Monday 25th March 2019,
Inopian

Jaguar E Type XKE Series I 1961 – 1968: Most Beautiful Car Ever Made

Jaguar E type 1961-1967 FHC by kev haworth photography
When the Jaguar E-type was unveiled in 1961 Enzo Ferrari famously called it `the most beautiful car ever made`. In truth it probably was. Ferrari could easily have made it but could never have kept the retail price down to around £2000. It took the motoring world by storm from the outset. The rich and famous, the great and the good, bought them instantly. The sheer beauty of the shape meant that everyone loved it and instantly recognized it. It seemed too good to be true that Jaguar had terminated the superb XK150S and replaced it with a car obviously destined to be an icon, but they had done it!

Jaguar`s redundant racing department had been ordered to use it`s D-type experience and technology to develop a road-legal sports /Grand Touring car to replace the XK 150S. The E type was mechanically similar to the XK150S in many ways. It inherited the 3.8 engine, gearbox, front suspension and steering. Jaguar fitted it`s all-new independent rear suspension system with servo-assisted four-wheel Dunlop disc brakes. Anyone who ever drove the Series I `E` will tell you that they still did not stop the car very well!

Silver-painted wire wheels were standard, but chrome was a popular option. There were some other issues. Jaguar still supplied a gearbox with a non-synchromesh bottom gear. First gear was always necessary for take-off, there being only four ratios, and invariably grunted and resisted being engaged unless the engine was at tick-over.

Leg-room of the E-type was in short supply because the floor had a step in it that prevented full adjustment of the seats. For that reason too the seat-rake could not be adjusted. The step also prevented the fitting of an overdrive. The stylish, glass covered headlights were less than perfect. Some said that they were for looking at, not looking with! Lastly, the E-type cars as delivered had a very quiet exhaust note. Owners soon fixed that!

That has taken care of the imperfections which nobody really cared about. The whole package was so absolutely beautiful that the prospective owner could not resist it. A very attractive works hard-top was available on the Drop Head Coupe models. Beyond a doubt Bill Lyons` E type was a beautiful blend of engineering and pure art.

The chassis:

Jaguar used a steel monocoque chassis with a front sub-frame to carry the engine and a rear one to carry the rear suspension. Bonnet and front wings were combined into a one-piece tilting nose with louvres on top for heat extraction. This solved Jaguar`s usual problem of engine accessibility, but there was just such a problem at the rear. Because of the bulky rear sub-frame the floor had a high step behind the seats limiting the seat adjustment. Also, changing the disc-pads on the in-board rear discs needed the services of a Swiss watchmaker! Many mechanics found it easier and quicker to unbolt and lower the rear sub-frame to change the pads.

The interior had a leather finish with the dashboard covered with aluminium. The only wood inside the car was the superb Jaguar wood-rim steering wheel. The first 300 cars made are the rarest and most valuable. They were badged XKE not E type. The public christened the car E type and the name stuck. Jaguar gave way to pressure and re-named the car for the British market. All US exports were still badged XKE. These first 300 cars are identifiable at first glance because the chrome bonnet locks are external. Thereafter the locks were fitted inside the door-frames.

In 1964 the 4.2 XK engine replaced the 3.8 litre. The 3.8 E type was very fast but the 4.2 was not noticeably quicker in a straight line. However the car was improved by other revisions. A new four speed, all-synchro gearbox was fitted and much better brakes made it safer and less hairy around corners. The handling was very good and with the improved braking the E type achieved it`s potential as a great road car.

The only real British competition for the E type was Aston Martin which cost double the price. The only area where Jaguar could not compete with Aston Martin was in the seating department. The next step for Jaguar seemed to be to re-model the E type into a four-seater. Therefore the E type 2+2 was developed.

The E-type 2+2:

E type sales were still extremely good in 1966 and many commentators felt that the `family GT` market was a market that Jaguar did not need to attack. It could have worked well if the cabin and rear of the car had been completely re-designed, like in the case of the Lotus Elan Plus 2. Comparing the Jaguar 2 seater and 2+2 E type in profile shows clearly how it was done. The monocoque was stretched by 9 inches between the axles. The door-ways were enlarged by the same amount. The car now had the leg-room for the rear passengers, but the designers had to find headroom for those passengers. Their priority was to preserve the shape and body-line and so raising the roof-line was the only option. To do otherwise would have meant losing the E type`s classic shape.

The windscreen angle of rake was changed, making it taller and a new roof, 9 inches longer, was put in place. This allowed the rear tailgate panel to remain the same. The windscreen appeared to be much bigger when viewed from the front and the rear panel appeared to incline more steeply. Overall effect was strange and after all the effort, the rear seat was only fit for very small people. Many thought that the 2+2 was equivalent to drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa. The E type had gone from a work of art to a hunch-backed afterthought.

As if to prove that Jaguar was trying to appeal to an older market they offered automatic transmission as an option. Though very unpopular with the Jaguar purists the car was a success, selling over 5,500 cars through the three series. Many of those buyers must have been Aston Martin customers.  It has always been suspected that the 2+2 was the product of British Leyland interference rather than Bill Lyons` swansong. He retired the following year.

In 1967 Jaguar did a very strange thing with the E type. They revised the car to appease the US market. The Series II car was in the planning stage but Jaguar introduced several S II features onto the S I. This was unofficially christened `Series One and a half`.  Most notable changes were open headlights and rocker switches replacing the row of toggle switches. Changes for the US market only were a de-tuned engine with Zenith- Stromberg carburettors replacing the SU installation. In 1969 the Series II arrived.

Jaguar E type XKE Series I 1961-1968 FHC Specifications

Body Type2 seater fixedhead coupe
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Brakes
FrontDiscs
RearDiscs
Dimensionsmminches
Length4375172.2
Width165765.2
Height122548.2
Wheelbase243896
Cargo VolumePretty long bed
Engine3.8 XK Jaguar DOHC 12V Hemispherical (1961-1964)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement3781 cc230.7 cui
Power198 Kw265 bhp5500 RPM
Torque353 Nm260 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight215 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed241 km/h150 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph6.9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban20.114.1
Extra-urban9.131
Combined14.719.2
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1234 kg2721 lb
Engine4.2 XK Jaguar DOHC 12V Hemispherical (1964-1968)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement4235 cc258.4 cui
Power198 Kw265 bhp5500 RPM
Torque385 Nm284 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight226 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed246 km/h153 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph7.0 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban19.914.2
Extra-urban8.931.7
Combined14.519.5
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1170 kg2579 lb

Jaguar E type XKE Series I 1961-1968 DHC Specifications

Body Type2 seater drophead coupe
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Brakes
FrontDiscs
RearDiscs
Dimensionsmminches
Length4458175.5
Width163264.3
Height119447
Wheelbase243896
Cargo VolumeVirtually none
Engine3.8 XK Jaguar DOHC 12V Hemispherical (1961-1964)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement3781 cc230.7 cui
Power198 Kw265 bhp5500 RPM
Torque353 Nm260 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight217 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed240 km/h149 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph7.1 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban20.214
Extra-urban9.230.7
Combined14.819.1
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1220 kg2690 lb
Engine4.2 XK Jaguar DOHC 12V Hemispherical (1964-1968)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement4235 cc258.4 cui
Power198 Kw265 bhp5500 RPM
Torque385 Nm284 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight215 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed242 km/h150 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph7.0 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban20.114.1
Extra-urban9.131
Combined14.719.2
Gearbox4 speed manual
Weight1232 kg2716 lb

Jaguar E type 2+2 Series I 1966-1968 Specifications

Body Type2+2 seater fixedhead coupe
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Brakes
FrontDiscs
RearDiscs
Dimensionsmminches
Length4680184.3
Width165765.2
Height127050
Wheelbase2667105
Cargo VolumePretty long bed
Engine4.2 XK Jaguar DOHC 12V Hemispherical (1964-1968)
Cylindersstraight 6
Displacement4235 cc258.4 cui
Power198 Kw265 bhp5500 RPM
Torque385 Nm284 ft. lb4000 RPM
Power/weight213 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed235 km/h146 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph7.1 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban2.3122.8
Extra-urban9.330.4
Combined14.919
Gearbox4 speed manual3 speed automatic
Weight1245 kg2745 lb
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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