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Jaguar E Type

Published: 21st Jun 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Jaguar E Type
Jaguar E Type
Jaguar E Type
Jaguar E Type
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The E-type has always been a fantastic car. But this Coventry Cat wasn’t as cheap-as-chips when new as we’ve all been brainwashed to believe over the decades, reckons Alan Anderson. Except during the mid 1970s that is…

As we all know, Jaguar is finally launching the F-type, and not before time. We’ve recently had the privilege of inspecting one up-close, and sitting in the very un-Jag-like, but gorgeous, cockpit. If early driving reports are vindicated then it’s going to be some car. It’s unlikely that it will match the frenzy caused by the E-type’s launch because, let’s face it, nothing ever will.

Jaguar’s E-type was a milestone in motoring history and justifiably remains one of the most desired classics ever.
It always will remain thus but, sometimes, in true tabloid tradition, certain facts do seem to spoil a good story.
We’re not talking about the car’s performance, image, looks or wow factor of course but rather the clichéd ‘astonishing value for money’ tag the car became saddled with. And it’s still being touted out today by classic car magazines and certain motoring TV shows, over half a century on.

So, let’s put the records a bit straighter. When launched the E-type cost an admittedly jaw dropping £2098. Yet, while not detracting from the Jaguar’s (here we go again-ed) ‘astonishing value for money’, this sum was hardly within the reach of the average man in the street – although some would have you believe it actually was.

If the new E-type really was such incredible value, then why weren’t we all running around in them, along with pop stars of the day such as Dave Clark – from the Dave Clark Five, who used his own car in the movie Catch us if you can? Let’s face it, very few people had a spare two grand in their pocket back in 1961 or even ‘71. The hard truth is that, with an average monthly wage in 1961 working out at around £80, the E-type was as much out of reach to folks back then than the new F-type will be to the average Brit in 2013! Oh yes, the E-type was once a bargain, but that was during the early 1970s, just after the Energy Crisis caused the price of fuel to virtually double overnight meaning you literally couldn’t give cars like E-types away.

It was also just before the term ‘classic cars’ became popular causing values to rocket; in ‘74 a used E-type was just another old car.

A scan through the weeklies proves this point. An ad in a November ‘75 issue of Autocar shows you could buy a ‘62 3.8 Coupe with around 50,000 miles for £850 – and there were two on offer! Or, how about a 10-years-younger V12 roadster for £2495 – that was only £200 dearer than a new swanky P-reg Escort 1600 Ghia or an MGB! A July ‘76 edition had a clutch of E-type V12s around the £3000 mark which, back then, was a third of what dealers were asking for the new XJ-S. However, the real bargain was found in a July ‘73 Autocar; a 3.8 FHC that claimed to be the 250th car made, re-sprayed and re-chromed, and all for a princely £675!

If you wanted a showroom shiny E-type, Swanmore Garage of Bournemouth was the dealer to go to, it seems, as it always had shed loads of them for sale. Of course, they all look cheap now, but even back in the mid-‘70s £2000 was still a fairly substantial sum. A basic Escort Popular was now £1400, only £100 dearer than a Spartan Mini or Hillman Imp. A Midget cost £1722, with the rival Spitfire just a few quid under £2000. Blame raging inflation for car prices rising every few months, where an average wage of around £40 a week could barely keep up with rising prices.

But, if you really want to cry in your beer then we’d better not mention the fact that the aforementioned weekly also carried a classified for an Aston DB5 (equipped with both normal wire and Minilite wheels, the latter presumably for the winter) at just £1350, while the world was your veritable oyster of a showroom if you had £3000 and took a trip to the Aston Martin Centre in Nod Rise, Coventry… where’s the Doctor and his Tardis when you need them!


At the risk of gross contradiction, no one could deny that the E-type represented fantastic value, but only when compared to its supercar rivals. When the 4.2 update was introduced in 1964, Motor’s road test team squared it against the Porsche 1600SC and the Corvette Stingray, both appreciably more expensive than the £1992 now asked for the Coupe Jag. Yes, the Jaguar was actually cheaper now, but this was care of our Government reducing the punitive 45 per cent purchase tax levy back to a saner 25 per cent two years earlier (so perhaps today’s VAT rate of 20 per cent isn’t so bad after all!). In October 1964 a basic E-type drophead cost £1513 plus £317 PT.
Of course, when the Jaguar was pitched against more exotic machinery the price gap became a gulf. An Aston Martin DB5 was ticketed at £4249, Alfa 2600 Spider £2498, Lancia Flaminia Coupe £3389, Ferrari 275GTB £5699 and a Maserati Mistrale at £5385. Even when you take into account the import penalty slapped on foreign cars, our British E-type looked astonishingly ‘cheap’ – if you were rich enough, that is.

Irrespective of price, the Jaguar looked a million dollars and it’s still one of the most beautiful designs ever penned, although in the flesh the new F-type comes remarkably close, albeit it in a more modern way, we reckon. And whether or not an E-type actually did 150mph (some road tests claimed it, others didn’t, suggesting some press specials were built for that purpose), it looked as though it was doing it standing still. Even in 2013 few other cars can make the head turn like an E-type.

Apart from its looks and price, the E-type astounded the motoring world with its performance and, without doubt, you couldn’t buy so much bang for your buck anywhere else back in 1961. But, by the time this unique decade came to a close, the E-type became fatter, heavier and slower, none more so than the bloated looking 2+2. This model surfaced in spring 1966 to satisfy a growing request from across the pond, yet a bigger, more family- friendly E-type was always on the cards not long after Jaguar launched the car.

The five year delay was trying to add much needed cabin space without spoiling the look of the delectable Coupe. Another sop to the vital US market, where the majority of E-types went, was the option of a three-speed Borg Warner automatic.

It remains the most unloved E-type of them all, and by far the cheapest you can buy now, yet initial reception to the model wasn’t as bad as history would have us all believe. The influential American Car and Driver said that “Jaguar has given every married man the rationale he always dreamed of”. For all the advantages the S3 brought to the ageing design, the E-type started to lose its gloss and superlatives became less gushing. ‘New wine in an old bottle’ became another much published cliché and, despite the magnificence of the new V12 engine (which always fared better in the XJ saloon), the E-type had changed in character from a lean and mean sports car to a punchy but paunchy GT for the sugar daddy who no longer revelled in tearing down the road through the gears, but instead displayed the new engine’s new party trick of going from walking pace to maximum pelt all in top gear – small wonder that most were sold as automatics. Car magazine called it BLMC’s middle class Ferrari. The E-type still remained one of the most dreamed about cars ever when it was discontinued in early 1975, replaced by the questionable XJ-S. Potentially the better car, but dubious looks and dreadful reliability must have played some part into keeping the E-type flame burning and enthusiasts craving for the day when an F-type was made.

That oh so long wait is over but this won’t stop E-type values soaring ever skywards. Thankfully there are still some bargain Jags around. The cheap XJ-S is being overlooked in favour of XK8s for the same money… but the best buy has to be a contemporary Coventry Cat that carries the famous XK name in fine style.

Until the F-type came along the XK really was the E-type reborn and is, if you know where to look, astonishing value for money.

There we go again…

When The Car Was The Star

The E-type’s first cinema cameo was as early as 1962 when it was accosted by a gang of Teds in The Boys and
its many US roles include Vanishing Point and Convoy. One of its first starring roles was in Catch Us If You Can, a surprisingly accomplished vehicle for the Dave Clark Five. Any film where the famous drummer encounters a gang of squatting beatniks on Salisbury Plain (where the E-type is sadly blown up by the army) has to be worth watching, as is the staggeringly ineptly milk float/ E-type chase sequence in the 1967 version of Casino Royale. But for true 1960s glamour, nothing could equal the opening credits of BBC TV’s Dee Time – the late Simon Dee, with the regulation dolly bird on board.

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