.. It was the hit of the year; in fact you can make that several years. I have heard people refer to the body design as sculptured and that's not far from correct. No matter which way to look at this car its beautiful, attractive and seems to be saying "Own me...Drive Me" for the thrill of your lifetime...Of course many people did just that but I have to admit I was never one. Like others in the 60's I had a mortgage, two kids and a more standard type of family vehicle!, but I will confess I often drooled over this Jaguar whenever I saw one on the road or in the showroom.

Why was this car so attractive to most people? I think the answer was that since the end of WWII the general appearance and design of the motor car was at best basic. A square box on wheels in Britain, while in the US it was all chrome, over size cars, powerful engines, large tail fins and plastic interiors. In the UK nothing much had changed since the Morris Minor, it was assumed that the average purchaser wanted a car that could carry the family and the shopping at a reasonable cost.. The available sports cars were uncomfortable relics of the prewar era. However, a breath of new life came with the launch the baby Mini that appeared two years before the XKE. And if pushed I might be inclined to add the Land Rover which in all honesty was a modern and comfortable version of the American Jeep. Jaguar did bring a touch of excellent design with the XK series starting with the XK120 through to the XK150 but that was the exception rather than the rule...The MGA (1957-62), like the XKE was based on a Le Mann's entry back in the early 1950's also brought a breath of fresh air into the British Sports world and was certainly more attractive than its predecessors but in real terms still a product of the times rather than the future.

Three versions of the Jaguar E Type were produced during its life time (1961-1974).

Series One featured a 3.8 liter engine; this was increased to a 4.2 liter unit in 1964. The power difference was slight but the extra provided in increase in torque. Zero to 60 MPH in seven seconds was the order of the day. Series Two (1969-1971) featured the same engine but the glass covers over the headlight had gone and a few cosmetic changes were introduced like a wrap around rear bumper! The car was detuned for the US market with twin Stromberg's but in the UK they retained the triple SU's which maintained the original performance. The famous toggle switches were also replaced in the US with rocker switches the reason...Wait for it. Health and Safety regulations. A/C and power steering was also available for the export cars.

Jaguar E Type Series-3 1974 V12 with US mandated bumpers

Jaguar E Type Series-3 1974

Series Three (1971-1974) saw the introduction of a new 5.3 liter twelve cylinder engine but was only available as a convertible or a 2+2 Coupe. The front grill was changed and the ugly rubber bumpers over riders were fitted to meet the then new US collision regulations.

Total production throughout the life of the car was just over seventy thousand, which indicates that the company knew what the market wanted and supplied it, at the right time and at the right price. However nothing is perfect in this world...The one weak link in the production of the Jaguar range from the post war 120 through to the XKE was quality control. (Not unknown to the British Car Industry.) To be honest the policy was to buy at the most attractive price regardless of the quality or durability of the component A few bucks more on the selling price would have solved this problem which after a few years did not enhance the product regardless of the attractive design and uniqueness of the appeal especially with the XKE.

The American public if nothing else were used to excellent service facilities for their cars with reliable spares on hand. The British were not. The manufacturers took the view that when something went wrong the mail service was more than adequate to send a spare part even if it took three or four days. Few Dealerships had many fully trained mechanics and those that did were usually booked for the next week or two. When you are dealing with a customer six thousand miles away with a car like the Jaguar XKE in need of attention a two week delay in dispatching whatever, by ship was not an acceptable solution. Selling spare parts to dealerships for future use was not a priority to British manufacturers. In short when you have a waiting list for the next six months from you local UK Jaguar Dealers why bother with overseas sales and all the extra costs involved!

Like William Morris in his early days Jaguar were aware of the importance of good P.R. especially as far as news print was concerned, in consequence various members of the press were offered periods of time to drive the E Type and many took up the offer. A headline in the very popular "Sunday Express" said in bold Type: "WHAM.. And you are doing 150 miles an hour" The feature was a review by the papers motor correspondent on his drive in the E Type.

You can't buy this type of promotion! Even if you have never slipped on a pair of racing goggles you certainly feel that you should when you first sit in a XKE, turn on the engine and slip into first gear. As you look through the windshield the engine compartment seems to extent to the end of the road and even before you have engaged the clutch to move off there is a sense of sheer wonder in the fact that you are behind the wheel of such a unique vehicle. The memory of that drive in a borrowed car will last forever No I did not try the 150 MPH challenge a close ton was about my limit but even then you feel like the world's greatest race driver!
Geoff Wheatley©

click here