It's not often that a car can be called a work of art. Generally, the appeal of cars is now based on rather more tangible factors such as how much storage capacity they have, or how large the engine is. But at times it's important to step back and appreciate just what is possible when designing a vehicle.
A car's looks are rarely an afterthought. In fact, aesthetics are usually intrinsic to the design of a vehicle, helping with efficiency or ground clearance. The look of a premium vehicle can evoke a whole range of emotions, designed to excite the driver as well as those spotting it in the street.
One of these cars was, and still is, undoubtedly the Jaguar E-Type. It was penned by long-time Jaguar designer Malcolm Sayer with input from Jaguar co-founder William Lyons, and was unveiled to the world on 15 March 1961 at the Geneva Motor Show. A mixture of sweeping curves and a signature long chiselled nose borrowed from Jaguar's racing pedigree, it was worlds apart from the XK150 it replaced. In fact, nothing else quite looked like the Jaguar E-Type and it soon set the world's press alight.
William Lyons knew instantly that he had something special on his hands, and ordered the second concept model to be driven all the way up from the firm's plant in Coventry to Switzerland overnight. The second car arrived the next morning, visiting the nearest Jaguar showroom for a polish before the doors to Geneva opened.
It was a car which Enzo Ferrari himself proclaimed as 'The most beautiful car ever made', and was later inaugurated in to the New York City Museum of Modern Art as part of their permanent collection. Impressive, considering the styling of the E-Type was based on the design of the Jaguar D-Type - a car which was built solely for racing.
However, it was far more than the E-Type's aesthetics which were revolutionary. It borrowed heavily from the D-Type's racing heritage and utilised a similar monocoque construction, which largely bypasses the need for a chassis with a single shell-like skin. The design was based on techniques used in aviation, and had similar build qualities to Formula 1 cars which McLaren would use over 30 years later.
Jaguar was one of the first manufacturers to make use of the disc brakes on the E-Type, as well as the use of independent rear suspension (which was designed in just 27 days) - equipment which we now consider standard on sports cars today.
The E-Type also had substantial power figures, even by modern standards. It launched with a 3.8 Litre engine which produced 265bhp. The straight-six engine had previously been used in five victories at Le Mans in the D-Type and C-Type, and meant that the resulting E-Type was one of the fastest road cars in production when it was released in 1961.
The E-Type was once of the most advanced cars in the world upon its release over 50 years ago, and yet for its technical wizardry retailed at just £2,250 (equivalent to around £40,000 in today's money). In fact, initial E-Type models were sold at a lower price than the outgoing XK150 model. It's not hard to see why it quickly became a phenomenon.
The E-Type was in production for fourteen years, and in that time over 70,000 units were sold. The car went through several updates, including series 2 and series 3 revisions. Changes included a larger grille for better air intake and a range of new engines.
Originally, the E-Type was available as a two-seat coupe or as a roadster. In 1966, a 2+2 model was added to the line-up to give more interior space with four seats. This more practical E-Type opened the car up to a much wider audience, and it was the most popular model in the range by the end of its first year.
The Series 3 model, released in 1971, underwent more significant changes. It was available with a 5.3 litre V12 that was originally developed for use in Le Mans. The new flagship engine achieved a contemporary sub 7-second 0-60 time. Options for the Series 3 E-Type, which featured a much larger front grille and wider wheel arches, now included power steering and air conditioning.
Over its lifespan, the E-Type had morphed from a lightweight British sports car to a luxury grand tourer with more space and an extensive options list. Production of the road-going E-Type ended in 1971, and the car was eventually replaced by the XJ-S in 1975.
The Lightweight E-Type
The lightweight E-Type project began in 1963 as a project to build 18 'Special GT E-Type' vehicles. The 18-car series would take cues from Jaguar's illustrious motorsport history, and use a full aluminium body to reduce weight. The end product weighed just 1,000Kg thanks to the removal of interior trim and exterior chrome detailing, and yet had a significant power increase which made them much faster than road-going versions.
However, of the 18 proposed Lightweight E-Type vehicles, only 12 were ever completed before the project was ended in 1964.
Now, 50 years after production of the car ended, Jaguar have took it upon themselves to complete the remaining six cars. Built to the exact specification of the original models, these new iterations will be exact reproductions of the original Lightweight E-Type - including an engine built from the ground up. These extremely rare models are being made available to elite motoring enthusiasts from around the world.
Their unveiling is planned for the near future, meaning that the story of the Jaguar E-Type is far from over..