There was a short production run of Series 1 cars from 1967 to 1968 that were distinctly different. These cars featured open headlights similar to the Series 2 cars (the top “brows” of the chrome surrounds for the headlights were not as thick as the Series 2 open light trims), but the body design features remained distinctly like the Series 1 cars. Enthusiasts referred to these as the “Series 1½”—though Jaguar never adopted that designation. These cars also featured two Zenith-Stromberg carburetors in place of the earlier use of three SUs, twin cooling fans, adjustable seat backs, and black rocker switches on the instrument panel rather than the earlier toggle switches.
The Jaguar was a car before it was a company, emerging as a 2½-litre saloon first shown at the 1935 Olympia Motor Show made by S.S. (the Swallow Sidecar Company, founded in 1922 to make motorcycle sidecars). In 1945, the name was changed to Jaguar Cars Limited. With the introduction of the XK120 and the Mark V in 1948, the next decade was characterized by roadsters and sporting luxury car production. In parallel, there were a range of legendary competition cars produced for the track—the C-Type and the later D-Type. The production side of the business inherited the alpha nomenclature—and much of the seductive styling of the competition cars—when the E-Type was designed. The new car was unveiled in March 1961 at the Geneva Motor Show. The production life of the E-Type ran in three series, from 1961 to 1975. The “Series 1” model started with 3.8 liter engine, which was later increased to 4.2 liters, which also used in the “Series 2” model; and finally, the “Series 3” model featured a 5.3 liter V12 engine. It is difficult to overstate the impact the E-Type made in its day—an impact succinctly captured by Enzo Ferrari when he called it “the most beautiful car ever made.” The Daily Telegraph agreed with Mr. Ferrari when in 2008 the E-Type ranked #1 in its list of the “100 most beautiful Cars”—and though four Ferraris were in the top twenty, it wasn’t close—it was disclosed that the E-Type “received almost four times as many votes as any other car.”
“The E-Type is a fast car (the fastest we have ever tested)”Autocar May 1965
E-type Jags are always strong performers, but the Series 2 loses out to the original. The coupe has purer lines but likewise loses some value to its open topped sibling. That said, the S2 E Type coupe has been a strong performer in the last 8 years. A spike in value in the early twenty-teens seems to be normalizing with values settling still higher than they were.
Now—more than five decades after its introduction—the iconic luster of the E-Type has only increased. With its powerful engine and disc brakes, it continues to be a road-worthy car in modern driving conditions. It is also at home in most any enthusiast show or touring event. In every way a car should be, the E-Type is the most beautiful car ever made.
Editor – SAH Journal; The Society of Automotive Historians