Jaguar E-type, celebrating a 60-year-old icon

Jaguar is making 12 cars that evoke the famous model to mark the anniversary

Home road Jaguar E-type, celebrating a 60-year-old icon
Jaguar E-type, celebrating a 60-year-old icon

It was 1961 when Jaguar launched the E-type, one of the most iconic cars ever, and fittingly the company’s vintage car restoration and spare parts department Jaguar Classic is at work on six coupés and six roadsters that will be sold in pairs to six enthusiasts with money in their pocket.

The E-type is known – and admired – worldwide, also in Italy. At its launch, Enzo Ferrari described it as “the most beautiful car ever built” and the Giussani sisters imaged Diabolik, the main character of their comic books, at the wheel of an all-black version of the car. The recipe was brilliant. Despite being the fastest production GT ever (with a top speed of over 240 km/h) it cost less than half as much as its hand-built rivals.

Its style projected it into the future. It was functional and a joy to behold at the same time. The car was the brainchild of designer and aeronautical engineer Malcolm Sayer, who had transferred the skills acquired designing aircraft to the road.

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Pirelli Collezione tyres for the E-Type

A car with this kind of performance needs tyres capable of maintaining its original elegance with modern-day technological solutions. Pirelli Collezione size 185 R15 Cinturato CA67 tyres are available for the first series and size 205/70 R15 Cinturato CN12 and the P5 tyres are provided for the later series to kit out the various Jaguar E-type models over these 60 years. 

Pirelli’s engineers used the same parameters as the vehicle designers back in the day but exploited the wealth of modern knowledge about materials and production processes. The result is a blend of performance, style and authenticity. The pictures and materials made available by the Fondazione Pirelli, responsible for storing the documentation on the design, development and industrialisation of all Pirelli tyres over the years, were fundamental for designing them. Information was drawn from the original mould drawings, tread studies, technical test specifications, type-approval documents, price lists and catalogues. 

At the last minute

The E-type has round, sleek forms, no-frills elegance and a stretched bonnet that immediately conveys the impression of power and dynamism. With its understated sporty cockpit and its engine, it is not just the exterior that appeals to the eye. 

The monumental straight-six engine has polished valve covers, three carburettors on one side and large exhaust manifolds on the other. The successful debut of the car came after a frantic battle against time to secure its presence at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show.

The demonstration model was finished at the very last moment. With no time to spare to transport it on a slow lorry, the E-type coupé was driven from Coventry to Geneva by public relations manager (and former racing driver) Bob Berry. He whipped on all the 265 hp and managed to arrive on 15 March just 20 minutes before the presentation to the press.

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An epic journey

He was greeted with ill-concealed relief by the founder of the British automaker, William Lyons: “I thought you’d never get here,” were his words. Everything went smoothly that day but there were so many requests to test drive the E-type that Lyons decided to bring in a soft-top version and in doing so created another legend. He phoned Coventry and told them to find head test driver Norman Dewis “wherever he was” and get him to “drop everything” so he could drive the roadster to the motor show as soon as possible.

Dewis set off immediately for Switzerland and arrived the following morning clocking an average speed of 110 km/h. That may sound slow but it is worth remembering that there were no motorways those days (and especially no Eurotunnel). By the time the show closed, Jaguar had collected over 500 orders (they would make 72,000 E-Types over the years).

Just twelve, not one more

The twelve E-type 60 Edition by Jaguar Classic, named after the badges of the cars of the time, draw their inspiration from those hectic days at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show that left a mark on the history of the brand. The six “9600 HP” coupés and six “77 RW” roadsters are painted in an interesting shade of “Flat Out” grey and “Drop Everything” British Racing Green, respectively.

While substantially respecting the original features, the cars have details that make them unique, like the E-type 60 logo repeated in some parts (like on the bonnet and fuel cap), the stainless steel console carved by artist Johnny Dowell aka “King Nerd” (it took over 100 hours of work) to commemorate the epic route taken by Berry and Dewis and the horn button with 24-carat gold inserts.

Contemporary inspirations

A host of invisible tweaks make the 60 Edition more suitable for today. These include an aluminium radiator with an electric fan to prevent overheating even after hours in a queue, electronic ignition to ensure quick starts even at low temperatures, a stainless steel exhaust system to prevent oxidation even after many years and a five-speed gearbox with all-synchronised gears and the close ratios (instead of the four-speed gearbox with unsynchronised first gear).

The last treat is the Jaguar Classic navigation system with Bluetooth that conceals today’s technology behind the look of a 1960s radio. Fun fact: the British company is organising an event in which the E-Type 60 Edition will take part driven by their owners and their guests, in the summer of 2022 to re-enact the Coventry-Geneva route. Unlike Berry and Dewis in 1961, they will certainly not have to complete it in record time and will enjoy cruising across France.

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