With its race-bred 3.8-liter, double-overhead-cam straight six and striking streamlined design derived from Jaguar’s Le Mans-winning race cars, the XK-E was a startling departure from its contemporaries.
And unlike the high-priced performance rivals from Italy and Germany, the E-Type coupe and convertible were relatively affordable and accessible. The price at launch of the E-Type convertible was $5,595.
According to Jaguar, “The appeal of E-Type transcended the automotive world. Such is the inherent rightness of its proportions, stance and purity of line, that it is a permanent exhibit in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.”
After its Geneva debut, the new E-Type was introduced to Americans at the New York Auto Show. The car soon became emblematic of the style and freedom of the “Swinging Sixties.”
“It is impossible to overstate the impact the E-Type had when it was unveiled in 1961,” said Ian Callum, Jaguar design director. “Here was a car that encapsulated the spirit of the revolutionary era it came to symbolize. The E-Type is a design that even today continues to inform the work we do in styling the Jaguars of the future.”
The British automaker will continue the 50th anniversary celebration throughout this year, highlighted by honors at Goodwood’s Revival and Festival of Speed in England; the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Monterey, Calif.; the Nurburgring Old Timer Grand Prix; and many other events worldwide
“Half a century of progress has not diminished the significance of the E-Type,” said Mike O’Driscoll, managing director of Jaguar Cars and chairman of Jaguar Heritage. “It was a sensation when it was launched and remains Jaguar’s most enduring and iconic symbol.
“The E-Type is simply one of the most exciting cars ever created and a legacy to the genius of Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons.”
Some XK-E facts and trivia:
• The E-Type was presented to the world’s press at the restaurant du Parc des Eaux Vives in Geneva on March 15, 1961. Such was the media excitement and clamour for demonstration runs up a nearby hillclimb that Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons instructed chief test driver Norman Dewis to drive through the night from Coventry to bring another model to Switzerland.
• Enzo Ferrari admitted it was “the most beautiful car in the world.”
• The E-Type’s straight-six engine had powered Jaguar to five Le Mans victories in the 1950s and by 1961 in 3.8-litre form that produced 265bhp and 260lb ft of torque, making the car a genuine 150mph proposition and, like its XK120 predecessor, the fastest production car in the world.
• The E-Type’s perfectly proportioned bodywork was the work of Malcolm Sayer, an aeronautical engineer by training who also applied his aerodynamic expertise in shaping the earlier Le Mans-winning C- and D-Type racers.
• In three model series, the XK-E remained in production for 14 years, selling more than 70,000 units.