The end of production and end of an era— but not of a legend.
SHADES OF TODAY, in March 1961 the British Motor Industry was suffering a slump, but petrol cost about 5s. a gallon, there were no overall speed limits and motorists could use Britain’s fastexpanding new motorway system for the highspeed commuting purpose for which it was designed. The motorist of 1961, not yet persteuted by Authority as worse than a common criminal, had a different way of life : if he wished to he could average 150 m.p.h. for the length of the Ml; Vasear wasn’t even dreamt of; the endorsement totting-up system didn’t exist; policemen exercised their biceps at the big Steering wheels of 99-m.p.h. Austin Westminsters while the Well-to-do family men sped past legally in their Jaguar 3.8 status symbols; and the motor-racing enthusiast Could enjoy the garden party atmosphere of glorious Goodwood unimpeded by netting, catch fences or Armco. Compared with today, Britain was a motoring Utopia and into this easy-going atmosphere, free from the pernicious laws (most of them, anyway) which subsequent governments have thrust upon a foblishly acquiescent public, Jaguar launched a I50,m.p.h. dream car. The Geneva Motor Show on March 16th was the scene for the unveiling of’ the Sensational E-type, a car which, slump or not, was to bolster the prestige of the British Motor Industry and the pride of the still patriotic British public. The Press eulogised about it, customers queued for it—and a month after its Geneva unveiling Graham Hill took the blue Equipe Endeavour E-type roadster to a fine and significant victory in
the Oulton Park Trophy Race for GT cars, backed up in third place by Roy Salvadori’s similar, but grey, example. Television thrust this victory to a captive audience and the sight of this magnificent new Jaguar trouncing the Aston Martin DB4 GT, at twice the price, and the Ferrari 250 GTs at three times the price left a profound impression on the enthusiastic motoring public. MOTOR SPORT described the E-type as “a staggering motor car on all counts . . a stupendous achievement of British automobile engineering and craftsmanship”. The Autocar described it as “a break-through in design of high-performance vehicles for sale to the public” and went on to test a pre-production, left-hand-drive example running on the initially optional R5 racing tyres (very cunning of Jaguar—they gave slightly more favourable overall gearing) at ‘a mean maximum of 150.4 m.p.h. with a 0-60 time of 6.9 sec. and 0-100 m.p.h. in 16.2, wonderful figures which
Jaguar were able to use to help boost the E-type into an export leader. And, in true William Lyons fashion, the price was set unbelievably low : £1,480 basic for the roadster (k2,097 15s. 10d. inclusive of Purchase Tax, while a hard-top could be added for an extra £76), or £1.550 for the sleeker fixed-head coup6 (k2,I96 I9s. 2d. inclusive of PT). Fourteen years later you can just buy a Ford Escort Ghia 1600 for the price of the fixed-head, but you couldn’t buy an MG-B roadster for the 1961 price of the E-type’s soft-top version.
Those early ’60s days of speed, reasonable freedom, value for money and an impressive stature for the British Motor Industry have come to an end and nothing seems to signify this more than the demise of the E-type, the last of which came off Jaguar’s Allesley production line a few months ago. The end of an era and the end of a breed of car which we’re never likely to witness again. A symbol of wealth, a symbol of masculinity and/or virility, a symbol of speed and power, take it as you wish, but certainly a World-wide legend in its own time. In those fourteen years of production, 72,584 E-types have been produced, no less than 85% of which have been exported. Of the total, 49,032 went to the USA, 2,439 to Canada and 8,793 to smaller export markets scattered across the globe. British customers suffered a dearth of the model, only 12,320 being retained for home consumption. A breakdown of the various models shows that 15,481 3.8-litre versions were sold between the introduction in 1961 and its replacement by the 4.2-litre Series 1 in late 1964; the latter model had by far the largest production run, 22,908 being built between 1964 and late 1968; 18,841 Series 2 4.2-litre ears were built between 1968 and 1971; and a total of 15,292 Series 3 V12 B-types were constructed between 1971 and this year. It will be remembered that a six-cylinder version of the Series 3 was announced at the same time as the V12. In fact only one example was ever built specifically as such, though at least three more were converted from V I 2s in the Jaguar Experimental Department, which subsequently used them all for development purposes. It is believed that all except one, which
escaped to private hands, were broken up. Discrepancies in the totals above result from Jaguar’s quoted figures, not our mathematics.
Jaguar celebrated (if that is the right word) the end of the E-type by distinctively finishing 49 of the last 50 V12 roadsters in black with chromium-plated wheels. The exception in the 50 was the next to the last E-type off the line (chassis no. IS 2871) which was specially finished in dark green to match the rest of customer Robert Danny’s Jaguar collection. All 50 have special dashboard identification plaques, though that of the very last one, chassis no. IS 2872, body no. 4S 8989, is worded somewhat differently, as befits a car which is to be preserved for posterity by Jaguar. As D.S.J. has described driving this last of the breed in his Continental Notes elsewhere in this issue and W.B. has also recorded his drive in the car, this writer should mention too, for the sake of any future grand-children, that he too was privileged to drive it before it was mothballed in Jaguar’s exhibition hall. To the end the 13-type remained a bargain, the final price being £3,743 for the manual version of the V12 or 0,937 for the automatic, a far cry from those 1961 six-cylinder prices, but chicken-feed against the prices of other 140-m.p.h.-plus cars in 1975. No price premium was placed upon those distinctive last 50 cars, so one would assume that as they mature into collectors’ cars they will prove to have been even more of a bargain. The 13-type was the epitome of a production road car which reflected the role of motor racing in improving the breed. It was no smooth-tongued PR exercise which caused Jaguar to claim in 1961 that their new 150m.p.h. sports car was descended directly from the Le Mans-winning C-type (C—for Competition) and the D-type, from which its type designation was a logical progression. Although the materials differed, the E-type’s construction, using a central steel rnonocoque with a separate tubular front subframe to carry the engine and front suspension, followed the D-type’s general layout faithfully. From the D-type stemmed the XK SS in 1957, literally a D-type converted into a road-going sports car, but without doubt an inspiration for the 13-type. There was never any intention to build the XK SS in quantity, but any hope of completing a serious production run at all
was halted by the disastrous fire at the factory which destroyed several of the model and left the final production total at 16. An ex-Jaguar engineer told this writer a couple of years ago that the XK SS was merely a ploy to use up the stock of unsold D-types languishing round the back of the factory; he remembered these D-types being dragged into Engineering, the rust being removed from their deteriorating disc brakes with emery cloth before those meagre creature comforts were added to enable Jaguar to proclaim them to be XK SS road-going sports cars. But one could hardly say that the XK SS’s accidental origins spoiled it, if this story is true. By all accounts it was, and still is, for the lucky handful who own them, one of the most exciting road cars ever built. Design and development work on the 13-type started in that year of the XK SS and the lire, but though the D-type and the SS inspired that sports car of the future, the most significant illustration of design progression by William Heynes, Jaguar’s then Technical Director, and his team, is provided by a development car run overtly for Jaguar by I3riggs Cunningham in the 1960 Le Mans 24-hour race. This lone car was reminiscent in shape to the long-nose D-types, but hind
sight was to show that its more svelte shape was more akin to the 13-type. With a 3-litre, all-aluminium engine and driven by Walter Hansgen and Dan Gurney, this unique Jaguar set fastest lap in practice at 124.11 m.p.h., but retired from the race. Subsequently Cunningham took this car to the USA where, fitted with a 3.8-litre engine, it won first time out at Bridgehampton and finished third in the Road America race at Elkhart Lake before being returned to the Coventry factory. This interesting car now belongs to Guy Griffiths.
It isn’t so much the shape as the rear suspension which sets out the Cunningham car as the 13-type’s immediate ancestor, for in place of the rigid rear axle which had dogged the D-types on anything but ultra-fast circuits later in their careers, the Cunningham car had independently coil-sprung rear wheels and inboard disc brakes. Lord Montagu in Jaguar points out that this arrangement wasn’t quite so new to Jaguar as it appeared, for the factory had tried independent coilspring rear suspension on the VA (with rearmounted JAP engine) and Ford 10-engined VB experimental light vehicles designed for the War Office in 1944. Whatever, the Cunningham’s rear suspension with twin coil-springI damper struts each side certainly worked, providing far better traction and wheel control in circumstances where the D-type’s live axle had been a liability. It got Lyons’ and Heynes’ seal of approval and the 13-type thus gained what proved to be in its early years one of the best compromises between good handling, road-holding and ride. From this developed the rear suspension which has been used on all Jaguars introduced subsequent to the Mk. 2 and Mk. IX. At the front the Cunningham car retained the familiar Jaguar torsion-bar suspension, pretty well to D-type specification, and this too was passed on to the 13-type.
No tribute to the 13-type would be complete without an additional tribute to the late Malcolm Sayer, the brilliant designer and aerodynamicist who was responsible for the classic shapes of the C-type, the D-type, the Cunningham car, the 13-type and the racing XJ 13. There will be many who will agree that Sayer’s work” will never be surpassed. Those early 3.8 13-types were not without
their faults, as D.S.J. pointed out when describing in MOTOR SPORT for March 1967 two years of 4.2-litre E-type motoring. Their Moss gearboxes were abysmal, the seats uncomfortable, the dynamo-inspired electrics unreliable and insufficiently powerful, as were the headlights and the braking system suspect. But with their cowled-in headlights and small rear lights (inherited by the early Series 1 4.2-litre version) they looked beautiful and had performance to match. The gradual addition of better seats, trim and sound deadening, the heavier all-synchromesh gearbox added with the advent of the 4.2-litre air, pushed up the weight considerably and the performance dropped in proportion. Only the 3.8s were capable of 150 m.p.h. and those fantastic acceleration times, which is presumably why, in spite of all their other drawbacks, good examples of those early models have become appreciating collectors’ pieces. The 3.8 fixed-head weighed 24.1 cwt. compared with well over 30 cwt. for the V12 coupe, so that in spite of its 5.3-litre engine even the powerful last of the model couldn’t hold the first in a straight line. The 2 plus 2 4.2-litre (upon whose wheelbase the V12 was based), introduced in 1966, was roughly 1 cwt. heavier than its two-seater brothers, and slightly slower into the bargain. From beginning to end of the straight-six
E-types in 3.8 and 4.2-litre forms, power output was quoted as 265 b.h.p. gross, a figure which in itself is suspect and which must have caused some embarrassment to Jaguar when, bowing to the Trades Description Act and other factors, they were obliged to quote the DIN figure of 266 b.h.p. for the V12. Even so, the last V12s had quietly been drained of some power by the tightening up of emission regulations, even the camshafts being changed, and that very last car off the line was noticeably slower than earlier V12 examples this writer had driven.
Though Jaguar had withdrawn from motor racing officially in 1956, they were more than slightly involved With many of the successes E-types were to achieve in competition. In the E-type’s first two seasons of competition, Jaguar were largely responsible for the famous John Coombs racing E-type, BUY I. When this and other quick E-types began to be uncompetitive against the new Ferrari 250 C.iTOs in 1962, Jaguars were concerned enough to design an E-type specially for racing, and in 1963 the lightweight E-type was born and, by a neat fiddle, homologated for GT racing. Only 12 full lightweights were built, all hardtop roadsters with alloy monocoques and body panels instead of steel, special aluminium engine blocks crowned with wide-angle D-type cylinder heads and Lucas fuel injection.
Some 300 b.h.p. was the norm for the engine, though 344 b.h.p. gross, possibly the highest power output ever achieved from the XK engine, was squeezed out of the Peter Lindner/ Peter Nocker lightweight E-type which ran at Le Mans in 1964. Early lightweight E-types used the four-speed, close-ratio Jaguar gearbox, later ones the five-speed ZF, though this writer knows of at least one lightweight which was reconverted to the Jaguar box because of trouble with the ZE. Though they were never to achieve the successes of the Cand D-types they were successful in upholding the Jaguar name in International motor racing. Today the lightweight is a force to be reckoned with in historic racing, While highly-modified E-types derived from production steel 3.8-litre versions remain highly competitive in modified sports-car racing; the V12 version has been slow in catching on in Modsports, but Guy I3eddington’s Tecalemit-injected example is at last proving troublesome to the old straightsixes.
The E-type is still too recent in people’s minds to justify a closer look at specifications and achievements, but in 20 years’ time we shall doubtless all look back nostalgically at what is one of the most strikingly beautiful monocoque cars ever produced, a tribute to British design and engineering, which set new standards in performance motoring—C.R.
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