Jaguars are reliable cars

Series 1: The Story of the Very First Jaguar E-Type - The first of its kind

From Peter Ruch

No long introduction, no Schmu: You see here the first Jaguar E-Type. Quite simply the very first, presented in a small group on March 13, 1961, then in a larger group on March 15. Jaguar first showed the sports car miracle at the Geneva Motor Show.

Can the value of such a vehicle be expressed in terms of money? Maybe, but first and foremost we breathe history here. Before we get to that Vehicle with chassis number 885.005 dedicate, in short, really only briefly: the history of the Jaguar E-Type.

This vehicle is one of two E-types that Jaguar completed for the world premiere in Geneva in 1061 Source: Archive We are in the 50s. Jaguar drove its opponents - Ferrari, Mercedes or Aston Martin - in what is probably the most legendary of all car races, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And that several times: in 1951 the English won the endurance race with an XK120C, in 1953 with a C-Type and in 1955, 1956 and 1957 with a D-Type.

Jaguar naturally wanted to capitalize on these successes and launched the XK-SS in 1956. But on February 12, 1957, the factory burned down. After only 17 copies had been built, production had to be stopped.

The E-Type construction

But Jaguar boss Sir William Lyons did not give up that quickly. He needed a successor for his aging sports car, the XK. As early as 1957, the "E1A" was on its wheels. A kind of D-type, but much longer. For once, Lyons hadn't tinkered with the design himself, but left the work to Malcom Sayer.

The probability is high that this first prototype was destroyed after extensive test drives. The second prototype, "E2A", on the other hand, quickly became known to a wider audience. He stepped 1960 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans at. But without success.

The successful D-Type had anticipated the essential features of the E-Type: The stem was in Tube-frame construction executed. The pivot points of the front wheel suspension are attached to this tubular frame. All of this is connected to the body with just eight screws. Malcolm Sayer had copied this lightweight construction from aircraft construction.

The rear axle did not come from the D-Type, it was redeveloped in box construction. In addition, there were internal disc brakes, which was far from standard in 1961 - not even in powerful sports cars.

The bonnet is screwed to the fenders and can be folded out as a whole. In the first models, however, it can only be opened from the outside. Working under the long hood 3.8-liter in-line six-cylinder, similar to that in the XK150S. With its SU triple carburettor, the engine has an output of 269 SAE PS (i.e. about 210 PS).

The Jaguar, which cost around 2,000 pounds at the time, can reach 100 km / h in seven seconds and can go up to 240 km / h. And that was back then: very quickly.

The star of Geneva

The 3.8-liter in-line six-cylinder is still enthusiastic today - the transmission, on the other hand, found few fans even back then

Back to the first E-Type. The vehicle was picked up on March 6, 1961 by a van in Jaguar's "Experimental Shop" and sent to the Geneva Jaguar dealer Garage Place Claparède has been brought. It arrived there either on the evening of March 8th or on the morning of March 9th. The car was prepared for the premiere show on March 13th in the Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives and packed in a wooden box.

At 10.30 am, Jaguar founder Sir William Lyons welcomed the guests (including F.W.R. "Lofty" England, Count Berghe von Trips, Joakim Bonnier) and journalists. The lid and the sides of the wooden box were removed - and there was initially devout silence. Then the cameras started flashing. Incidentally, the event was paid for by the British automobile association “Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders” (SMMT). An arrangement that was sure to please Sir Lyons, who was not considered to be particularly generous.

Shortly afterwards, those present were asked to go outside. There was another E-Type with chassis number 885.002 (better known as 9600 HP), which Bob Berry had driven to Geneva the night before. That was also photographed. The pictures of the two E-types went around the world over the next few days. The Geneva Motor Show had its sensation even before the opening.

Test drives and type approval

For the first press day, March 14th, No. 885.005 was brought to the Jaguar stand, stood there on a Persian carpet - and stole the show from all other innovations. On March 16, the first Roadster arrived in Geneva (known as RW77) - and hundreds of people interested in buying stood in front of the gates of the salon, to sit on the passenger seat of the Coupé (9600HP) or the Cabrio (RW77) to be allowed to take a lap.

At the wheel of the E-Type sat Bob Berry, who had a short Formula 1 career behind him, and the legendary Jaguar test driver Norman Davies. The two apparently made fun of duping a Ferrari that was also available as a test car: driving after him, then overtaking him and arriving at the fair before the Italian.

After the salon, 885.005 was returned to Garage Place Claparède. There it served for further demo drives and was prepared for the Swiss type test. On May 16, 1961, the car was sold to the “CAP” legal protection insurance company. Logged in for the first time the E-Type did not become available until November 1961.

Confiscated in Lucerne in 1975

Still a show today: the bonnet folds forward, including the fenders. Source: Archive

The next track of the E-Type can only be found in 1974. In the canton of Solothurn it was presented to the road traffic authority. In February the car was redeemed by a Mr. Stucki. On June 18, 1975, according to an Entlebuch police report, the E-Type was declared unfit for traffic due to a defective handbrake and was confiscated by the Canton of Lucerne on August 8, 1975.

It took almost 25 years for the E-Type to reappear. In 1999 it was offered for sale in an advertisement in the Free Gazette of the Canton of Vaud - meanwhile painted black and equipped with a 4.2 liter engine. A Monsieur Pittet bought the car on the advice of Jaguar connoisseur Urs Haehnle, who after a brief examination recognized the historical significance of the car.

In 2002 Pittet sold the classic car Georg Dönni from "GB Classic Cars" in Roggliswil, one of the most renowned Jaguar connoisseurs and restorers at all. It was clear to him that this was something special. He needed a true lover who could and would raise enough money to restore the 885,005 to its original condition.

He found it in the current owner of the car. The effort was enormous. During the restoration it became clear that 885,005 actually planned as a convertible was and was only subsequently bodyworked as a coupé. There were many other differences to the later series E-Type. But in 2005, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Geneva Salon, the car was ready - and returned to the location of its first appearance as part of a special exhibition.

Great sound, difficult transmission

Honestly: it is no pleasure to move this cart. Quite simply because you are aware of the uniqueness of this Jaguar every meter. Actually, we were hesitant to even sit in this E-Type, just like that, in jeans. But the owner just laughs. He moves this automobile cultural asset with incomprehensible calm and serenity.

He could spend hours telling the story of his car, which he knows down to the last detail. He also leaves us his excellently documented documents for this text. In addition to its history, the E-Type is still enthusiastic today Sound of the in-line six-cylinder. As with all early E-types, the gearbox is, let's say: difficult to handle. That's why Stirling Moss called it "Crashbox". Otherwise you have to say: this 50-year-old E-Type drives as wonderfully as it looks.

The most beautiful car that has ever been built

The trunk lid hinged on the side Source: Archive

Back to the further history of the E-Type. As already mentioned, the car was available from the start as a Coupé (FHC) and as a Roadster (OTS). The open E-Type cost less than the coupe, at that time it was still common. The first test reports were full of praise, the E-Type could keep up with the worst street Ferrari and the most beautiful Aston Martin (DB4) of that time. Only: the competitors cost at least twice as much.

The testers mentioned more in passing the careless workmanship, the uncomfortable sitting position with these first, "flatfloor" called E-Type, the bad gear. The competitors weren't any better and mostly drove even more bitchy. As early as 1962, the E-Type received a new floor pan, even tall drivers could now sit reasonably comfortably.

Of course, Jaguar tried to build on the racing successes of the 1950s with the E-Type. But the specially constructed E-Type "Lightweight" had no chance against Ferrari's legendary 250 GTO. After only 12 copies had been built, the English broke off their racing involvement in frustration.

Facelift and 2 + 2

This does not detract from the success of the E-Type. Enzo Ferrari probably rightly calls you “the most beautiful automobile that has ever been built”. A proud 38,419 copies of the Series 1 of the Jaguar E-Type were built between 1961 and 1968. From 1964 there was the Jaguar with a displacement of 4.2 liters.

The power remained unchanged, but the maximum torque increased by around 10% to around 290 Nm. The “crash box” was finally replaced by a sensible gearbox from our own production.

The E-Type 2 + 2 followed a year later, with 23 centimeters more wheelbase and a slightly higher roof line for a little more interior space. This didn't make the E-Type any nicer, but the utility value increased significantly. An automatic transmission now also fit in.

The Series 1 1/2 followed for a short time at the end of 1967, mainly recognizable by the missing headlight covers. In 1968, due to new regulations for the USA and Canada, the indicators and taillights have to be enlarged. The three SUs give way to two Stromberg carburettors, the output drops noticeably to just 180 hp.

The second series (1969 to 1971) still has 18,809 pieces. And the third series, 1971 to 1974, only to 15,287, although Jaguar upgraded the E-Type in 1971 with the brand new 5.3-liter V12. The last E-Type finally rolled off the assembly line on February 12, 1975: a roadster in the color “British racing green”. A total of 72,529 E-types were built.

Back to the home page