• 1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type

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When talking about cult icons, adjectives usually stream in an overwhelming fashion, making it hard to discern fact from fabrication. The Jaguar E-Type is one of these cars, earning an invitation to the Pantheon of motoring just as quick as the first journalists laid eyes on it. The long hood belied the size of the white two-door sports car as it was sitting on an exquisite animal print wall-to-wall. The public was elated, so much so that a second car was driven from Britain to Switzerland as Sir William Lyons, the company’s founder, was already receiving orders for the new ,,Big Cat’’.

Such was the initial impact of the E-Type that even the Italians, who were famed for putting together some of the most beautiful cars in existence, were left dumbfounded. One Italian in particular eulogized the styling of Jaguar’s new two-seater. His name? None other than Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, who is quoted to have said that the XK-E, as it was marketed in the USA, is "the most beautiful car in the world".

Despite of early reliability issues that pushed the debut date of the racing version further into 1962, the E-Type proved handy on race tracks around the world, especially the 12 lightweight chassis. Away from the track, the first E-Type, known as the S1, was built in far greater numbers, nearly 40,000 cars coming out of the Coventry-based plant between 1961 and 1968. The figure includes all variations, including the less fluid 2+2.

While the E-Type stayed in production until 1975, the S1 is the most distinguishable, as the latter versions lost the headlight covers as well as adopting larger fender flares, on the S3, that somehow messed with the original shape. This is mainly why the first iteration is also the most sought-after, with prices rising each year.

Continue reading to learn more about the 1961-1968 Jaguar E-Type.

  • 1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type
  • Year:
    1961- 1968
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • 0-60 time:
    6.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    149.8 mph
  • car segment:
  • body style:


1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Exterior
- image 655670

Again the monumental front hood thrusts its way into the conversation as it dominates the profile of the car, making it look sensibly longer compared to the XK 150, the car which the E-Type replaced. In fact, it’s the other way around with the E-Type having a six-inch shorter wheelbase as well as a six-inch lower roofline. The design, penned by Malcolm Sayer and improved by Sir William Lyons, is reminiscent of Jaguar’s D-Type and subsequent road-going XK SS. But while the latter is a proper race car for the road, in the truest sense of the phrase, the XK E is rather more at home on the highway, seamlessly eating miles and, to be honest, gallons of fuel.

The design, penned by Malcolm Sayer and improved by Sir William Lyons, is reminiscent of Jaguar’s D-Type and subsequent road-going XK SS.

While the roadster is an ungracious sight, and just as aero inefficient, the nose lifting at speeds in excess of 90 mph, the coupe just feels more pleasing to the eye. The 2+2 coupe that was introduced towards the end of S1’s production life is excluded, with the rather lumpy roofline playing havoc with the overall design. One of the key elements of the front fascia, the covered headlamps, were eliminated very late into the S1’s production spree, that is before the so-called “S1/5” entered production. Only a handful of those models were built but were a sign of things to come in the E-Type’s stylistic evolution.

The shape of the coupe was carried on nearly unchanged to the first racing versions that had their baptism of fire at Le Mans in 1962. Come 1963, the E-Type was drastically modified, the lightweight chassis being adorned with a low-drag body that was further enhanced by the likes of Peter Linder and Peter Lumsden as the car kept being relevant into the mid ‘60s.


1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Exterior
- image 655682

One sitting next to an E-Type may not be particularly assured about the car’s cabin space. Inside, the story’s somewhat different, the monocoque actually feeling rather spacious and well-equipped for the era. The broad dashboard is dominated by the large center console which houses most of the important gauges and switches, while the speedo and rev counter sit behind the generous three-spoke steering wheel, with the former ending at a then-impressive 160mph top speed. In all fairness, no E-Type in street guise has ever gone that fast but one magazine came close while putting it through its paces.

The bucket seats are comfortable, in spite of the fact that a not-so-slender figure might find them somewhat small, but the leather that covers most of the inside of the cabin makes for a nice atmosphere — that of a legitimate grand tourer that loves to cruise for miles on end.


1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Drivetrain
- image 158797

The E-Type was first equipped with a thunderous 3.8-liter straight-six, although the 1964-introduced 4.2-liter is the one that gets more praise. The first powerplant offered a hefty 265 horsepower at 5.500 rpm, which is not more nor less than what the 4.2-liter could put out. Where the latter motor gained on the earlier one was in torque, as the 4.2-liter boasted 283 pound-feet compared to the only 240 pound-feet of the 3.8-liter unit. All these numbers could steam the car away from 0 to 62 mph in roughly 7.5 seconds. It would keep going until finally reaching a top speed of 150mph.

All these numbers could steam the car away from 0 to 62 mph in roughly 7.5 seconds.

Initially, the E-Type was only available with a Moss, four-speed manual gearbox, the 1964 4.2-liter bringing an all-synchro unit. A three-speed automatic was ultimately available, but only starting in 1966 and only for the 2+2 version. The advantage of the gearbox available on the 4.2 were reduced noise levels as well as the inherent advantages of a syncromesh gearbox. The clutch on the 4.2-liter engine was fitted with a diaphragm spring, similar to that found on latter 3.8-liter cars. The difference is made by the pedal pressure which is higher on the bigger-engined version due to the mounting of stiffer springs that were designed to take in the extra torque.

The Dunlop-supplied, all-disc brake system is common to both the 3.8-liter and the 4.2-liter, but the latter has the added bonus of the brakes being servo assisted at any time, which gives it a more linear braking experience. The original 6.40 x 15 inch Dunlop RS5 rubber mounted on gorgeous Borrani spokes were later replaced by Dunlop’s 185-15 SP41 and Pirelli’s 185 VR 15 radial ply tires. The rack-and-pinion steering remained unchanged through the seven years of production, as did the front and rear independent suspension.


1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Exterior
- image 655690

When launched, the E-Type was the true definition of a bargain. Considering the E-Type initially cost £1,550 ($2,358), it made its rivals seem massively expensive. Ferrari’s 250 GT was a £6,500 coupe ($9,890) and the £4,000 ($6,000) Aston Martin DB4 was also no match for the value-for-money of the Jag. That being said, it is no wonder that the factory was jam-packed with orders after the Geneva launch and subsequent North-American debut in New York.

While it’s true you can still find some cheap E-Types, those examples suffer from all the issues that have tainted the car’s name. Such baggy examples are, naturally, not to be considered and, since the good ones are hard to come across, the prices for pristine models have been rising steadily in the past few years — although not as quick as it is the case with the Italian rival from Maranello. A good example is worth somewhere in the region of $76,000 all the way to $115,000.

Racing history

1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Exterior
- image 655672

The car’s racing debut came at the Trophy Race held at Oulton Park, where privateers John Coombes and Tommy Sopwith entered one Jag each for Graham Hill and Roy Salvadori. As Hill got the victory, the crowd all but forgot that the original debut date, set for the the Goodwood Easter Meeting, was missed because Jaguar was still working around-the-clock to fiddle out the multiple teething reliability issues found in testing. Such issues as the oil loss from the body-mounted final drive unit required extra time at the factory, which meant the privateer outfits did not receive their cars in time for the Goodwood event. The proceedings in the E-Type’s first track outing went so much in favor of Coventry’s new fixed-head coupe that Ferrari’s Bizzarrini rushed his men to finish working on their new grand touring, the 250 Grand Turismo Omologato — in short, the GTO.

In all fairness, the E-Type never was much of an obstacle for the brilliant GTO that broke cover a year later, Jaguar reacting after 12 more months by unveiling the Lightweight version of which 12 were built — a commemorative 13th chassis being finished last year in an effort to fulfill the initial promise of 13 built examples. These latter cars raced their way into the mid 1960s, some low-drag versions being the inspiration for the modern Eagle Low-Drag Coupe.


Aston-Martin DB5

1963 - 1967 Aston Martin DB5 Exterior
- image 508321

The DB4, which was in production at the time of the E-Type’s launch was somewhat swept under the rug once the new DB5 was unveiled. The Carrozzeria Touring-bodied grand tourer was made famous after being handed to Sean Connery to star in 1964’s James Bond: Goldfinger. The car’s pivotal role in the film covered it with a gold lining that, otherwise, might have never bestowed the 4.0-liter two-door DB5. Due to this, a DB5 is usually twice as expensive as an E-Type, but despite its aluminum engine block and sturdy ZF gearbox, it isn’t quite twice as good. Then again, you’ll need one if impersonating Sean Connery is what you’re after.

Read our full review here.

Ferrari 250 GT SWB

1962 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta Speciale by Bertone Exterior AutoShow
- image 643513

One of the most emblematic GTs of the decade, the 250 GT SWB Berlinetta was one of the last examples in a line of cars that could be raced on Sunday and then driven right back home without a hitch. Given the astronomical seven-digit prices for which these cars trade hands, the 250 GT plays in a different league in comparison with the XK-E and the unmistakable V12 engine note is miles from being matched by the throaty inline-six.

Read our full review here.


1961 - 1968 Jaguar E-Type High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 655677

More often than not, it is hard to talk about legends, which the E-Type surely is. That’s because some plainly don’t want to downplay the importance of the said icon and, by doing so, fail to offer an honest picture. The E-Type is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most beautiful cars to have ever tackled the roads, but behind that curvaceous body lay hidden many faults. Many examples feel sluggish despite the fact that an E-Type is quite pleased with roaming the environment at 4,000 rpm. But given some detective work and a bit more know-how, good examples can be found and those are a true joy to behold — inside and out. Those examples are what makes the E-Type one of the all-time greats and a chart-topper, a status it will keep to some extent regardless of the dodgy reliability it sports, which is, one could argue, part of its charisma.

  • Leave it
    • Good examples are hard to find
    • Needs some updates to be fully enjoyable
Michael Fira
Michael Fira
Associate Editor and Motorsport Expert - fira@topspeed.com
Mihai Fira started out writing about long-distance racing like the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans. As the years went by, his area of interest grew wider and wider and he ever branched beyond the usual confines of an automotive writer. However, his heart is still close to anything car-related and he's most at home retelling the story of some long-since-forgotten moment from the history of auto racing. He'll also take time to explain why the cars of the '60s and '70s are more fascinating than anything on the road today.  Read full bio
About the author

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