Jaguar E-Type: 60 Years of Beauty

  • story by David M. Brown
  • photos by JLRNA Archives
  • posted on 08/2021
  • posted in: Great Garages

Sir William Lyons: Cheers on the 60th anniversary of the E-Type.

For the Jaguar founder (1901–1985), the starting line for the extraordinary E-Type was in 1922 with Swallow Sidecars, a company he owned with William Walmsley in Blackpool and later Coventry, England. The Jaguar name first appeared on vehicles later produced by Lyons’ S. S. Cars Limited in the 1930s; the company’s name changed to Jaguar Cars in 1945. Today, Jaguar Land Rover is based in Coventry, England, and Jaguar Land Rover North America, Mahwah, New Jersey.

Manufactured between 1961 and 1975, the E-Type is in direct lineage with the racing legend D-type (1955–57), which won Le Mans three consecutive times, 1955 to 1957; that car followed the C-type (1951–53), a Le Mans winner on its first outing in 1951 and again in 1953.


Admirers extolled the E-Type’s synthesis of sinuous beauty, performance (0–60 mph under 7 seconds and a 150 mph top end), light weight (2,900 pounds), pricing (the 1961 sold at just under $5,000) and innovative components such as independent front and rear suspension. Downsides, at least for the early cars, included insufficient cooling capacity and the inability of some technicians to synchronize the original triple SU carburetors.

E-Types were available in coupes, roadsters, 2 + 2s in Series 1 and Series 2 cars and, for Series 3 editions, roadsters and coupes. Malcolm Sayer (1916–1970), designed the car circa 1959/1960. “A mathematician, he plotted out the design on butcher paper on the wall and drew points to give the actual shape,” explains Fred Hammond, archivist for Jaguar Land Rover North America in Mahwah, New Jersey.

The Series 1 cars carried the famous 3.8-liter XK inline 6-cylinder. The “XK-E” designation is often seen in conjunction with the E-Type. “In North America, it was thought for marketing that the ‘E-Type’ branding wasn’t as well known as the XK 120, XK 140 and XK 150 cars, so that designation worked here,” Hammond explains.


Jaguar enlarged displacement to 4.2 liters in 1965. “They bored and stroked the engine because they needed to meet new emissions requirements while keeping the power similar,” says Hammond.

In 1968, Series 2 appeared with improved cooling, seating, upgraded Stromberg carburetion and with uncovered headlights conforming to North American lighting requirements.

Series 3 appeared in 1971 with the 5.3-liter alloy 272-bhp 12-cylinder and a longer wheelbase. In addition, the new car had upgraded brakes, power steering and new lighting to meet U.S. safety requirements.


“The Series 1 was a sports car, Series 3 a more comfortable grand tourer and the Series 2 something of a hybrid in between,” Hammond explains, noting that Jaguar Heritage is now building continuation E-Types in England.

The run figures: 3.8 liter, 15,496; 4.2 liter, 41,724; and V-12, 15,287.

Enzo Ferrari’s comment when the legendary sports car was released in March 1961 is famous: “[It’s] the most beautiful car ever made,” said the maker of some of the world’s most beautiful sports cars. And, the Museum of Modern Art in New York judged the E-Type one of just six automotive examples of art. Jaguar U.S. donated its Series 1 E-Type to the museum for its permanent collection in 1990.


Hammond notes that E-Types did not have the same level of racing success as the C-Type and D-Type as Jaguar officially pulled out of motorsports in 1957 for company-sponsored entries. Still, a few E-Types did prevail. Among these were Merle Brennan’s SCCA C production wins on the West Coast, 39 out of 43 in 1964, and Bob Tullius’ 12 of 17 wins in SCCA B Production in his V-12 Jaguar E-Type, culminating in a 1975 national championship.

In addition, Dick Protheroe’s E-Types extensively competed throughout 1962, with drivers such as Innes Ireland, Graham Hill, Roy Salvadori and David Piper. And Peter Lindner, the racer and German importer of Jaguars, raced his Factory Lightweight E-Type 4868 WK, which claimed his life at Montlhéry outside of Paris in 1964, and Peter Lumsden also raced his Factory Lightweight E-Type 49 FXN.

“Like the Jaguar XK 120 in 1948, the E-Type was much more popular than expected,” Hammond explains. “The company underestimated the market both times.”


He adds: “The E-Type was not only a breakthrough automobile for Jaguar but for the whole industry. Every car that came after would now have an element of true aerodynamic design; no more would the phase, ‘If it looks right, it is right’ be accepted.”

“For Jaguar, the brand became a style icon for a new generation and those beyond. It appealed to both men and women. It was beautiful and sensual and had an organic style that appealed to everyone. It was universally adored and universally desired. Everyone wanted one.”

He continues, “To paraphrase the words of journalist Sam Smith, even today, 60 years after it was first introduced, the E-Type draws a crowd wherever it goes. And today, restored E-Types generally trade well into the $200,000s.”


Terry Larson, a Mesa, Arizona, resident well known for his meticulous Jaguar restorations, adds, “The E-Type is clearly one of the most iconic cars ever built. The reasons are not easy to sum up. It is a combination of style, personality and advanced mechanical design. It really was ahead of its time. I have heard many people tell me they remember where they were when they saw their first E-Type. That is a huge statement.”

Larson owns three: a ’66 coupe that his wife drove to work daily for six years; a ’66 roadster he bought from the original owner in 1987 with 12,000 miles and all original including tires; and a ’67 roadster with a factory hardtop.

Norman Dewis (1920–2019), who headed development and testing of the E-Type and made the famous “Dewis Dash” to the Geneva Car Show E-Type reveal in February 1961, was a close friend and stayed with the Larsons many times.


“Once on the way to lunch in my ’66 roadster, he was, as always, listening and checking air flow (he was always on duty, he couldn’t stop),” Larson remembers. “I pulled to the traffic light and stopped. I looked at him and laughed. He looked back, smiled and said, ‘We really got this one right, didn’t we?’ And I thought, ‘They sure did!’”

Some AAA E-Types

Hammond selected a few key cars to focus on:


E1A (1957) and E2A (1960) –– E1A, the first EW-Type prototype, was designed in 1957 by William Heynes, technical director and chief engineer, featuring Jaguar’s fully independent rear suspension and the proven XK engine. Never released to the public, the car was eventually destroyed by the factory.

Three years later, the second prototype, E2A, had a steel chassis with an aluminum body. An all-out race car, E2A used a 3.8-liter and later a 3-liter, both XK engines.

The car was shipped to America for Jaguar privateer racer Briggs Cunningham. In 1961, it returned to Jaguar in England for use as a test vehicle. In 1970 Roger Woodley, Jaguar’s customer competition car manager, acquired the car on the condition that it not be used for racing. His wife owned the prototype until 2008 when Bonham’s Quail Auction sold it for $4,957,000.


1961 E-Type Coupe, “77 RW” –– The famous plate belongs to the first production E-Type Roadster, built in February 1961 and the oldest-surviving open-top. Now totally restored, it is on loan to the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust, which keeps an archival Jaguar collection in England.

This is the car famously driven to Geneva from Jaguar headquarters in a dramatic 17-hour overnight sprint by Dewis, Jaguar’s then test and development engineer: the “Dewis Dash.”

For the E-Type reveal at the Geneva Motor Show, Jaguar press officer and former racer Bob Berry had driven the “9600 HP” car to Switzerland; the event immediately created a high demand for press drives. Berry called England and urgently requested another car.


Dewis was doing some track work when he received the call from the headquarters office. Chief Engineer Bill Heynes told him he had to get the car to Geneva by the next morning and handed him an overnight bag packed by Dewis’ wife. Finishing up a quick fish and chips, he sped off from Leighton Buzzard and drove through London to Dover, 200 miles, in just two hours to meet the ferry at 9:50 p.m.

“He pulls up to dock, and the ferry had just left,” Hammond says. “But the admiring dockworkers arranged to have the boat called back. It became a point of national pride to get the car to Geneva. Plus, they told the captain that he’d have a chance to see the new Jaguar.” After driving the Jag onto the ferry, Dewis enjoyed food and lots of coffee for his impending drive through France, Belgium and into Switzerland.

Dewis, though, was the man to do this, as he had set the world production car speed record in 1953 in an XK120C and drove at Mille Miglia with Stirling Moss two years later.


From Ostend in Belgium at 3 a.m., he drove at 100-plus mph through a conveniently dry starlit night, through Ghent, Brussels, Bertrix, Nancy and Delémont, arriving eight minutes ahead of schedule at 9:52 a.m. Swiss time. Sir William Lyons offered short praise, “Oh, well done, Dewis, you made it.” Then, without sleep, Dewis gave demonstrations in the car, beating all of the other professional drivers’ uphill times.

First E-Type Coupe –– The first E-Type hardtop is in the Jaguar Heritage collection. To help design it, Sayer and his group took some wire and formed an outline on a roadster. “Sir William Lyons came in, looked at it and walked around it a couple of times,” Hammond says. “‘We’ll build that,’ he said.”

HDU 555N –– The last Jaguar E-Type made is now owned by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust. HDU 555N is a Series 3 Drop Head Coupé built on June 12, 1974, but not registered until February 5, 1975. The title was transferred to the Jaguar Heritage Trust in September 1983.


This was part of a special run of 50 final E-Types. Forty-nine of these cars were painted black, while the last car was British Racing Green and was supplied to a well-known Jaguar collector. All of the cars carried a commemorative plaque, bearing a signature facsimile of the man who started it all, Sir William Lyons.

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