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The Jaguar E type, also known as the XK-E, brought style and performance together to create a mass-produced supercar. The road-going sports car was conceived in 1956 as a replacement for the D-type. In March of 1961 the E-Type was officially introduced to the world at the Geneva, Switzerland Motor show.
The E-type was initially designed and shown to the public as a grand tourer in two seater coupé form (FHC or Fixed Head Coupe) and as convertible (OTS or Open Two Seater). The 2+2 version with a lengthened wheelbase was released several years later.
The model was made in 3 distinct versions generally referred to as "Series 1", "Series 2" and "Series 3". A transitional series between Series 1 and Series 2 is known unofficially as "Series 1½".
Series 1 (1961-1968)
The Series 1 was introduced in March 1961, using the triple SU carburetted 3.8 litre 6-cylinder Jaguar XK6 engine from the XK150S. The first 500 cars built had flat floors and external hood latches. These cars are rare and more valuable. After that, the floors were dished to provide more leg room and the twin hood latches moved inside the car. The 3.8 litre engine was increased to 4.2 litres in late 1964.
It’s design was created by an aerodynamic engineer named Malcolm Sayer. The front engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle featured a moncoque body and a tubular front chassis. The six-cylinder double-cam engine had three SU carburetors and produced 265 horsepower. The suspension was independent with disc brakes on all four wheels. It brought together the best or aerodynamics, coupled with the latest technology and propelled by a potent engine. The vehicle was not only fast, it offered excellent performance and handling. Some of the most common complaints it received were the cabin being too cramped and it suffered from poor ventilation.
The E-Type was a popular vehicle. It was fast, performed well, and was competitively priced. Due to the United States safety and emission regulations, some of the horsepower was lost. The headlamp covers were also removed prior to the close of the 1960’s.
A 4.2-liter engine and synchromesh gearbox was introduced in 1964. In 1966, the 2+2 coupe was introduced and featured a longer wheelbase. The Series II cars were not as quick as its predecessors. The Series III, however, was a different story. Powered by a V-12 engine they were once again able to propel the E-Type over 145 miles per hour.
Series 1 1/2
1968 was the year for the Series 1 1/2 cars. The Series 1 1/2 designation was popularly adopted; the factory never recognized the term and regarded 1968 E-Types as Series 1, an easily confused fact due to the appearance differences. This area is sometimes debated with some claiming that "Series 1, open headlight variant" as the official designation. It is a confusing year for the E-type with a lot of turmoil brought about by safety and anti-pollution regulations of the US government.
Some manufacturers (Austin Healey, for example) chose to give up in the face of the requirements. Many of the changes occurred at various times in the production year, a source of headaches for concours judges and restoration shops. The most significant exterior styling change was in the headlights, where the glass covers were replaced with an open design. Further confusing the issue is that there were a number of open headlight cars for the 1967 model year; they are regarded as Series 1 cars despite their appearance.
The engine was modified to meet emissions requirements and here the news was not good. The displacement remained the same, but in the USA the triple SU carburetors were replaced by a pair of Zenith-Stromberg units. Horsepower was reduced from 265 to 246 hp; torque went from 283 to 263 lb.-ft. 2,105 E-Types were sold; 914 roadsters, 554 coupes and 637 2+2 coupes.
Series 2 (1969-1971)
The Jaguar E-Type Series II appeared in 1969, with a number of safety features that had appeared earlier on vehicles built for the U.S.. The new model lost its fared-in headlamps, with both larger park/signal lights and larger tail lights beneath the rear bumper. The front air intake also grew, as did the bumpers. Side clearance lights were a new addition. Girling disc brakes replaced the old Dunlop ones.
The front turn signal lights and the tail lights increased in size and moved from above to below the bumper. Side marker lights were incorporated. The seats were fitted with headrests. The price was approximately $5,858, or about $1,000 more than a well optioned Corvette. 6,847 E-Types were sold; 3,477 roadsters, 1,937 coupes and 1,433 2+2 coupes.
The 1971 Jaguar Series II 4.2 E-Type Coupe with a red exterior and black interior was offered for sale at the 2006 worldwide Group Auction held on Hilton Head Island. It was expected to fetch between $35,000-$45,000. The car is in original condition and has traveled 82,000 miles since new. At the conclusion of the auction, the vehicle was left unsold.
The Series II cars features larger brakes, improved cooling, and room interior. The second series also addressed U.S. safety requirements of the time with larger tail lamps and open style headlamps, while emissions were reduced via two Zenith carburetors, which actually improved the E’s drivability.
Even with these upgrades and improvements, the Series II cars retained the same stunning appearance as the first XK-E’s that hit the world like a bombshell at the 1961 Paris Motor Show. Indeed, these cars look as fresh and lovely today as the day they first appeared - the true test of a great design in any field.
Series 3 (1971-1974)
1971 was the first year for the Series III E-type, featuring the V12 engine. Both the roadster and coupe were built on the 2+2 platform, so all coupes were 2+2s. An automatic transmission was available on the roadster for the first time. 3,743 E-Types were sold; 20 Series II roadsters, 16 Series II coupes, 313 Series III roadsters and 3,394 Series III 2+2 coupes.
Upon its debut, the Series III was praised in both the press and the public, but the design for the new Series III hadn’t changed much since the Series II. The car became squatter, with wider arches over the wheels, filling the space with a wider tire. The radiator opening on the Series III was much larger than that in the six-cylinder Series II E-types, which was probably the reason behind the fitting of a grille for the first time. The larger opening improved cooling, which was sometimes a problem with the six-cylinder XK engine. This gave the front of the car a more aggressive stance, the roadster now coming in the same long wheelbase as the 2+2 coupe, necessary to accommodate the new powerplant.
The car stepped away from some of its utilitarian racing roots by offering a luxurious interior and heavily padded seats. Air-conditioning had become a popular option and was well integrated. The heavier engine made steering power-assist a necessity allowing a one-inch smaller steering wheel, which unfortunately was no longer made of mahogany. However, the $7,599 cost maintained the tradition of the E-type as a performance bargain.
1975 was the last year for the E-type. The remaining 50 were made on a separate production line; all were black and equipped with a special plaque on the glovebox door. The last one built is chassis number IS 2872, and is owned by Jaguar. Six E-Types were made; all were roadsters.