It seems incredible that fifty years have elapsed since the launch of the Jaguar E-Type at the Geneva Motor Show in 1961. That’s half a century! And like so many other developments of the 1960s – manned space flight – supersonic passenger transport – it still seems so far ahead of its time. Clearly technology has continued to progress in so many areas in the last fifty years but the sixties was a phenomenal decade for big headline breakthroughs.
There were of course other high performance contemporaries of the Jaguar. Aston Martin’s DB4, Chevrolet’s Corvette and the Ferrari 250GT. But these were all cars with price tags between two and three times that of the E-Type. Jaguar’s new sports car brought superlative speed and acceleration within the reach of, well, perhaps not the masses, but certainly a vastly increased number of motoring enthusiasts. It is perhaps the styling which was the biggest contributor to its iconic status. While each of its competitors has their admirers, no other car seems to have such universal appeal. Each curve flows into the next in a beautiful seamless whole. Even the great Enzo Ferrari had to admit it was “the most beautiful car ever made”. Perhaps the greatest tribute to the beauty of the E-Type is its exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Now, fifty years on, even those who are not car enthusiasts have heard of the Jaguar E-Type and are able to appreciate its beauty.
The E-Type came to market on the back of Jaguar’s most successful decade in motor sport. The Jaguar team won no less than five Le Mans throughout the 1950s with their C-Type and D-Type competition cars. Much of the styling of the E-Type was already apparent in the D-Type and the competition successes undoubtedly contributed to the immense interest enjoyed by the E-Type at its launch.
Today, the E-Type remains an influence in the styling of cars made by Jaguar. In 2000 a concept for a Jaguar F-Type was presented to the public however plans to build the car were shelved. Recently, the current owner of Jaguar, Tata, announced that development of a new F-Type is to proceed although no launch date has been given. If it is to have the impact its predecessor had 50 years ago, it will need to be an astonishing car indeed.