The Jaguar E-Type, or the Jaguar XK-E for the North American market, is a British sports car that was manufactured by Jaguar Cars Ltd between 1961 and 1975. Its combination of beauty, high performance, and competitive pricing established the model as an icon of the motoring world. The E-Type's claimed 150 mph (241 km/h) top speed, sub-7-second 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) acceleration, monocoque construction, disc brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, and independent front and rear suspension distinguished the car and spurred industry-wide changes. The E-Type was based on Jaguar's D-Type racing car, which had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three consecutive years beginning 1955, and employed what was, for the early 1960s, a novel racing design principle, with a front subframe carrying the engine, front suspension and front bodywork bolted directly to the body tub. No ladder frame chassis, as was common at the time, was needed and as such the first cars weighed only 1315kg (2900 lb).
On its release in March 1961 Enzo Ferrari called it "the most beautiful car ever made". In 2004, Sports Car International magazine placed the E-Type at number one on their list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. In March 2008, the Jaguar E-Type ranked first in The Daily Telegraph online list of the world's "100 most beautiful cars" of all time. Outside automotive circles, the E-type received prominent placement in Diabolik comic series, Austin Powers films and the television series Mad Men.
The E-Type was initially designed and shown to the public as a rear-wheel drive grand tourer in two-seater coupé form (FHC or Fixed Head Coupé) and as a two-seater convertible "roadster" (OTS or Open Two Seater). A "2+2" four-seater version of the coupé, with a lengthened wheelbase, was released several years later.
Later model updates of the E-Type were officially designated "Series 2" and "Series 3", and over time the earlier cars have come to be referred to as "Series 1." As with other partly hand made cars of the time, changes were incremental and ongoing, which has led to confusion over exactly what a Series 1 car is. This is of more than academic interest, as Series 1 E-Types—and particularly Series 1 roadsters often have values far in excess of Series 2 and 3 models.
Some transitional examples exist. For example, while Jaguar itself never recognised a "Series 1½" or "Series 1.5," over time, this sub-category has been recognised by the Jaguar Owners Club of Great Britain and other leading authorities. The "pure" 4.2-litre Series 1 was made in model years 1965–1967 (earlier Series 1 models had a smaller, 3.8-litre engine with less torque). The 4.2-litre Series 1 has serial or VIN numbers 1E10001 - 1E15888 (in the case of the left-hand drive roadster), and 1E30001 - 1E34249 (in the case of the left hand drive hardtop, or FHC). The Series 1.5 left hand drive roadster has serial numbers 1E15889 - 1E18368, with the hardtop version of the Series 1.5 having VIN numbers 1E34250 - 1E35815. Series 1.5 cars were made in model year 1968.
The Series 1 cars, which are by far the most valuable, essentially fall into two categories: Those made between 1961 and 1964, which had 3.8-litre engines and partial synchromesh transmissions, and those made between 1965-1967, which increased engine size and torque by around 10%, added a fully synchronised transmission, and also provided new reclining seats, an alternator in place of the prior dynamo, an electrical system switched to negative earth, and other modern amenities, all while keeping the same classic Series 1 styling. The 4.2-litre Series 1 E-Types also replaced the brake servo of the 3.8-litre with a more reliable unit. "The 4.2 became the most desirable version of the famous E-Type due to their increased power and usability while retaining the same outward appearance as the earlier cars."
As of the end of 2014, the most expensive regular production Jaguar E-Types sold at auction included a 4.2-litre Series 1 roadster, with matching numbers, original paint and interior, under 80,000 original miles, and a history of being in the original buyer's family for 45 years (this car sold for $467,000 in 2013) and a 1961 "flat floor" Series 1, selling for $528,000 in 2014. Special run racing lightweights go for far more still. For example, a 1963 E-type Lightweight Competition advertised as very original and with lots of patina (wearing the "factory installed interior and bodywork showing the patina of decades of use," although it was re-painted and has a non-matching numbers - albeit factory provided - engine), one of just twelve that were built, sold for $7,370,000 at the 2017 Scottsdale, Arizona auctions.
Being a British-made car of the 1960s, there are some rather rare sub-types of Series 1 E-Types, particularly at the beginning and end of the Series 1 production. For example, the first 500 Series 1 cars had flat floors and external bonnet latches. At the close of the Series 1 production run, there were a small number of cars produced that are identical in every respect to other Series 1 units (including triple SU carbs, button actuated starter, toggle switches, etc.), except that the headlight covers were removed for better illumination. It is not known exactly how many of these Series 1 cars (sometimes referred to as for convenience sake as "Series 1.25," but per Jaguar, Series 1) were produced, but given that 1,508 Series 1 roadsters were produced worldwide for 1967, combined with the fact that these examples were made in just the last several months of Series 1 production, means that these, like the flat floor examples that began the Series 1 production run, are the lowest volume Series 1 variant, save of course for the special lightweights.
Worldwide, including both left and right hand drive examples, a total of 7,828 3.8-litre Series 1 roadsters were built, with 6,749 of the later 4.2-litre Series 1 roadsters having been manufactured.
Shortly after the introduction of the E-Type, Jaguar management wanted to investigate the possibility of building a car more in the spirit of the D-Type racer from which elements of the E-Type's styling and design were derived. One car was built to test the concept designed as a coupé. Unlike the steel production E-Types, the LDC used lightweight aluminium. Malcolm Sayer retained the original tub with lighter outer panels riveted and glued to it. The front steel sub frame remained intact, the windshield was given a more pronounced slope, and the rear hatch was welded shut. Rear brake cooling ducts appeared next to the rear windows, and the interior trim was discarded, with only insulation around the transmission tunnel. With the exception of the windscreen, all cockpit glass was perspex. A tuned version of Jaguar's 3.8-litre engine with a wide-angle cylinder head design tested on the D-Type racers was used.
The only test bed car was completed in summer of 1962 but was sold a year later to Jaguar racing driver Dick Protheroe. Since then it has passed through the hands of several collectors on both sides of the Atlantic and is now believed to reside in the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray.
Peter Lindner, the Jaguar distributor in Germany, had his Lightweight modified by the factory to include the Sayer low drag roof and rear panels as part of an effort to win the GT class at LeMans. Lindner's car was more than a match for the Ferrari 250 GTO but mechanical problems forced it out of the race. Lindner was later killed in a racing accident that demolished his car, which has recently been restored.
Jaguar waited too long before committing to a racing program in earnest and what could have been a world champion in 1962 was not competitive by 1965.
Twelve cars plus two spare bodies were made by Jaguar.
In some ways, this was an evolution of the low drag coupé. It made extensive use of aluminium alloy metal, in the body panels and other components. However, with at least one exception, it remained an open-top car in the spirit of the D-Type to which this car is a more direct successor than the production E-Type which is more of a GT than a sports car. The cars used an aluminium block tuned version of the production 3.8-litre Jaguar engine with 300 bhp (220 kW) output rather than the 265 bhp (198 kW) produced by the "ordinary" version. Factory-built lightweights were homologated by Jaguar with three 45DCO3 Weber carburettors in addition to a Lucas mechanical fuel injection system. Early cars were fitted with a close-ratio version of the four speed E-Type gearbox, with some later cars being fitted with a ZF five speed gearbox.
The cars were entered in various races but, unlike the C-Type and D-Type racing cars, they did not win at Le Mans or Sebring but were reasonably successful in private hands and in smaller races.
One lightweight was modified into a low drag coupé (the Lindner/Nöcker car), by Malcolm Sayer.
Another lightweight was modified into a unique low drag design (the Lumsden/Sargent car), by Dr Samir Klat of Imperial College. Along with the factory LDC, this lightweight is now believed to reside in the private collection of the current Viscount Cowdray.
Many were fitted with more powerful engines as developments occurred.
On 14 May 2014, Jaguar's Heritage Business announced it would be building the six 'remaining' lightweights. The original run of lightweights was meant to be 18 vehicles; however only 12 were built. The new cars, using the unused chassis codes, will be hand built to exactly the same specification as the originals. Availability was prioritised for established collectors of Jaguars, with a focus on those who have an interest in historic race cars.
William Towns also produced 2 special bodied V12s badged as the Guyson E12