The E-type is one of Britain's most notorious motoring achievements. Its beautiful and curvaceous body work is not the result of the work of a stylist but of aerodynamicist Malcom Sayer. Rarely objects with a form-that-follows-function are able to capture the imagination of many generations but the e-type has been the sportscar that perhaps more than any other has shook the world from the ground up.
When it was presented at the Geneva auto show in 1961 it was a sensation, and shook many for its style, performance and price. Costing less than half than the more exotic Ferraris and Maseratis, the E-type was a true supercar that could make many experience the thrill of reaching 150 mph easily. In a time where speed limits were the exception rather than the norm, the e-type was the perfect express tool for fast travelling: think about being overtaken at speed by such a car on the M1 motorway, in 1961, it must have looked spectacular!
The E type was the result of much development work by Jaguar's engineering team led by chief engineer Bill Heynes, who masterminded the first prototype, named E1A in 1957. Boasting an all aluminium bodywork and an new monococque frame with magnesium framework and a 2.4 straight six, it was the first test bed for Jaguar's new independent suspension, designed by engineer Bob Knight. A second prototype, E2A was driven by Briggs Cunningham at Le Mans in 1960, which thanks to its 3.0 liter engine was able to achieve the fastest lap during the race. This experience with gave Jaguar engineers enough confidence to put the e-type into production and perhaps the most exciting and best value-for-money supercar that was ever produced. Thanks to its 3.8 liter straight six and exotic looks, it became a celebrity's favourite: Count Basie, Steve McQueen, Princess Grace, George Best...it is said that when Frank Sinatra first saw it in a New York showroom exclaimed "I want that car and I want it now!". Even the King of all sportscars, Enzo Ferrari muttered "the E Type is the most beautiful car ever made" when he saw it.
The XKE evolved through the years and until the final 1975 version it received 3.8 (Series I), 4.2 (Series II) and 5.3 (Series III) liter engines and remained as the most iconic Jaguar ever made.